New Zealand's First Caribbean Steelband
Our name was chosen to reflect the origin of the steel pan, the heritage of some of the players, and to identify the home of the group. Under the guidance of our first tutor Thomas Samuel, the group became Aotearoa's first Caribbean Steel band.
The steel band consists of nine sets of pans: three tenors, one double tenor, two double seconds, one double guitar, one cello and a base. It is accompanied by a drumkit and other percussion instruments.
The idea of having a steelband in Aotearoa was developed in 2005 by a small group of Caribbean Islanders living in Auckland. Although there were a few steelpan players in the country, and a percussion group in the South Island that had a set of steel pans, there was no steelpan group with a full complement of pans who played unaccompanied by singing or as an accompaniment to a band. The Caribbean Islanders’ first task was to raise funds to purchase the steel pans. They also had to find someone who could tune the pans as well as find storage, players and a practice venue. Funds were raised by the small group comprising initially of Gail Bailey, Thomas Samuel, Rose Thomas, Nancy deFreitras, Malaika Theobald, Joan Prentice and Camille Nakhid.
The group organised a couple of fetes with Caribbean music and food. Rum punch, as one would expect, was abundantly available on sale. The fetes raised about one-third of the funds needed and it was decided to approach companies for sponsorship. The group was turned down by a number of companies because the companies felt that the music was virtually unknown and had little history in the South Pacific. A successful application for a grant was then made to the Pacific Sports and Community Trust which awarded the group $11,000. Through the earnest efforts of Benedict Chatoor, the group purchased from Lincoln Enterprises in Trinidad and Tobago, a set of steelpans for nine players