Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO)
In May 1951, the Festival of Britain was opened in London. This festival was set up to display arts and crafts in towns and cities throughout the United kindom. Trinidad at this time was a British colony and it was suggested that a steelband should represent the island.
The members of this band (TASPO) were chosen by the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Band Association (now PanTrinbago) from twelve of the current bands. These men were chosen for their playing ability and also to establish some unity amongst the steelbands of the day.
Lieutenant Nathaniel Griffith, a qualified musician who had been playing with the Trinidad Police Band, agreed to arrange the music. The new band members were all ping pong players in their respective steelbands and some were also tuners. For TASPO some of the members played alto and bass pans. The pans were also tuned chromatically at the request of the arranger.
On 6 July 1951, the band sailed from Port-of-Spain for Bordeaux and arrived on 24 July 1951. On route Sonny Roach fell ill and was left behind in Martinique. The group then travelled by train to Paris, and then by ferry to London.
On 26 July 1951, TASPO made their first performance to a sceptical audience on London’s South Bank exhibition grounds. This performance was well received and favourable reports were printed in the newspapers. TASPO was also contracted to play for a chain of ‘Mecca' Dance Halls in Leeds, Manchester, Tottenham and Edinburgh (their final perfomance).
On their return journey they did a tour of Paris. It was not until 12 December 1951, minus Sterling Betancourt who stayed in London, TASPO returned to Trinidad.
The members of the band were:
· Andrew “Pan” de la Bastide from Hill 60
· Anthony “Tony” Williams from North Stars
· Belgrave Bonaparte from Southern Symphony
· Dudley Smith from Rising Sun
· Elliot “Ellie” Mannette from Woddbrok Invaders
· Granville Sealey from Tripoli
· Orman “Patsy” Haynes from Casablanca
· Philmore “Boots” Davidson from City Syncopators
· Sonny Roach from Sun Valley
· Sterling Betancourt from Crossfire
· Theo “Black James” Stephens from Free French
· Winston “Spree” Simon from Destination Tokyo
Honouring the Panguard
On 10 November 2006 the surviving members of TASPO, Anthony Williams, Elliott Mannette and Sterling Betancourt along with other pioneers of the day were honoured at a function held in Trinidad.