No Funeral For Caribbean Born Creator Of The Steel Pan

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A report from Caribbean News Now.

There will be no funeral for the Caribbean-born musician and designer of the steel pan but memorial services will soon follow.

That’s the word from Mannette Instruments, the company founded by the Trinidad-born principal innovator and designer of the steel drum as a musical instrument, Elliot Anthony ‘‘Ellie’’ Mannette.

Mannette, 90, of Morgantown, West Virginia, passed away on Aug 29, 2018, at the Mon Health Medical Center. The company said in accordance with his wishes, his remains will be cremated by the Hastings Funeral Home while memorial services will be held in New York, West Virginia and Trinidad W.I. shortly.

Mannette was born in the village of Sans Souci, Trinidad. According to The West Virginia Encyclopedia, he and his friend Winston ‘‘Spree’’ Simon originated the modern steel drum band sound in the 1940s as teens, the only musical instrument created in the 20th century.

Mannette experimented with hammering bumps in the steel bottom or ‘‘pan’’ of an upsidedown 55-gallon oil drum. Each raised section resounded with a clear note when struck, and by 1947 Mannette had perfected a drum with two octaves of a diatonic scale. Today, steel drums continue to be made mostly by hand, using many of Mannette’s original techniques.

In 1951, the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra, of which Mannette was a member, appeared at Britain’s Festival of the Arts and introduced orchestrated steelpan music to the world. In the 1960’s, he helped develop the United States Navy Steel Band, which brought steel-band music to the American public.

Mannette migrated to the US in 1967. Building and tuning pans, he promoted the art of playing the instrument and began conducting lectures and workshops.

The director of West Virginia University’s Creative Arts Center saw Mannette performing at a workshop in North Carolina and persuaded him to come to the Mountain State.

Mannette arrived in Morgantown in 1992 and became an artist-in-residence and coordinator of the steel drum program at WVU. He started training students in aspects of the art form with the University Tuning Project, in which a student could learn how to construct his own steel drum.

Many American universities now have steel-pan ensembles of their own, some led by Mannette’s former apprentices. In 2000, Mannette founded Mannette Steel Drums, Ltd., whose drums are distributed worldwide.

In 1999, Mannette received the highest U.S. honor in the arts, a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000, he returned to his homeland to receive the Trinidad and Tobago Chaconia Silver Medal from the minister of culture. He also was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine. He was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2003.

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