Larry Denalli, president of the National Parang Association (NPATT), believes the future of parang lies in the youth.
For him the highlight of this year’s parang season will be the Junior Parang festival.
The festival is being held on Saturday and Sunday at the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s Valsayn campus from 9 am.
This year, however, there will be no other competitions. The association’s itinerary is short. It began with the launch on October 28 at NPATT’s headquarters, 22 Hollis Avenue, Arima and is set to end with the festival’s finale on December 16, also at its headquarters. In between, the season is filled with the Junior Parang Festival, which began on November 3 and continues November 24 and December 1.
In no way does this indicate, Denalli said, that the artform is dying. Instead it represents a lack of support.
“I think we need to have a little more support from Trinidad and Tobago in terms of corporate Trinidad and Tobago. The support from NLCB has been tremendous from Spanish Fusion to festival 2017.
“The Government promised via the ministry to pay prize monies. We cannot go into next competition owing last year’s prize money. That would be very unfair to the bands. So we took the decision not to have any competition,” he said, when asked why the association was not holding competitions this year.
Although he was reluctant to go into funding issues, Denalli said that decision was made because the association was told earlier this year by the ministry [of Community Development, Culture and the Arts] that it would not be paying last year’s prize money. He said this information came after meeting with the ministry for four months, earlier this year.
In response to Denalli’s comments, line minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly told Newsday, “The Parang Association received a subvention from the ministry. In addition to that subvention, the association received grant funding and has received for many years with respect to their competitions. Last year, there was an issue where they would have received additional funding above their subvention level.
“The organisation of that parang competition is not ministry-led, so the expenses associated with that is not the ministry’s expenses, it is really the Parang Association that would decide on their prizes and so on. The ministry’s ability to assist with funding has no direct intervention on whether they have a competition or not.”
Gadsby-Dolly said the Parang Association would receive funding from other sources and, in many cases, those alternative sources of funding are drying up. The demand on the ministry is now more, when its grant capacity is reduced, she said, and many cultural organisations are now being forced to rethink the way they do things.
But the association has found other ways to continue showcasing parang through Spanish Fusion, which provides an opportunity for parang bands to perform other genres of music during the period May to September. At Spanish Fusion people could hear Latin music, calypso done in a parang format, soca and reggae, Denalli said.
At this event, which was held on the last Saturday of each month from May to September, crowds ranged from 200 to 250. It also drew larger youth participation, he said.
But Denalli admitted that the association’s opening show did not draw as large a crowd as Spanish Fusion.
But a show at Fatima Grounds, Mucurapo Road, in collaboration with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain, drew in excess of 300 to 400 people, showing that the artform was far from dead. And despite all this, Denalli says it has been a good year for parang.
At this year’s Junior Parang festival, 35 primary and 19 secondary schools are expected to participate, and this represents an increase in the numbers from last year.
In the future, the association will be partnering with NLCB for a series of workshops (already in the planning stage) for the 2018 July/August holiday period, when there will be vocal training, mandolin workshops, cuatro workshops, the making of box basses and maracas. It is going to be targeting the youth, as the association is focused on youth development.
“The association is now seeking to have active partnerships with corporate TT,” Denalli said.