THE DESIGNATION of August 11 as World Pan Day by Pan Trinbago is an acknowledgment of the international reach of pan. Countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, Grenada, Germany, Japan, Finland, the Netherlands, France, US, and UK have pan associations or teach and practise the pan. But closer to home, two issues regarding the national instrument requiring greater attention should be noted.
Pan Trinbago has expressed disappointment that pan will not be more prominently featured in the finale of Carifesta XIV, a concert called Island Beats, scheduled to take place on August 24. The show, at the Queen’s Park Savannah, will feature international stars Shaggy, Kassav, Calypso Rose, Machel Montano, Nailah Blackman, and other local acts. But Pan Trinbago feels disappointed pan will not be represented at the concert, except for the playing of the national anthem.
“We are totally upset in Pan Trinbago,” said the organisation’s president Beverly Ramsey-Moore. Its external relations officer Dane Gulston linked this situation to a pigeonholing of pan.
“The time has passed for steelband to just play at cocktail hours,” he said. “Pan is not good enough for that concert? Honestly, I think this is a total disrespect to the pan fraternity.”
It is not as though pan has been excluded from the party. Apart from solo pan performances, Carifesta will feature Pan and Powder on August 21 with BPTT Renegades, Massy All Stars, Desperadoes and Invaders Youth Orchestra, as well as the National Steel Orchestra of Guyana and Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra from Antigua and Barbuda.
The bone of contention, however, from the perspective of the pan fraternity, is a perception of pan not being central to Carifesta’s marquee events.
When it comes to cultural matters, passions run high. Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly should address the concerns raised. There may well be good reasons why large steelbands, which have specific requirements, could not be as easily incorporated in certain events or when counter to programming objectives.
The deeper issue is the fact that the pan fraternity has become sensitive to any signal of neglect. That sensitivity probably stems from years of not having the kind of backing they would desire. It’s not too late for a more productive dialogue.
As for competing events going head to head, jostling for audience share, it’s unfortunate energies could not have worked together to produce one memorable event. That said, this is a free country and the more the merrier when it comes to culture.
The second matter is highlighted by the granting of state land to First Citizens Supernovas Steel Orchestra in the Samaroo family’s home town of Surrey Village, Lopinot. The gesture is a reminder of the need for permanent spaces for pan. We have to change the mindset that regards the national instrument as merely a one-dimensional Carnival prop.