A few of the Caribbean’s finest entertainers like Alison Hinds, Superblue, Marcia Miranda and Mairoon Ali, along with Canboulay, East Indian and sailor dancers have performed at my home. They have done so on the little home made stage next to the mango tree that Farook and Steve would build when needed.
These entertainers frequently joined the party afterward as honoured guests.
Jit Samaroo and his family band was also one those who played at my home. Jit did so for my wedding to Kavita and on two subsequent occasions.
On the occasion of our wedding, a guest, whose passion was classical music and who never regarded pan, said to me in admiration after Jit’s first set: “Martin, so this is what you mean.” I had won another convert
On another occasion, I told some foreign yachting personnel—whose knowledge of pan repertoire was limited to Yellow Bird, Jamaica Farewell and Hot, Hot, Hot—that when they came to Trinidad I would have them home to hear Frank Sinatra played on pan.
They did not believe me. When they did arrive they were greeted by the Samaroo family steel orchestra with “Unforgettable”, a song made famous by Nat King Cole, whose recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The reactions of these visitors were the usual ones—looking under the pans for devices and asking questions about the instruments.
I give the above context of my knowledge of Jit and his family to record my intimate appreciation for them on the occasion of Jit’s recent passing.
Jit became the arranger for Renegades when he was very young—reportedly 19—and at a time when, in the words of Keith Diaz, President of Pan Trinbago: “Renegades had villains.”
It was a tough neighbourhood but, according to Diaz, Jit from Lopinot came into Port of Spain under the guidance of “Boldface.”
For many years, Renegades did not make Panorama final. Their remarkable run of victories began in 1982 and includes the only hat trick of Panorama victories.
On the J’Ouvert morning the year they first won Panorama, I was in St Vincent Street, opposite the old Treasury building when the newly victorious Renegades swept around Queen Street corner into St Vincent Street. I have never forgotten the 10 minutes that followed as the band moved along St Vincent Street and turned into Independence Square with a driving force, both physical and atmospheric.
There was a large crowd of exuberant followers.
In those days, the benchmark for crowds of followers, exuberance, faithful belief and sense of community was the Despers following. When Despers came down from the hill to cross the Savannah stage a unique excitement, now referred to as vibe and energy, pervaded.
That J’Ouvert morning the Despers benchmark was matched.
The pride and self-esteem of the community was a joy to behold. For all the years that Despers had dominated Panorama, the communities of La Cour Harpe and East Dry River had longed for a champion. Now they had one and the priceless link between community and its band was vividly illustrated.
I say vividly because in my enduring mental picture of that morning I remember shimmering blue tinsel—some call it fringe—decorating the racks on which the pans were hooked. Let me confess that the intensity of the shimmer to my eyes may have had liquid assistance. But my memory of that morning is unimpaired, although some indistinct pictures on You Tube suggest that the tinsel was green
Renegades remain a driving force in their community and a top tier band, but they have, like Despers, recently endured a lean period in respect of Panorama victories.
I have teased two of their officials and a representative of their enlightened sponsors, Bptt, that a good capreech may be to verify the 1980s colours and to use some tinsel of that colour to decorate the racks. Some spell it capriche. Loosely translated it means to do an act of superstition like wearing a lucky charm.
Jit and his musical families were great ambassadors for Trinidad and Tobago, never threatening Governments for funding, making bombastic claims about putting Trinidad and Tobago on the map, although they did that for our country repeatedly.
On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, Renegades appeared at a gigantic concert at La Defense in Paris. I made it my business to be there. The crowd of reportedly two million saw a Trini steel orchestra given the entire second half of the concert for their performance.
As the appreciation of Jit by Theodore Lewis in the Trinidad Express suggested, Jit Samaroo belongs to La Cour Harpe as much as he belongs to Lopinot.
In my view the combination of Jit and Renegades represents another remarkable unique Trinbagonian crossover, frequently occurring in our arts and literature as well as in our cuisine.
We must hold on to this productive unity for dear life.