In a Calabash or In de Savanah Party: Pelham Makes Music


Musician, arranger, and composer Pelham Goddard has been involved in the musical life of the Caribbean for over 4 decades. Pelham was born into a musical family that includes the renowned steelpan leader, George Goddard. His mother played the piano and his brothers were all actively involved in the steelpan movement in west Port of Spain, Trinidad. The music of the Goddard household took hold of Pelham at an early age, and he took up playing the piano.

Growing up in the town of St. James, with a proliferation of steel orchestras and Hosay yards in close proximity, significantly impacted Pelham musical drive. By the 1960s he actively participated as a drummer in the annual Hosay festival. He also became an in-demand keyboard and bass player for numerous musical aggregations participating in the burgeoning combo culture among young musicians in Trinidad at the time. During the late 60s Pelham made his foray into steelband as a five-bass player with Starlift Steel Orchestra.

The 1970s saw Pelham blossom forth in even greater demand, particularly for his keyboard/paino skill. He was invited to join the musical band, the Dutchy Brothers led by Pete de Vlught. Among the respected musicians he played alongside in this band was Earl Rodney, revered pannist and steelpan arranger. Following this experience with the Dutchies, Pelham was encouraged by the late Clive Bradley, talented musician and pan arranger, to join the Esquires, a combo led by Bradley.

Pelham Goddard – The Combo Experience from Ken Archer on Vimeo.

In this setting Pelham was driven to enhance of knowledge of music theory, and to write and arrange music for the Esquires with Brass. By the mid-70s, Pelham also became a steady studio musician and a stable member of the Art de Coteau Orchestra, which provided accompaniment on many calypso recordings and toured throughout the Caribbean, performing in many Carnivals, festivals, and shows around the region.

The 70s also herald two additional aspects of Pelham musical career. The decade saw Starlift Steel Orchestra endure significant ruptures that led to former members founding Phase II Steel Orchestra led by Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, the now-defunct Pandemonium Steel Orchestra, and the Third World Steel Orchestra. Pelham was recruited as the musical arranger for Third World, which was located in his native St. James. This marked his foray into the world of steelpan arranging, and he has gone on to be one of the foremost steelband arrangers, especially for his work with the Exodus Steel Orchestra.

Change and experiment also characterized the musical environment of the 70s, and Pelham was at the forefront of this. He was intimately involved in the advent of Soca music, performing with the late Garfield Blackman – Ras Shorty I, who is credited with development of this innovative genre in calypso music.

Pelham also played and recorded with Ed Watson, Dr. Soca. This bandleader, arranger, and composer is recognized for his contribution to the Soca genre, and is known to have arranged music for a number singers at the time, including Ras Shorty I and the deceased Aldwyn Roberts – the Lord Kitchener.

Pelham’s sterling contribution to this genre crystalized as founder, leader, and musical arranger for the Charlies Roots band, which became internationally respected for its calypso music played at Carnivals and festivals across the North and South America, Europe , and the Caribbean. Over that period Pelham penned arrangements for 13 road marches in the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and produced music for some calypsonians such as: Calypso Rose, David Rudder, Austin Lyons – Superblue, Chrisopher “Tambu” Herbert, and Cecil Hume – Maestro.

In the following video Pelham Goddard speaks about his early life as a musician in Trinidad; the different influences that shaped his development: his family, the steelbands of St. James, Hosay, and the developing combo scene. Great information, not only about Pelham’s formative years musically, but also the various bands existent at the time. Pelham – The Beginnings

By Ken Archer

I am an ethnomusicologist, who obtained my doctoral degree at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. My areas of interests include the musical, ritual, and celebratory traditions of the circum-Caribbean and the African Diaspora.

I worked as a lecturer at the Columbus and Marion Campuses of the Ohio State University, where I taught classes in World Music, Rock and Roll/American Popular Music, Western Art Music, and directed the OSU Steel Pan ensemble.

One reply on “In a Calabash or In de Savanah Party: Pelham Makes Music”