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Tuesday 26 March 2019
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PM non-committal as Pan Elders ask for financial aid

Pan Elders players in their winning performance at the 2018 Panorama medium band finals at Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. The band is struggling to attract players this year because it is unsponsored and Pan Trinbago cannot affort to pay performance fees to pannists. FILE PHOTO
Pan Elders players in their winning performance at the 2018 Panorama medium band finals at Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. The band is struggling to attract players this year because it is unsponsored and Pan Trinbago cannot affort to pay performance fees to pannists. FILE PHOTO

HOLLISTER Smith, leader of Pan Elders, the Panorama champion in the medium band category, used the Prime Minister's visit to his panyard on Thursday night to appeal for financial assistance for his band.

Rowley, accompanied by Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and other Cabinet colleagues, acknowledged the band’s difficulties, but made no commitment and encouraged them to play on.

“Nuff respect,” he said as commended the players “for the wonderful things they are doing” and the leaders “for the work they are doing with the youths.”

The PM also visited CAL Skiffle steel orchestra on the nearby Coffee Street.

In welcoming the PM to his yard, Smith said, “I am glad you are here to see what we are working with. We might be doing well in the Panorama itself, but with the amount of youths we have here, we still need the assistance of any state enterprise, anybody who can assist us.”

For a while, the ability of the band to defend its championship was in doubt owing to a reduction in the allocation to Pan Trinbago, the decision not to pay a remittance fee to players, plus the loss of assistance from its former benefactor, Petrotrin. After five championships, Pan Elders is still unsponsored.

“Watch the condition of our yard,” Smith urged the PM, who was accompanied by San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello and Cabinet ministers Edmund Dillon, Shamfa Cudjoe, Camille Robinson-Regis and Kazim Hosein.

“We need to get it done a little better,” Smith said of the poorly lit and unpaved yard at the bottom of the San Fernando Hill.

His appeal followed a brief address by Rowley after he heard the band’s Panorama 2019 offering of The Will, arranged by Duvone Stewart.

“I want to say how pleased we all are, as citizens, to have your elders, tutors, peers encourage you to take part in this very positive aspect of our national life. We market Carnival as a festival in TT only because of what you do for love for the music and in support of the instrument we own personally here in TT.”

Touching on the age-old debate of patenting the pan, Rowley argued, “There are many people who say we should keep it and patent it and so on, but nobody has patented the cuatro or the guitar or the piano.”

He also said, "Pan is going worldwide. We – in demonstrating the kind of talent you are demonstrating here – you will always be able to say that the root of the instrument is in TT and is part of the culture of the people. We have instruments that can’t say that. The level of participation of the steelband and in Carnival in TT is different to elsewhere with an instrument.”

Rowely told Smith and the mainly young players that he has been following their rise and was not unaware of the difficulty they experienced in moving forward.

However, he sought to assure, “This might be the sweetest victory you would ever have, because you are doing it in a difficult period. The moral of that story is that because there is some difficulty does not mean that victory is not within your grasp. I want to wish you all the best. Go to the finals and play as you normally do, with the talent I see here.

"And for a person who cannot play a note to save his life, all I could say to you is, ‘nuff respect.”

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