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Invaders Steel Orchestra

Caribbean Christmas to heat up holiday season
by Bob Young

Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Fans of West Indian music are getting an early holiday gift Friday when several of the Caribbean's biggest stars convene at the Strand Theatre for what's shaping up as a power-packed Christmas concert.

Venturing north will be the BWIA Invaders Steel Orchestra from Trinidad and Tobago, considered legends in the islands, and Shadow, also known as Winston Bailey, the reigning "National Calypso Monarch of Trinidad and Tobago."

Also appearing will be steel pan performer/arranger Ken "Professor" Philmore, considered to be one of the world's finest jazz pan players.

"The intent is to bring the word of what a Caribbean Christmas would be to those of us who are going to spend our winter here," said Ronald Lammy of eCaroh Caribbean Emporium, who is lending local marketing support to the event.

"The program will cover a range of music, from classical to parang."

In addition to traditional holiday tunes from the Caribbean, listeners can expect to hear originals and interpretations of songs from the pop, soul and classical worlds.

Lammy, whose Jamaica Plain business also hosts a Web site, www.ecaroh.com that's essential for anyone interested in all cultural things Caribbean, grew up in Guyana as a huge steel band fan.

He points out that the Invaders, formed more than 60 years ago by Ellie Mannette and now conducted by Dr. Jeannine Remy, are revered in the West Indies. They finished near the top at the recent world steel band competition and are always contenders in the annual Carnival competitions.

"They're one of the pioneering steel bands in the world," Lammy said. Legend has it that the band was formed in 1937 under a breadfruit tree at the Mannette family home in Port of Spain. A group of youngsters from the neighborhood used biscuit tins, paint cans and other empty metal containers as instruments, which later evolved into 50-gallon oil drums after Mannette subsequently experimented with different shapes and sounds.

The breadfruit tree by the Mannette house remains the literal and symbolic roots for the current day Invaders.

In addition to offering Caribbean holiday cheer, Lammy and others hope the event opens a window onto a culture that's vibrant both in Boston and in the islands.

"The intent is to reach out and put the overall emphasis on the West Indians, the role we are playing, the music we love and how we are enriching the community," he said.

The Invaders, Shadow and Professor Philmore Friday at the Strand Theatre at 8 p.m. Tickets: $30 in advance, $35 at the door, also available through www.ecaroh.com 


The world renowned BWIA Invaders Steel Orchestra and Shadow, the National Calypso Monarch of Trinidad & Tobago, will provide spectacular Christmas concerts in New York and Boston from December 6th to December 11th. Billed as "A Caribbean Christmas," the holiday extravaganza will open at The Town Hall in Manhattan’s glittering theater district at 8:00 P.M. on Wednesday, December 6th and the Strand Theatre, Boston, on Friday, December 8th.

Famous for mesmerizing audiences around the globe with its exquisite renditions of Christmas music, gospel, pop and classical, including Carnival Overture by Dvorak, the Invaders Steel Orchestra is ranked as one of the top five steel orchestras in the world.

The 32-member BWIA Invaders Steel Orchestra is conducted by its musical director Dr. Jeannine Remy of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Dr. Remy is a tenured professor of music at Idaho State University. She is a recipient of a Fulbright Award to research the history of steel drums and to author a book on the Invaders Steel Orchestra.

Ken "Professor" Philmore, the famous steelpan arranger who has toured with the Count Basie Band, will make a special performance.

Established in 1937 by Ellie Mannette and friends, Invaders is a versatile full orchestra. Many other famous steel orchestras in Trinidad & Tobago, such as Starlift and PhaseII Pan Groove, were established by former members of Invaders. Dr. Ellie Mannette is artist-in-residence at the University of West Virginia. His work has been displayed in museums across the U.S.

In addition to concerts at The Town Hall, Strand Theatre in Boston, and Macedonia Center in Mount Vernon, the orchestra will also perform and conduct workshops at Lehman College.

EVERYBODY’S, the Caribbean-American Magazine, is the producer and promoter of the Christmas spectacular. It is presented by Hennessy Cognac and Johnnie Walker Black. Heineken is the sponsor and BWIA West Indies Airways, the official airline.



Dr. Jeannine Remy of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, holds a doctorate from the University of Arizona and her Masters and Bachelors degrees from Northern Illinois University; her degrees are in percussion performance with an emphasis on ethnic music. Dr. Remy is a tenured professor of music at Idaho State University and is internationally recognized for her contributions in the art of steel drum performing and arranging.

In 1989, Dr. Remy became a member of the Invaders Steel Orchestra and, In 1998, she assumed the responsibilities as the orchestra’s musical director and conductor.

For the academic year (2000-2001), Dr. Remy is a recipient of a Fulbright Award which allows her to lecture at the University of the West Indies and research the history of steel drums. Her research will culminate in the publication of a book on the history of the Invaders Steel Orchestra.


