LEADER of Southern Marines Steelband Michael “Scobie” Joseph wants Government and the National Carnival Commission (NCC) to engage them in talks to find solutions to their financial problems.
“This is not a one-man show. The steelband is an expensive creation and, like all sporting and cultural organisations around the world, needs sponsorship for its existence and survival.”
The Marabella-based steelband leader and cultural activist said the steelband, which made TT Carnival most unique, had provided government with an opportunity to benefit from marketing the festival and capitalising on foreign exchange.
He said if the “powers-that-be” failed to capitalise on that effort “then shame on them. The creativity in our indigenous art form must not be sacrificed on the altar of vulgarity. Our steelbands are the vehicle that make our festival the most unique in the entire world.
“Government must invest money in order to make money, so that we all can be reasonably compensated.”
The pan fraternity is facing one of its toughest years as the allocation for Panorama has been slashed by one third. Pan Trinbago president Beverly Ramsey-Moore has already said no players’ remittance would be paid for the next two years. Some players have refused to play as a result. Joseph said the solution required a collective effort.
He said players were not a separate and independent entity and were not the most important part of the steelband but there were justifiable reasons the players must be incentivised through the steelbands.
“The claim by the pannist for a player’s remittance is not being channelled through the right source and, therefore, would have no validity. All claims must come through the steelband leaders or managers who are responsible for the pannist who are obligated to their bands.”
He said no player ever requested an incentive for their performance, recalling the remittance was an initiative of Pan Trinbago after the now defunct BWIA honoured a request to incentivise players of the Panorama finalist with $200.
He lashed out as those “who have displayed a kind of greed and selfish behaviour that brought about this stalemate.
“All these so-called ‘crackshot’ players came to a panyard at some point not knowing how to even hold a pan stick. They were welcomed, assigned to an expensive steelpan instrument, taught how to wrap a pan stick and painstakingly taught how to play the instrument in a safe and secure environment with basic facilities that they contributed nothing, to its maintenance.
“Most of them still don’t own an instrument and still depend on the leaders to provide the facilities, teach them the music and provide all other amenities for them to get to a Panorama. So, what makes them greater than anyone else in the scheme of things?”
“Once the players see themselves as prima donnas, this will create a whole paradigm shift that will see the death of the involvement in Panorama and Carnival for community steel bands.”
Notwithstanding he said, all contributors were valuable to the success of the national festival and must, therefore, be compensated.