Memorable performance by JSG Skiffle
Saturday, September 15 2012
THE EDITOR: Since 1978, we have known them as the TCL Skiffle Bunch. In January 2012, under new sponsorship, they became known as the Junior Sammy Group Skiffle. No matter the name, this steel orchestra, now with a brass section, is one of the jewels in the national musical crown.
On September 2, I heard them play at the President’s Tribute: Voices and Steel concert at the Jean Pierre Complex. This was a gift to the nation by President Max Richards featuring eight of the finest steel orchestras and six of the best choirs in the world in an only-in-Trinidad and Tobago experience. Along with WITCO Desperadoes, I thought that Skiffle was one of the best on the night.
On September 12, at the Naparima Bowl, they gave us their very own independence gift, Skiffle Through The Years. And, boy, what a show it was!
Cricket fans will understand the feeling of going to a match and one breathtaking cover drive from Brian Lara is all you need to make your day. It’s the same feeling I got after Skiffle’s first number, How Great Thou Art. How far we had come from the days when playing pan music in church was considered sacrilege by some! If only they could have heard Skiffle play.
After that, we were treated to a plethora of high-quality renditions of, among others, Pan In A Minor, Guantanamera, All I Ask Of You (featuring Turon Nicholas and Raymond Edwards, two of my favourite singers), Amparita Roca (the song the Venezuelan President Carlos Perez heard them play on Harris Promenade and invited the band to Venezuela), I Wanna Make Love To You (the Nappy Mayers/Nadie La Fond hit), December 63 (O What A Night) and everyone’s favourite, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
The first thing that struck you was the youthful exuberance of the front row (seven tenors and two double tenors), led by the dynamic duo of Anela Seecharan and Joshua Regrello. They are a joy to watch. Of the nine front row players, seven were female and two male. For the entire band, the ratio of females to males was about two to one. And what energy and precision! For two hours, the band played non-stop without a conductor! At one point, I wondered, aren’t they getting tired? Clearly not.
On Independence night, I attended Pan On A Higher Note featuring the National Steel Symphony Orchestra and Ustad Ghulam Khan’s troupe from India. One of the highlights of that night was when both groups teamed up to play Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite bhajan, Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram. It was a standing-ovation performance by some of the best musicians in the world.
On Skiffle night, the entire Naparima Bowl relived that feeling when Nadia Madoo sang Rahen Na Rahen Hum (from the movie, Mamta) to the wonderful accompaniment of the Skiffle steel orchestra. Once again we were reminded of what is possible, what is uniquely Trinidadian, when our major ethnic groups join forces, in music and in other spheres of life. I beseech my people to cherish and nurture this gift.