WHEN the men of All Stars Garret Elders (AGE) held their annual gathering at the Massy All Stars panyard on Duke Street in Port of Spain, it turned into a memorial for pan pioneer Neville Jules who died on February 19.
The elders remembered Jules as a disciplinarian and reflected on his contribution to the development of pan, the national instrument, as they went down memory lane on February 13.
According to Martin Albino, “In 1958 Neville Jules created a phenomenon called the Bomb competition. The Bomb tune was usually a popular classical piece, and the one chosen that year was Minuet in G.
“Jules was a disciplinarian and it was absolutely necessary to adhere to the rules of the rehearsal room,'the garret of Maple Leaf Club on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain. When you heard 'No coasting,' you stopped immediately, or transgressors were fined by the book man, St Clair Plouden. Players were also fined for visiting other panyards.”
The Maple Leaf Club was the liming spot visited by everyone in pan and calypso, including calypsonians Dougla, Sparrow, Sniper and Nap Hepburn, to name a few. Former MP Eddie Hart is probably the only man from that era still playing in a steelband.
Reflecting on Jules' contribution, Hart said, “Jules was a genius. For a man,who did not know music to produce such amazing Bomb tunes to have thousands of sailors chipping in the streets! Jules did songs like Turkish March, Mozart Waltz Song, Liebestraum 3, The Robe of Calvary and The Marriage of Figaro.”
Reminiscing on how panmen of that era approached the Bomb competition, Albino said the preparation was top secret.
“Bomb tunes were supposed to be secret and were called by numbers, not by names – song one, two or three – and players were forbidden to tell anyone (not even their family) the name of the songs.
“We rehearsed five players at a time, one tenor, one second, one quatro, a set of basses and a Neville Jules invention, the Grundig. We rehearsed with our fingers, not sticks, in order to contain the sound. On J'Ouvert morning it was a hair-raising experience to hear the players play with their sticks together with the rhythm section.”
On the 60th anniversary of the Bomb competition in 2018, Albino said, he organised a celebration to also mark 60 years of Jules' Minuet in G
“The year 2018 was 60 years since the creation of the Bomb competition, so I decided it was time to celebrate. I mobilised most of my colleagues, both local and foreig, to come together to celebrate 60 years of Minuet in G.
“We have been doing it every year since, and this year we celebrated 62 at All Stars' panyard on Duke Street. The band manager, Nigel Williams, and his team treated us well as we relived the stories of the good old days and listened to an original recording of Minuet in G.”
Some of the All Stars Garret Elders (AGE) gathered to reminisce were Ruthvin Bailey, Andrew Lajunal, St Clair Plouden, Robert Taylor, Clyde Bernard, Harold Boland and Thomas Regis.