Year of Birth: 1931
T+T Icons In Science & Technology Volume I
Anthony Williams was born in 1931 in Port of Spain and grew up at Nepal Street, St. James, where he still resides. In the early 1940s, he began a lifelong involvement with the steelband movement. He played with Harlem Nightingale Steelband at age 12 for the first street Carnival after World War II and subsequently co-founded several bands including North Stars, the most successful band of its era.
In 1951 he participated in the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra’s historic tour to Britain and parts of Europe. His genius as a tuner was recognised when he tuned a tenor bass using three standard oil drums. He created this new instrument to replace the “tune boom” which was made from two smaller biscuit drums of inferior quality metal. At this time he also made an epic discovery and identified the octave within the note itself.
Williams captained North Stars from the early 1950s on overseas tours and to winner’s row at many local competitions, including the first Steelband Panorama Competition in 1963. He created complex introductions to calypsoes utilising key modulations and experimenting with arpeggios. He was the first tuner to compose complete tunes especially for the steelband and recorded the album “Ivory and Steel” with celebrated pianist Winifred Atwell, a pioneer quality recording of the steelband playing the classics.
Williams was the first to put pans on wheels allowing for mobile road bands in which pan men could play several pans at the same time. He was also the first to make a pan from flat sheet metal as opposed to a drum and the first to make an “oversized pan”.
He tested many of his ideas at the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute in the first scientific study of the instrument in the mid-1970s. Following years of study, calculations and experimentation, he designed the layout of the notes, arranged in circular chromatic scales such that each note is a fourth from its neighbour in a clockwise direction (a fifth from its neighbour anti-clockwise), and an octave away from the nearest note in the radial direction. The arrangement, which allows for greater ease of tuning, musical interpretation and harmony, was a revolutionary innovation and is virtually the standard format today.