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Reminiscing with Clifton Niles

Clifton Niles, one of the early members of Turks Carnival band, appears lost in the past as he reminisces on past grandeur.   Smiling and nodding occasionally as he recalls the birth of a music and carnival band which set a standard that hasn’t yet been seen in St. Lucia.

“Prim, Roddy (Walcot), the boys with whom I still keep in touch, began playing mas here with a portrayal of Crown Shell bugles.” Niles said. In 1950 Roddy expressed the desire to play ‘steel’, but there were no pans.  Now, Roddy, because of his ties with Trinidad, out of the blue sky, managed to have the head of the Trinidad police band, Mr. Beckles, bring to St. Lucia, (TASPO) Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra.  This was a show band which came to play for an “exhibition” recalls Niles.

“We, members of the Turks, approached a member of the steel band and expressed our desire to learn to make pan. He willingly obliged and came to teach us. He made five sample pans for us. We burned, sunk and grooved the pans. Thereafter we made our own.”

“Clifton Niles and Rupert Patterson were responsible for the music section of Turks,. Then, the band was just forty-eight strong.  But, we were determined and dedicated.  We played on the road, at dance halls and at the Queen Show. At Mindoo Phillip Park, J’ouvert began at 3:00 a.m. and lasted until 9:00 a.m. The queen show was at 1:00 a.m.
There was also no calypso at the time so we had to listen to radio Trinidad in the night to learn their road march. We were forced to do it as quickly as possible in order to play it for J’ourvert the next morning.

‘Turks played at Palm Beach and Luna Park and the night clubs free of charge.  Just food and drinks, and play pan.”   He laughs out loud, remembering.

“Roddy drew the costumes and was band leader; hence the reason why he is the Turks president for life. lmbert (Sledge) Roberts was the Turk leader because of his impressive size and height – 6ft. 2 inches – 190 lbs.”

Niles squints as if trying to penetrate the past.  “Some other names come to mind; like Rupert Patterson, Linda Beaubrun, Kenneth Hyppolyte, Jeffery Mymns, Horace Burton.  When Turks was started it was all male, but of course things changed.

Author: Alexandra Grant

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