Written by Ted Goslin
Jit. Few names like this in the steelpan world are able to conjure the kind of raw power and emotion that this man has created. One could argue, no names could do so. Dr. Jit Samaroo, beloved steel pan player, arranger and above all, human being, passed away on January 7, 2016, due to the progression of alzheimers disease. He was 65.
For nearly 10 years, Samaroo fought the disease thanks to his good health and young age, according to his son, Amrit Samaroo. The younger Samaroo, who is arranging for his own band, the Supernovas, and dedicating its piece to his father in the 2016 Panorama, was influenced greatly by his father both musically and as a person.
“He was innovative, a strategist, led by example and he expected the best you can do at all times,” said Amrit. “[Forming the Supernovas] was one of his dreams that he always spoke of before he got ill. His retirement project after the Renegades was to give back to his community.”
Samaroo was one of nine children, seven of which formed the Samaroo Jets, an ensemble that competed at steelband festivals against, and beat, much larger bands, including Phase II Pan Groove.
Due to the effects of his disease, Jit’s ability to communicate was compromised greatly in his final years. That meant his ability to convey his pride verbally in his son’s creation of the Supernovas was also diminished, but that didn’t stop him from showing it in other ways.
“When we started, my cousin Anthony Samaroo, members of the community and myself, his ability to communicate was already being compromised by the disease. So he could not tell us much,” Amrit said. “But he was able to give his blessing and was around the band for our first Panorama. We caught him dancing to the arrangement of ‘Tempo’… always a good sign. We placed 2nd on our debut in 2012.”
Given the current state of the Supernovas, moving from small band to the large category for 2016 and qualifying for its first-ever Panorama finals in that division, Jit’s early enthusiasm was well-placed. Especially given the fact that Amrit previously won Panorama finals in the small band category with Supernovas in 2014.
While the Supernovas and Renegades battle for the future on the main stage of the Savannah in this year’s Panorama Finals, Jit’s legacy lives on through his nine Panorama titles, three by hat-trick (consecutive wins), his countless arrangements, and the lives he’s touched. One thing his son, Amrit, believes will live on above all to future generations of pannists is a word that sums up his father’s demeanor.
“Humility. Also he genuinely cared for people who loved the instrument and culture and would never be too big to reach out to anyone to say congratulations or give advice when asked or if he saw the need to.”
Learn more about Amrit Samaroo and his relationship with his father in this 2013 interview published in the Trinidad Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.tt/entertainment/2013-01-12/father-son