The Bomb @50
In 2013, we celebrate 50 years of the Trinidad and Tobago steelband competition known as the "Bomb".
The “Bomb” can be referred to as a classical piece of music or a non-calypso tune arranged and played to a calypso tempo.
This musical form was not a new idea as pannists were known to “drop a Bomb” on the road at carnival and other music events prior to 1963.
Carnival was banned during the Second World War, partly due to violent rivalries; hence the steelbands began to play non-calypso music to a calypso tempo.
When the War ended the carnival steelbands re-emerged and found a new way to continue their rivalry. Practicing in secret became the new way for steelbands to prepare before competing against each other. The pannists often played with their fingertips instead of sticks so as not to be heard by their rivals. This led to an element of surprise on Carnival Monday (or J’ouvert Morning) when the steelbands would drop a “Bomb” on their rivals and so gain popularity from the middle class onlookers.
Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s Neville Jules was credited for pioneering the Bomb.
When Trinidad gained independence from Britain in 1962, the government’s support for the national Panorama Competition led it to becoming the main event to showcase steelbands. Panorama then restricted steelbands to play only calypso songs, while some arrangers wanted to explore the instrument further by playing non-calypso songs.
However, the Bomb competition was officially introduced on Carnival Monday 1963, when the Competition was won by the Morvant Ebonites playing Slaughter on the 10th Avenue; second was Silver Stars playing Moonlight Sonata and third the Merrytones playing The Road. The West Indian Tobacco Company (WITCO) provided the winner’s trophy.
The Bomb also contributed to the development of steel orchestras and the musicianship of pannists.
Pan Trinbago honoured Neville Jules by naming its annual J’ouvert morning steelpan competition the ‘Neville Jules Bomb contest’