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The World

Published on January 15th, 2017 | by Keith Simpson


St James Tripolians Steel Orchestra-The legacy of the most unsponsored band lives on!

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”  ― Victor Hugo

A Brief History:

The St James Tripolians Steel Orchestra has been in existence for over 44 years founded in November 1972. The band created a stir during the Panorama preliminaries 1973 when it came through the savannah Pan Round the Neck and virtually emptied the savannah.

The band was founded near the ending of 1972 and was on the road for Carnival 1973 playing ‘Run Yuh Run’, ‘All Day All Night Miss Mary Ann’ and ‘Drunk and Disorderly’. The band came out of Tripoli, a band founded in 1940 by Joe Crick among others, Granville Sealy, Hugh Borde and Clyde Inniss being some of the pioneers. Tripoli had left Trinidad and headed to the USA where they toured in the 60’s with Liberace, performing in some renowned music halls there. The members who remained on the advice of Lloyd Butcher decided to bring back a pan around neck steelband and so Tripolians, taking its name from Tripoli was born.

Tripolians was founded by Emmanuel “Manuel” Camps their first captain with other foundation members – Kelvin Questel, Granville Sealy, Sonny Roach, Lennox Grainger, Elliot Wilson, David Mauge (deceased), Eddie Richards, Untin and Clyde Inniss. Soon after Lloyd Hoyte, George Creese, Victor and his father, Ancil Franklyn and Frank Webb joined the band. Dr Jit Samaroo did some musical arrangements for the band.

Steel pans were borrowed from neighbouring bands, some of which were tuned by Lennox Grainger, this action facilitated their first practice session in Kathleen Street, St James, Trinidad. The band also made a big hit with ‘Kaiser Wilhelm’ and took the carnival by storm once taking almost the entire crowd out of the Queen’s Park Savannah. St James Tripolians portrayed sailor mas in 1973, 1974 and 1975.  St James Tripolians were the winner of the first Single Pan Bands Panorama competition in 1975 with their rendition of –Do Dem Back!

Manuel stated that the band was formed due to the drought in St James, an area which produced bands like North Stars, Sun Valley, Crossroads, Crossfire, Symphonettes, Blue now Power Stars, Ambassadors, Fiery, Westside Symphony, Starniks, Pandemonics, Third World, Tripoli, Tripolians, Scrunters, Kool and the Gang and Hummingbirds. On a Carnival day you could have stayed in St James and watch  real mas – Tripoli was popular for their sailor mas’ with their popular flag waver, Totie, a fish vendor. Manuel also stated that Lloyd Butcher is the one who encouraged him to bring out the band.

St James Tripolians was at one time sponsored by Angostura and then known as the Vat 19 Tripolians, the band boasted of many professional drinkers – Manuel himself being outstanding in that aspect. Tripolians in the early days played in many parties (fetes) and Manuel has fond memories of the band playing in three parties in the same night, TTEC, Lystra Lewis Court and the basement of Vistarama Cinema. They toured Jamaica, and Barbados on many occasions. Being the first pan round neck, the players in the early days carried pan round their necks from St James to Port of Spain and back – that was commitment.

The band has come a long way in almost 44 years of hard work, struggle, tears, happiness, sadness, disappointment, but they continue  to carry on the tradition of the pan round neck. While everyone may not agree with it, that’s where pan came from – the cost of bringing out a conventional or even converting to conventional steel band is prohibitive, since very few companies are willing to provide full sponsorship, Tripolians have been trying over the years  but to no avail. However, they extend sincere thanks to the following companies and individuals for their ongoing assistance and support even though in some cases at carnival time: Scotiabank TT Ltd., Angostura, NLCB, Unit Trust Corp, Carib/Stag, Pat Bishop and the Carnival Institute, Pernod Ricard, NGC, O’Brien’s bar Grand bazaar, SunUp International, BWIA, Citibank, Communiciation Workers Union, Prestige Holdings, Pan Trinbago.