Its name was changed to "INVADERS"
after a U.S. war movie

By Elizabeth Mannette

The world renowned BWIA Invaders Steel Orchestra from Trinidad & Tobago has left audiences spellbound with its exquisite performances of Christmas music, classical from Mozart to Dvorak, gospel, salsa, pop, reggae and calypso.

Dr. Jeannine Remy of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin who has been a member of the Invaders Steel Orchestra since 1989, is the orchestra’s musical director and conductor. Dr. Remy is a tenured professor of music at Idaho State University and is internationally recognized for her contributions in the art of steel drum performing and arranging.

Invaders founder is Dr. Ellie Mannette, a professor at the University of West Virginia. Mannette is considered an icon in the world of steelband music.

Here is a profile of BWIA Invaders and Dr. Ellie Mannette by Elizabeth Mannette:

The year was 1937. The breadfruit tree at the Mannette family home on Tragarete Road, opposite the Queen’s Park Oval sporting grounds, was the meeting place for an unusual group of musicians. Stanley Hunte and Ellie Mannette were the leaders of the youngsters who talked about their own band of steel drums.

They could have been described as "a gang." The neighborhood boys, however, were going to focus on music and steelpan, an instrument that was still being shaped. They decided to call themselves "Oval Boys," after their first panyard located under the stands of the Queen’s Park Oval. They collected discarded paint cans, biscuit tins and other empty metal containers to be used as instruments. The Oval Boys changed their name to "Invaders" after seeing the U.S. war movie, "Night Invaders." Soon their permanent home was under the breadfruit tree at 147 Tragarete Road, where the band resides to this day and the breadfruit tree is still alive.

Through experimentation with materials available on the street, they started to bridge the gap between the earlier rhythmic beat of the tam-boo-bamboo and the harmonies that would soon emanate from the steelpan.

Those were days of rivalry, innovation and excitement. The rivalry between bands of Laventille and John John in East Port of Spain and those in Woodbrook and the West often led to violent clashes. During the 1940's, Invaders was one of the most feared steelbands on the road. The sight of their battleflag was enough to frighten the faint-hearted. Lord Blakie’s (Carlton Joseph) calypso, "Steelband Clash," documented a confrontation between Invaders and Tokyo, a band from the East Dry River.

In those days, Ellie Mannette was the creative force, designing and tuning the pans for which he earned the title "Father of the Modern Steel Drum." His job in an iron foundry gave him a special feel and skill for steel and other metals. Mannette experimented with the 50-gallon oil drum in place of biscuit tins. He sank the playing surface downward into a concave shape instead of the convex shape used at the time. Mannette created six of the nine instruments in the steel drum family. He also discovered, through trial and error, the uniqueness of the note blend on each pan; and that the sweetness of the music could be brought out with sticks wrapped with rubber.

For the past 33 years, Mannette has been at the forefront of the steelband movement in the United States. He left Trinidad and Tobago for New York City in 1967. In the USA, he has traveled extensively, making and promoting pan. As a result of his efforts, successful steelband programs can be found from New York to Washington State and from the Dakotas to Texas.

Mannette works with over 200 public school, university, community and private bands. He gives lectures and conducts seminars on the construction, tuning and history of the instrument. His work has been on display in museums all across the United States. Currently he resides in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he is artist-in-residence at the University of West Virginia.

Invaders’ growth was due, in part, to its Woodbrook location where a local theater was established in 1949 with Invaders as the resident steelband. It may have been a factor in the 1960's when Shell Oil Company became one of the first steelband sponsors. Shell later changed its name to Trintoc and then Petrotrin, retaining sponsorship until 1998.

Invaders produced many fine pannists and tuners who added to the musical legacy created by the founders. The youngest Mannette brother, Vernon "Bridie," was Tuner and Captain for 25 years, maintaining the Invaders’ reputation for "sweet" pan. Ray Holman, the prolific composer and arranger started with Invaders when he was only 13 years of age. His work with pan jazz arrangements gives him a unique position in pan history.

Spawned from Alexander Ragtime Band and Oval Boys, Invaders produced many other bands. Among them were: Saigon, Green Eyes, Gale Stars, Tropitones, Metronomes, Troubadors, Dixie Stars, Sombreros, Starlift, Girls Pat, PhaseII Pan Groove and Third World.


Winston Bailey, better known as Shadow, is the reigning National Calypso Monarch of Trinidad & Tobago. He is also a holder of the other highest title in calypso, Road March Winner of Trinidad & Tobago.

Shadow has 40 CDs to his credit. His hits have been used in soundtracks of Hollywood movies.


Shadow - Am I Sweet or What?

Shadow - An Infectious Classic

The Best of Shadow Vol.1

Shadow - Dingolay

Shadow - Eternal Energy

Shadow - Fully Loaded

Shadow - Goumangala

Shadow Greatest Hits


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