As iconic steelbands Massy Trinidad All Stars and CAL Invaders celebrate their 80th and 75th anniversaries, respectively, in 2016 Desperadoes will celebrate 50 years of success in steelband competitions. The steel orchestra with the most national Panorama victories in its bushel, as well as three Steelband Music Festival championships, has embarked on a rejuvenation programme aimed at lifting the Laventille Hill steel orchestra to its former glory having lost some of its spark in recent years.
Desperadoes PRO Patricia Rock-Ross said this week: "Desperadoes recently elected a new management committee, its membership being a mix of relatively young members with a few of the elder heads. Our new manager is Curtis Edwards who comes with a wealth of experience in not just music, but in leadership as well. A past captain of Desperadoes and of his own band, Crescendoes, he is also a UWI grad in music."
Rock-Ross added that the new committee is intent on creating a bond between the players, the supporters and the community. "Jump high, jump low, all of Laventille and Desperadoes is one family and it is high time that we eradicate any form of division that may have existed in recent years. It is not nice when we hear people, especially some of those who have supported us through the years, saying that Deperadoes is a has-been. Our mission is restore the pride and dignity of this great institution and of course to win the 2016 national Panorama title.
"One of the first things this new committee intends doing is to pay recognition to the leaders, players and members who started it all, like Rudolph Charles, Eugene "Gunga Din" Mc Clean, Carl Greenidge, Dennis "Tash" Ash, Elias "Peugot" Phillip, Roy "Babylon" Corrigan, Rudolph "Crabby" Edwards, Thomas "Thunderbolt" Williams, Ursula Tudor, Anthony Mc Quilkin, Anthony "Ben' Up" Kinsale, Robert Greenidge and Lloyd Maloney, just to name a few. Even I, after 28 years of being part of Desperadoes, am learning. I recently learned that Franklyn Gerald was the band's first nine bass player when that instrument was invented by the late Rudolph Charles."
After Gerald, Desperadoes has always been served by some outstanding nine bass musicians, like Crawl, Gunga Din, Sensie, Bando and Jakes.
Ironically, when first formed, Desperadoes was more famous as a "mas band" than a good steelband. In those days, the band was led by Wilfred "Speaker" Harrison. All that changed with the ascendancy of Rudolph Charles as the band's captain in 1961 and by the mid sixties the mas-playing entity of Laventille Hill was converted into the country's most potent steel orchestra, producing excellent music with the leadership of Charles, arrangements by Beverly Griffith and skilled pantuners like Bertie Marshall and Lincoln Noel.
Rock-Ross continued: "For starters, the band will come together to host an awards ceremony at which these stalwarts and heroes of Laventille will be remembered.
"Part of my responsibility is to facilitate the younger members with the history of the band and its achievements. If people don't know where they have come from up, not only will they be unable to derive pride in that they are doing, but will not be able to go forward with any success."
Desperadoes has had a fully equipped concert auditorium on the Hill which has been under utilised. "It is now being rennovated so that we can have our own concerts in our home, as well as make it amenable and accessible to the community."
The musicians who have aided Desperadoes to these achievements since 1966 have been Beverly Griffith, Clive Bradley, Robert Greenidge and Dr Pat Bishop.
Desperadoes won its first National Panorama title in 1966 playing Griffith's arrangement of Sparrow's Melda. Playing Borodin's Polovetsian Dances, the orchestra won Pan Is Beautiful National Steel Orchestra Music Festival in 1986.
Rock-Ross said: "We intend to refresh the people's minds as to who we, Witco Desperadoes, really are and all of what we have accomplished. Of course our history and achievements are much more than 50 years as the band was actually formed many years before, since World War II in the forties.
"We want all the Desperadoes family to come back home. I want to tell them they all have a home and in our house, in which there is love in every room, when we come together and unite we are a force to reckon with and nobody can defeat us."