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Guyana

Stand up for pan | Columnist – Trinidad & Tobago Express

There is a growing misconception that pan isn’t a part of the 2019 Carifesta being held in Trinidad and Tobago, which is the reason why “Pan Trinbago vex with Culture Minister”.

Let the air now be officially clear that pan is very alive and will be part of Carifesta 2019.

However, the air should also be cleared on what is really the issue at hand. The tension stems from the blatant disrespect shown to Pan Trinbago and the pan body as a whole within the past few months by the line minister.

It was never the intention of the executive of Pan Trinbago to start a war with the Minister of Culture or the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. As a matter of fact, the president of Pan Trinbago was adamant about keeping the peace. There were days when members of the fraternity such as Oswald Alexander and Gregory Lindsay, among others, were ready to defend the central executive against the powers that be when Pan Trinbago was going through trying times but again, the president insisted that things could have been resolved peacefully.

So it begs the question: how did we get here?

Well, August has always been an interesting month for pan; after all, August is pan month. An entire month of pan activities can only lead to various versions of excitement in the mecca of pan. We had Emancipation day on August 1, followed by a memorial for the late Dr Cliff Alexis on the seond, and the daily activities continued. Of course, on August 11, World Steelpan Day was recognised, and by August 13 came the launch of “Steelpan Bacchanal Day” after an article written by Joan Rampersad of Newsday was released headlined, “Pan Trinbago vex with Culture Minister”.

Now let’s take a walk down memory lane.

It was during the Carnival that there was a minor tremor surrounding the infamous issue of the “North Park”. The president of Pan Trinbago and the NCC would have exchanged a few opinions about the ability (or rather the inability) of the North Park to accommodate the pan fans for the semifinals Savannah Party. The president stood strong even with the verbal flogging she endured on behalf of pan men and women. While she convinced the membership to not fight, a compromise was made. Well, I guess we all know what happened with the North Park.

It is now almost six months since Carnival has ended and Pan Trinbago has yet to receive their gate receipts in a respectful manner. Again, the president had remained calm and cooperative, keeping the peace bearing in mind the economic state of the country, despite the number of projects Pan Trinbago has on the table to facilitate education, youth development and business ventures that would aid the organisation in elevating and moving forward.

Of course, additionally there was the announcement of the change in the Panorama scheduling that made its way viral across both social and print media.

Now let’s get to the straw that broke the camel’s back....

While pan has been included in the Carifesta schedule, it was clearly evident that the pan is the bastard child of T&T. It was at the planning meetings between the Carifesta artistic team and a small delegation from Pan Trinbago (of which I was present) where the idea of the “pan and powder” parade was conceived, and is now carded for August 21. It was at that very same meeting it was agreed that any steelband being used for activities during Carifesta would be done through Pan Trinbago in light that Carifesta was a national event. That agreement never lasted as long as the Red House fire of 1903 during the Water Riots as it wasn’t even a few hours later that I received a call from an official of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts enquiring on the cost for my band to perform at the event.

During the month of July, Pan Trinbago was finally able to get an audience with the minister regarding the change of scheduling for Panorama 2020 (after two previous attempts failed). It was at that meeting, two other points were raised:

i. Why were bands being called behind Pan Trinbago’s back to perform at Carifesta?

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ii. In light of the “Super Concert” being the largest show, and the grand finale at Carifesta, why were there no steelbands included?

The latter question was met with astonishment by the minister. “Pan? On the same stage as Shaggy?”

In such a situation one might excuse that type of question from a “never see, come see” who would possibly have missed 2010 when Silver Stars Steel Orchestra won panorama and was given the opportunity to play the National Anthem and open the show performing “Battle Zone” for Beyonce’s “I Am” world tour which concluded in Port of Spain.

However, for a sitting minister to make such a statement after pumping millions of dollars into the Tobago Jazz where both Renegades and Desperadoes performed on the same stage as international artistes is very much vacuous. When George Leacock took over the production of the Tobago Jazz he made it mandatory to have pan which makes one wonder why John Arnold would utter the comment that he’s looking for “super artistes” for Carifesta when Tobago Jazz was a comedian’s dream under his watch.

Marginalisation of pan has caused the National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSC) to be denied a tour to Barbados in July for them to focus on Carifesta, only for their main performance (and only performance) to be in the pit of NAPA’s stage accompanying the National Theatre Arts Company with background music for their production. Mind you, the NSSC was featured on the main stage in Carifesta 2008 (Guyana), and 2013 (Suriname).

Marginalisation of pan is the reason why Shaggy will go on stage in the Carifesta and sing “It wasn’t me” and it will be dedicated to pan men and pan women when asked if they performed at the “Super Concert” at Carifesta.

For that reason I urge members/fans/friends/family of the pan fraternity to look at our own history and unite, for those who forget it are doomed to repeat it. George Goddard was persecuted while we looked on because he had a different opinion. In 1979 panmen made a stand and got their respect then. It is time to stand and remind the powers that be what we are capable of. In no way are we promoting begging/demanding a handout from the government. Money or no money, it is time for the pan fraternity to right a wrong, put differences aside, unite, respect ourselves and elevate together!

What has...is, and what is...will be!

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