From Tin Pan to TASPO

Steelband in Trinidad, 1939–1951
Kim Johnson

Pages and Dimensions: 
340pp; 6 x 9



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US$56 (s)


From its first appearance in 1939 with a group of men knocking on pots and pans to the 1951 Trinidad All-Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO), steelband has fascinated the world. Relying largely on oral histories, this work investigates and documents the different technical, musical and organizational steps by which the steelband movement was born and grew to maturity.

This study is a radical break with the approach to cultural creativity in general and music of the African diaspora in particular, emphasizing the role of individual agency, microsociology and aesthetic values. This contrasts with the “resistance” school of thought, which views music as an automatic reaction to oppression rather than a deliberate attempt to satisfy aesthetic needs and impulses.

The minute biographical and psychological details provide a unique theory of creolization and chart its relationship to African retentions, based on empirical data. This authoritative study will appeal to both the general reader interested in the origins of steelband and to scholars concerned with the creolization of African and European cultures and Caribbean creativity.

Kim Johnson is Senior Research Fellow of the Academy of Arts and Letters, University of Trinidad and Tobago. He has published extensively on the history and culture of Trinidad and Tobago, topics on which he now makes documentary films. He received the 2011 Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence in Arts and Letters, largely for his research into the steelband movement.