A GROUP of 12 students from the University of Minnesota, USA, are currently in TT learning about pan. They follow a long line of voyagers who have journeyed to our shores to learn about this our most cherished national instrument. Such is the demand for pan globally, that no less than ten universities are already signalling an interest to be a part of the learning scheme hosted by Selwyn “Fruits” Williams, public relations officer of the FCB Supernovas, Lopinot. Delaware, Ohio, South Carolina, Boston, New York—students will come from anywhere.
While international interest remains healthy, the administration of pan locally has become fraught. It is understood tempers flared at a special general meeting of Pan Trinbago on Sunday at which the organisation’s president Beverly Ramsey-Moore re-iterated her announcement that panmen are not to expect the $1,000 stipend they have grown accustomed to for 2019 and for 2020. After 56 years, notes San Fernando Mayor Junior Regrello, not much has improved.
“Panorama started in 1963, and in 2019 we still have some of the same problems,” he observed this week. “We have not really evolved as we should have.”
Considering pan’s status as our national instrument, this is a deeply unsatisfactory situation. All artists should be properly remunerated for their work. The misguided belief that members of the creative arts sector are any less entitled to pay for their time, talent and effort is one factor that has held back the development of our creative industries and stymied local talent.
At the same time, it is equally unacceptable for pan stakeholders to expect to resolve problems through shouting matches. The report of people crying, “I want my money!” plays into the negative stereotype pan players have, for too long, had to contend.
While Panorama is rightly the main showcase of the pan calendar, it is not the only revenue-earning event that takes place. Yes, panwomen and panmen should be properly paid for their contribution to making Panorama a tent pole Carnival event, one of the brightest attractions we have to offer. But it is not wise for bands to rely on one event only to obtain financial gain and to gamble for first place prize money.
We concur with the position of Regrello who has called for bands to devise more creative ways of making financial gain given the economic situation. For this to happen, all stakeholders must avoid the trap of thinking of pan solely in terms of Carnival. Linkages between pan and communities should be deepened and pushed to a whole new level.
Finally, it should be said pan players deserve some degree of certainty moving forward. Instead of saying the stipend will be withheld for a certain period, Pan Trinbago should have the maturity to say once and for all whether the stipend has been abolished so that people are not perennially disappointed by its non-payment.