Marabella-based Southern Marines Steelband Foundation is reputed to be one of the oldest steel orchestras in south Trinidad (and Tobago).
Its longevity is linked to a quality that many take for granted…its innate sense of community.
Southern Marines became famous for a creative combination of occurrences: sweet music, (must mention those scintillating base lines) and its mas portrayals.
This beautiful confluence of events earned the cultural outfit a loyal and steadfast fan base.
Over the years, it become clear that Southern Marines was more than a steelband, but rather an institution focused on youth empowerment and skills development.
Its trust on human development involved the use of traditional and non-traditional mechanisms within the pan yard setting. In addition to learning the national musical instrument, adolescents exposed to the Southern Marines philosophy would go on to learn music literacy, as well as, the basics of steelpan tuning. This was in keeping with its entrepreneurial spirit.
From steelpan manufacturing on a small scale, to manufacturing accessories associated with the instrument such as: pan cases, pan stands and pan sticks, it also imparts fabrication skills through the building of pan racks.
It should come as no surprise that Southern Marines had its own lorry and citing its vision to become a nerve centre of activity, it invested in a sound system, too.
While young band members were beneficiary of computer basics, advanced musicians in the band had access to sophisticated music software to develop their music skills to aide in arranging music from the band would certainly be a beneficiary.
Southern Marines, under its legendary captain, Milton “Squeezer” Lyons, won the first Panorama competition in 1963 at the Naparima Bowl. Lyons was a national ping pong solo champion.
Celebrated pan tuner Bertram Kellman was reportedly influenced by Squeezer to become the master craftsman that he is today. As fate would have it, the band churned out other talent craftsmen.
Malomo Joseph, the band’s captain, is one of them. He is also the arranger for Southern Marines.
Hailing from the Southern Main Road, Marabella, Southern Marines’ focus on community engagement has not waned.
Easy access to its panyard has resulted in the hosting of various public programmes that include, but was not limited Emancipation, health fairs, photographic exhibitions, panel discussions, community drama presentations, calypso showcases and poetry readings to name a few.
The Talent Expression Competition is the production for which Southern Marines is most proud, however.
Since 2001, the event has been a fixture on the cultural calendar with production improvement year-on-year. Arguably an unrivalled billing in the southland, the 2020 edition of the competition could not take place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As fate would have it, Southern Marines’ cultural and social impact undertaking would not go unnoticed. Back in November (28) 2008 the band was among four steelbands receiving Pan Trinbago’s first Anthony Williams Awards. That ceremony was held at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya.