ELECTION stories and information dominated the news on August 11. But an equally important happening on that day was World Steelpan Day.
Pan Trinbago and the World Steelpan Thrust partnered to observe and celebrate the day. An event was held virtually and streamed on the thrust’s and Pan Trinbago’s Facebook pages at 4.30 pm.
The World Steelpan Thrust is an organisation whose aim is to connect TT to the global steelpan information and global steelpan business interests.
Senior counsel and pan aficionado Martin Daly and World Steelpan Thrust’s chairman Bertel Gittens were among the speakers at the event at Pan Trinbago’s carpark, corner Duke and Melbourne Streets, Port of Spain.Gittens commented, “Our young pannists have all occupied the present scene, so much that we forgot our icons and pioneers, the ones responsible for starting our steelpan journey.
“Who could remember the days when thousands would gather to see Bobby Mohammed of (Trinidad) Cavaliers on top of the float with the cowbell in hand as Cavaliers rumbled? Or the sweet, sweet pans of Starlift playing to introduce the government school programme in our classrooms of our primary schools?
“Gone are those days. We are all grown up now and now we are witnessing our young pannists outdo each other for fame and glory.
“Is that a good thing?
But he added, “I am exceedingly proud today to be responsible for commissioning a pan anthem – Panthem: Sticks Up – for World Steelpan Day.”
The song was written by Arlette Wiggins and vocals and music perfromed by by Emile Borde, Gittens told the small audience. The pan anthem was played and panmen Ray Holman and Mohammed also performed. Denise Hernandez, secretary of Pan Trinbago, bringing greetings on behalf of Pan Trinbago’s president Beverly Ramsey-Moore said the amazing journey of the pan is what is celebrated on World Steelpan Day, a day of celebration and global recognition. She added TT was the first country in the world to practise recycling, through the pan. Hernandez said the celebration is going to grow and asked the worldwide pan-playing community for the day to be one where pan is celebrated, and there is sharing and thanksgiving.
Daly referred to Holman’s Pan on the Move as he delivered the feature address. He said the tune was a difficult subject because it is supposed to say that TT and the instrument were moving along happily to better things, to higher planes, or the next level.
“Sometimes, it is debatable if we are always on the move,” Daly said. “With great respect, it is arguable it has moved away, at least to the extent we have conceded part of the field in pan-building and pan-tuning to people outside of TT whose marketing skills sometimes exceed ours.”
TT has a small and precious cadre of top experienced pan tuners, he said.
While TT has “a small and extremely valuable cadre of artisans,” pan manufacturing in a factory was an entirely different enterprise. He suggested for pan to make the move into pan manufacturing required a significantly funded research and development project.
A key part of the project will be the human resource component.
He said the project’s main purpose would be to establish quality standards for the production of pans through pan manufacturing. Daly said standards will be very important for moving pan from an artisan basis of building and manufacturing to a more mass-produced product.
For it to be valuable in the world market it has to be branded as a product of TT.
He said the human resource component of the project would manage the pan tuners to this extent, as quality sound is a fundamental part of pan on the move, Daly said.
In his weekly newspaper column, Daly said, he advocated recognition for pioneers of pan and those who have been engaged in building and improving the instrument.
He has also insisted that people referred to them as scientists. He explained that scientific processes like metallurgy and alloys were involved in the creation of the steelpan.
If steps were not taken to encourage the maintenance of the science and have a succession plan for pan tuners and other pan scientists, he warned, pan would not remain on the move and not realise its full potential and respect as a musical enterprise.
He said it was important for TT to preserve and have a succession plan for pan.
“I say therefore it is vital that the celebration of World Steelpan Day is infused with the recognition of the work of our pan scientists. But this recognition hangs in the balance without a succession plan in respect of pan tuners and a viable plan for pan manufacturing for export.
“We may not be far away from a pan-tuning crisis if we don’t examine this aspect of pan on the move with some urgency.”
For TT to remain as the leader in pan music the composition and playing of pan music must be put on a economically sustainable footing.
“Ad-hoc and partisan political-dependent funding keeps us back.”
Daly said investment in pan is essential because it is a form of behavioural change. He said the panyard has a life of its own and for pan to be permanently on the move, an investment in the social engineering aspect of the pan must be made. The investment in pan was not only in music but what it does sociologically.
Photos courtesy the World Steelpan Thrust