N Touch
Wednesday 19 June 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Still time to capitalise on pan’s uniqueness

THE EDITOR: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is reported to have said at the launch of the Alutech Research and Development Facility at the Tamana InTech Park in Wallerfield that “his inability to play pan remains one of his lasting regrets.”

For fear that he may have to travel to China to learn to play pan – TT’s gift to the world of music and the only percussion instrument invented in the 20th century – may I suggest he takes every opportunity to be tutored locally, thereby setting an example for aspiring pan musicians and helping to delay the demise of pan, a not far-fetched concept since a choice of tombstone has already been made public.

The alternative can only become a reality if the people of TT learn to appreciate the uniqueness of pan as a musical instrument. When technology reproduces the sound of pan on an electronic instrument shaped like a pan or on a tablet, that is not pan.

When a commercial monument shaped like a pan with vodka bottles etched on its surface is allowed to stand, that is an insult to the national instrument. When pan’s administration is portrayed as an unfinished and dilapidated building, that is slap in the face of every pannist and all the people of TT.

Some pannists know that there is more to pan than “playing” pan. Ask Liam Teague who is professor of music and head of steel pan studies at Northern Illinois University (NIU), where he also directs the renowned NIU Steelband.

The late Ellie Mannette’s company, The Mannette Touch, became the main source of steelband instruments in the US. He served as an artist-in-residence at West Virginia University.

Steel Talks describes Neville Jules as being a pan pioneer extraordinaire, an inventor, a manufacturer, a tuner, an arranger, a disciplinarian, a community leader and the leader of Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra.

Google Ray Holman and Lennox “Boogsie” Sharpe. They are pan ambassadors, leaders, teachers, composers who have experienced international acclaim.

There is still time for TT to capitalise on the uniqueness that is pan. Rowley and his Minister of Culture are best positioned to explore and, if feasible, facilitate pan’s role in economic diversification. Serious evaluation should be done and a team of professional people selected to undertake the management of pan’s affairs.

The late ace pannist Ken “Professor” Philmore (may he RIP) must have been welcomed with open arms by St Peter. But, what about those of us who do absolutely nothing to ensure that pan’s resting place will not be the museum – the Royal Victoria Institute on upper Frederick Street – in our lifetimes?

Failing the above, Rowley may have to go to China to learn to play pan.

JOHN HENRY, Petit Valley

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