St James Tripolians achievements include:

  • Winning the first Panorama competition for Pan Round neck bands playing Rose’s, ‘Do Dem Back’.
  • The first Pan Round Neck Band to Perform at National Academy of Performing Arts ( NAPA).
  • Performed at the opening of the 2007 World Youth Football Tournament in Trinidad.
  • Played at President’s House at the opening of the CCJ.
  • Played at President’s House for the Wedding Reception of the son of President Maxwell Richards.
  • Went on tour to Barbados and Jamaica on a few occasions.
  • Played on the road with Brian Mac Farlane’s Carnival band.
  • Performed at the opening of the Hyatt Hotel in Port of Spain
  • Played at the opening of Price Smart Outlet in Endeavour Chaguanas, Central Trinidad.
  • Performed at the Prime Minister’s residence on at least five occasions, the last being Carnival Sunday 2010.

The band continues to perform at major Carnival fetes, has been playing on the road with Starlift Steel orchestra on Carnival Monday for many years. Over the past two years they  have played with Trinidad All Stars. St James Tripolians has been paying annual Christmas bonuses to its member for over five years.

They are now running steelpan workshops teaching young players the artform of playing the steel pan instrument and intends to establish a training camp in the near future based on resources.

Owing to lack of sponsorship the band has not been able to attract top arrangers and players, as Panorama remains a “necessary evil” and an expensive undertaking. If the band reaches the semifinal and final stages the costs for the tuner, payment to players, tee shirts, uniform, transport of members and instruments to and from competition proves very expensive especially for an unsponsored band. While there is some assistance from Pan Trinbago, there are other expenses to be met by the band e.g. tuning of pans where required, cost of flags and banners, refreshments for players, payment for tractor for Carnival days etc. Their pan yard is situated at Fort George Link Rd, St. James, Port of Spain.

This iconic traditional Pan Round the neck steel band has continued to exist against all odds owing to the love for the steel pan culture and the drive and determination shown by its members to continue a musical journey that started over 44 years ago by its founder members who had a vision that is still being taken into the next century by its dedicated members.

The following is a compilation of St James Tripolians’s National Steelband Panorama Performance History by Keith Simpson:

1975- 1st  place – First competition for Pan round neck – Do Dem back


1977- 5th place

1978- Unplaced

1979- No Finals

1980- 3rd place

1981- 3rd  place   –  Crapaud Revolution

1982- 3rd place

1983- 5th place in the North Region

1984- 2nd  place  – Jammer

1985- 2nd  place –  Long Time

1986- 6th place –  Ah Want it

1987- 7th place

1988- Not a finalist

1989- Not a finalist

1990- Not a finalist

1991- 0

1992- 0

1993- 0

1994- 0

1995- Unplaced – last Jump

1996- Failed to qualify by one point –  Mind Yuh Business – North –Arranger  – Keith Simpson

1997- 8th place of 16 finalists –  Misbehave  – North – Arranger –  Keith Simpson

1998- 8th place of 16 finalists –  Pan for Carnival  – North – Arranger  – Keith Simpson

1999- 11th place of 16 finalists –  Play my music  – North  – Arranger  – Keith Simpson

2000-17th place of 21 finalist –  Pan Is – North  – Arranger –  Keith Simpson

2001 – Finalist – Rain Melody –  North –  Arranger –  Keith Simpson

2002 – 15th finalist – The Prize –  North  – Arranger –  Keith Simpson

2003 – Semi finalist –  Ellie Man  – North  – Arranger  – Darryl Reid

2004 – National finalist – Johnny – North 13th   –  Arranger – Darryl Reid

2005 – National finalist  – Somebody – North 3rd place  – Arranger –  Darryl Reid

2006 – This One’s for U Bradley – .North 1st place – joint winners, National Finals 4th place. Arranger – Darryl Reid

2007 – Johnny – North –  5th place. Semi finalist – Arranger –  Darryl Reid

2008 – Heat- Sung by Crazy – Semi finalist. Arranger –  Darryl Reid

2009 – Doh Back Back – Mighty Sparrow –   Finalist –  Arranger –  Darryl Reid

2010 – Wet Mih Down  – Finalist –  Arranger – Darryl Reid

2011 – How we Coming – did not get past preliminary stage –  Arranger –  Tricia Richardson

2012 – Toco Band – Semi Finals – Arranger –  Tricia Richardson

2013 – Say Say –  Semi Finals – Arranger – Darryl Reid

2014 – Doh Do Dat – Semi Finals – Arranger – Darryl Reid Semis

2015- Insane – Semi Finals – Arranger – Reynold Huggins

2016- Pan ’Round De Neck –Kitchener – Arranger Nigel Diaz


Click on link to view St James Tripolians performing – St James Tripolians.


by Keith J A Simpson


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