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Jit Samaroo dead at 65

Friday, January 8 2016

ONE of this country’s most famous steelband arrangers died just shy of his 66th birthday after creating history in the steelband movement. Dr Jit Sukha Samaroo, pan icon and legend, died peacefully yesterday at his home on Mausica Road, D’Abadie, surrounded by family members who mourned his death but celebrated his cultural legacy.

Born on February 24, 1950, Jit grew up in Surrey Village, Lopinot the seventh of 13 children.

From an early age he was into music and played the cuatro and guitar during the family parang limes. At age ten, Samaroo joined a pan-round-the-neck side called “Village Boys” but that did not last long and when his mother (Lakia) died in 1961, he was charged with taking care of his younger siblings.

He formed a band to keep his brothers and sisters together.

Jit said he got his musical genes from his mother who played the dholak. At age 14, Samaroo told people he was a slave to the steelpan and joined Lever Brothers Canboulay Steelband, whose musical director, a Mr White, encouraged him to do music and start arranging calypsos for the band. Jit also drew some knowledge of music from a few Canadian missionaries.

Samaroo later began moulding a unit called the “Samaroo Kids” which later morphed into the Samaroo Jets that would become one of the most successful small steel orchestras in TT. They were enlisted for months, playing on weekends at the Hilton poolside.

In 1972, he took part in the ping pong solo category of the Steelband Music Festival and won hands down.

ENTER RENEGADES

It was around that time that Renegades tuner Bertrand “Butch” Kellman introduced Samaroo to the bands’ management and he became their arranger. Jit became one of the best arrangers, players, and composers in the industry.

He had a long and fruitful relationship with Renegades, the time he spent on Charlotte Street he made the band into a household name winning the National Panorama title on nine occasions.

He was the only arranger to win the title three times straight with a conventional steel orchestra and also had three back-to-back wins.

With bpTT Renegades, Jit recorded the first hat-trick by any steelband, having won the 1995 Panorama with “Four Lara Four” by De Fosto; 1996 with “Pan in a Rage”, again by De Fosto, and 1997 with “Guitar Pan” by Lord Kitchener. Samaroo was also winning accolades for his musical ability as he was honoured with the Humming Bird Medal of Merit in 1987, and then again in 1995 with the Chaconia Medal (Silver).

In 2003 the University of the West Indies bestowed an honorary doctorate on Samaroo, all this while he was still at the helm of Renegades. In 2007 he retired from Renegades, and wanted to give back to the community in Surrey Village, and so he formed Supernovas Steel Orchestra, but was never able to carry on because of illness.

His son Amrit, and other members of the family, fulfilled Samaroo’s dream when Supernovas competed and won the National Panorama Title in the Small Band category. Pan Trinbago’s president Keith Diaz told Newsday, “Jit Samaroo was one of the great Panorama arrangers of our time, he was exceptional and his achievements with Renegades is a testament to this.”

DIAZ, MARCANO IN SHOCK

“He was my personal friend for 30 years, and I extend condolences to his son, Amrit, and all his family on my personal behalf and on behalf of the pan movement.

Jit was quiet and humble, and he made his music do all the talking.

I am very glad we at Pan Trinbago were able to do a benefit concert for him last year. I am honoured to have known a man like Jit Samaroo,” Diaz said.

Renegades President Michael Marcano was in a state of shock as he said, “Jit Samaroo is an icon to this band and the pan movement.

He made Renegades into a musical force winning nine Panoramas in 15 years. He was like our godfather and we recognised this, which is why you can walk into the panyard and see the Jit Samaroo Wing. We named the building after him in his honour.” “I am heartbroken at his death, but what I can say is that we will be doing something meaningful for Jit. Tonight we will light candles and meet and discuss what we plan to do,” Marcano said.

Captain Candice Andrews said death was inevitable, but when it arrives, it is still painful. “And Jit’s passing at this time when we are preparing for Panorama is even worse.” Also joining in paying tribute to Jit, was veteran journalist, Newsday’s John Babb. While expressing deep sympathy to the family, Babb recalled how he and Jit grew up in Arouca, where he went to school during which Babb’s wife, Mrs Lautnie Babb was Jit’s teacher at Arouca Boys’ RC School. Samaroo was immortalised in song last year with a Mark Loquan composition called “Dr Samaroo” which was sung by Anslem Douglas with lyrics by Gregory Ballantyne.

Following are Jit Samaroo’s victories at Panorama 1982…Pan Explosion; 1984… Sweet Pan; 1985…Pan Night and Day; 1989…Somebody; 1990… Iron Man; 1993…Mystery Band; 1995…Four Lara Four; 1996… Pan in a Rage and 1997…Guitar Pan.



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