Roadblock Anytime

Knolly Moses

Roadblock Steel is an music ensemble with a proud mission: its members want to share Trinidad & Tobago’s culture with the world. Already, the group of young musicians have toured West Africa, visiting Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria. They have performed at the Miami Panorama (2022) and at the iconic Barclays Centre in New York at a WNBA game.

But they still crave wider public recognition at home. Having come only as high as eight in the small bands Panorama competition may be one reason their potential hasn’t fully exploded. They are determined, however, to rise to the pinnacle of that competition given the immense talent of the members.

Established in 2015, the band took its unusual name as a tongue in cheek effort to dispel the stigma often associated with the Laventille Community. As a force for good in an area that faces many social challenges, Roadblock is leading the way. A cohesive group, with a strong family unit at its head (Patrice Cain and her husband Martin are co-managers) the band has found useful ways to give back to its roots. Roadblock offers training in practical and music theory, and in keyboard, guitar and steelpan performance. Patrice says their outreach includes folk and modern dance classes, and vocal training for students aged 4 to 19.

Roadblock also supports its Diaspora community. In recent years, band members have gone to New York to play with D’Radoes Steel Orchestra, a band with many former players from Desperadoes. All four of the Cains – Patrice, Martin, son Dejean and daughter Deja – play with the iconic Laventille band. Martin has been with Despers since the early 1980's, and served as its Orchestra Manager from 2022 to 2023. His involvement with Despers is what partly inspired him to start Roadblock.

Another band in New York that was also spawned from Despers is Metro Steel Orchestra. The Cains gave Metro their full support this year: son Dejean arranged for Metro Youths, while his father, Martin, drilled the youngsters to prepare for the competition. Martin also drilled Metro’s Senior Band. That support paid off because both bands won their respective competitions in New York.

One reason the band has a vibe that’s attractive is because Dejean is the youngest person to have qualified a band for a Panorama Finals in Trinidad and Tobago. He is also a a crackshot panist, performing often in a duet with his sister Deja as the Pan Twins. The Pan Twins became popular with audiences after winning Movietowne's Trinbago Kids got Talent in 2013 when they were only eight years old. Deja is now the band captain.

This carnival season, Roadblock is hard at work six days a week rehearsing for Panorama in the space on Tragarete Road where Despers previously prepared for the competition. Being in town has given the band more visibility and greater public awareness of its mission. “We have the energy and the talent to go far and we intend to,” Patrice promises.