They could have been described as "gang." But the neighborhood boys were going to focus on music and steelpan, an instrument that was still being shaped. They decided to call themselves "Oval Boys," after their first panyard located under the stands of the Queen's Park Oval. They collected discarded paint cans, biscuit tins and other empty metal containers to be used as instruments. The Oval Boys changed their name to "Invaders" after seeing the US war movie, "Night Invaders." Soon their permanent home was under the breadfruit tree at 147 Tragarete Road, where the band resides to this day.
Through experimentation with materials available on the street, they started to bridge the gap between the earlier, rhythmic beat of the tam-boo-bamboo and the harmonies that would soon emanate from the steelpan.
Those were days of rivalry, innovation and excitement. The rivalry between bands of Laventille and John John in East Port of Spain and those in Woodbrook and the West, often led to violent clashes. During the 1940's, Invaders was one of the most feared steelbands on the road. The sight of their battleflag was enough to frighten the faint-hearted. Lord Blakie's (Carlton Joseph) calypso, "Steelband Clash", documented a confrontation between Invaders and Tokyo, a band from the East Dry River.
In those days Ellie Manentte was the creative force, designing and tuning the pans for which he earned the title "Father of the Modem Steel Drum. His job in an iron foundry gave him a special feel and skill for steel and other metals. Mannette experimented with the 50-gallon oil drums in place of biscuit tins. He sank the playing surface downward into a concave shape instead of the convex shape used at the time, then went on to create six of the nine instruments in the steel drum family. He also discovered, through trial and error, the uniqueness of the note blend on each pan; and that the sweetness of the music could be brought out with sticks wrapped with rubber.
For the past 25 years Mannette has been at the forefront of the steelband movement in the United States. He left Trinidad and Tobago for New York City in 1967. In the USA, he has travelled extensively, making and promoting pan. As a result of his efforts, successful steelband programmes can be found from New York to Washington State and from the Dakotas to Texas.
Mannette works with over 200 public school, university, community and private bands. He gives lectures and conducts seminars on the construction, tuning and history of the instrument. His work has been on display in museums all across the United States. Currently he resides in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he is artist¬in-residence at the West Virginia University.
Invaders' growth and change were due, in part, to its Woodbrook location where a local theatre was established in 1949 with Invaders as the resident steelband. It may have been a factor in the 1960's when Shell Oil Company became one of the first steelband sponsors. Shell later changed its name to Trintoc and then Petrotrin, retaining sponsorship until 1998.
Invaders produced many fine pannists and tuners who add to the musical legacy created by the founders. The youngest Manette brother, Vernon"Birdie", was Tuner and Captain for 25 years, maintaining the Invaders' reputation for "sweet" pan. Ray Holman, the prolific composer and arranger started with Invaders when he was only 13 years of age. His work with pan jazz arrangements gives him a unique position in pan history.
Spawned from Alexander Ragtime Band and Oval Boys, Invaders produced many other bands. Among them were: Saigon, Green Eyes, Gale Stars, Tropitones, Metronomes, Troubadors, Dixie Stars, Sombreros, Starlift, Girls Pat, Phasell Pan Groove and Third World.
(History provided by Elizabeth Mannette)