The University of the West Indies is mourning the passing of pan innovator Ellie Mannette.
"The world has lost yet another pioneer of the steelpan industry with the passing of Ellie Mannette", said Professor Brian Copeland, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the St. Augustine Campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI).
Eighteen years ago, in 2000, the regional university recognised the steelpan pioneer with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters for "the special and decisive advances which he made to rescue a marginal group".
It was in the citation for the conferment of the degree that Ellie was called "The greatest innovator Trinidad has ever produced".
As part of their steelpan technology research in the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Copeland and Professor Emeritus Clement Imbert collaborated with Mannette in a 2001 visit to the West Virginia University (WVU) where Ellie was Artiste in Residence.
At WVU, Mannette taught courses in steelpan construction and performance in the University Tuning Project in their World Music program.
That University spun off a company called Mannette Musical Instruments (formerly Mannette Steel Drums) that manufactures and markets high quality steelpans.
Apart from his UWI Honorary Degree, he was the recipient of two national awards from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
In 1969 he was awarded the Hummingbird Medal (Silver) for his innovations in pan making and in 2000 he was also awarded the Chaconia Medal (Silver) for his outstanding contribution to culture.
In the US, he was the recipient of the very prestigious National Heritage Fellowship Award, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the US Percussive Arts Society.
Professor Copeland referred to him as "a humble man who truly experienced a lifetime of achievement from his dedication to and passion for the steelpan.”
Photo: Ellie Mannette (centre) at his workstation at the University of West Virginia in 2001 with The UWI St. Augustine’s Professor Brian Copeland (left), and Professor Clement Imbert.