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On Monday, December 20, the steelpan world lost one of its most illustrious and revered pioneers with the passing of Dr Anthony "Muff-Man" Williams at the age of 90.

Coming from very humble beginnings, Williams fired a spark that ignited the development and innovation of the national instrument. Drawing on his acumen in Mathematics from secondary school and, with assistance from his colleague Herman "Rock" Johnson, from a Soprano pan he invented the Spider Web Pan, an innovation that would revolutionize the instrument.

A born and raised son of St James soil, Williams had his earliest sojourn in pan in his pre-teen years in the 1940s with Five Graves to Cairo steelband. He later played with Harlem Nightingale and Sun Valley steel orchestras. When legendary Trinidad All Percussion Steel Orchestra (TASPO) was formed in 1951, Williams was a member, playing alongside crackshots like Ellie Mannette, Oscar Pyle and Sonny Roach.

Out of Sun Valley, Williams formed Northern Stars Steel Orchestra which subsequently became North Stars, moving from Bournes Road to Bombay Street, in St James. North Stars created history by winning the first National Panorama competition, held in 1963.

Williams was the first pan technician to put pan on wheels to enhance mobility. In 1962, he also led North Stars to victory at the Trinidad Music Festival, playing Yohann Straus' "Voices of Spring."

For his sterling contribution to the national instrument, Williams received many accolades including the nation's highest award, the Order of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago in 2008. He was also awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold), in 1992; and, received a Doctor of Letters Degree from the UWI (2016) and an Honorary Doctorate from Northern Illinois University (2021).

(Photo courtesy Pan Trinbago Inc)

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