CHAIRMAN of the Pan Trinbago Tobago Region Salisha James is supporting a separate Tobago Carnival.
On September 28, the Prime Minister announced the cancellation of Carnival 2021 owing to covid19. He said he saw no future for Carnival 2021 in TT in the months ahead.
“Unless there’s some dramatic change in the wind that will blow across us by Christmas, Carnival is not on.”
In response, THA Chief Secretary and Secretary of Tourism and Culture Ancil Dennis said a separate Tobago Carnival might possibly be held.
Speaking with Newsday last Thursday, James voiced her support.
“We are in support of a separate Tobago Carnival in the year, as long as it is safe to do so.”
In a press release, she said the pan fraternity is saddened by the announcement but understands it is necessary, given the rate of community spread of covid19. She said the pandemic has wounded the nation socially and limited the possibility of gathering, adding that bands closed their doors since the lockdown in March, with some reopening when restrictions relaxed.
“It is important to note the intrinsic value of culture. The arts and culture help people in confinement and isolation to cope.
“We listen to music every day, the films that we watch and the paintings that we admire have assisted the world in coping with social distancing and isolation. Around the world, we have seen singers and musicians perform through windows and on balconies to entertain people and cheer them up and bring them joy during quarantine,” she said adding that in TT, various soca artistes have been utilising the virtual platforms and pan soloists have been competing in virtual competitions such as panograma.
The dynamic for steelbands and the nature of the performances, she said, is different from that of other interest groups.
Pan players gathered in large numbers “definitely numbers above five for performances and competitions.”Some members of the public and even those within governmental institutions believe that Panorama and other pan activities can take place virtually, she said, but while it is possible to record bands or stream their performances live, practice for a 120-piece band, large bands, a 35-piece band or single pan bands cannot take place virtually.
“An effective steelband performance requires individuals to utilise basic skills such as listening and hand-eye coordination in order to successfully harmonise such large numbers of individuals,” she said.
As a result, she said given the current restrictions to aid in controlling the pandemic, especially with respect to movement of individuals and gathering, it is nearly impossible for bands to practise.
“We are by no means saying a virtual Panorama or other steelband competitions or performances cannot take place, but consideration must be given to all aspects of preparations for such performances.”
She pointed out that around the world the movement of people has limited almost all activity.
“Museums, theatres, libraries, and world heritage sites are closed. This crisis has struck cultural life and the tourism industry hardest in all Caribbean countries.
“Similarly, the pandemic has affected the pan fraternity tremendously. It has resulted in loss of revenue from performances; (Tobago) Jazz, Heritage (Festival), hotel, halting of training programmes.
“Bands are unable to meet their monthly financial obligations for upkeep of pan theatres and there is a reduction in the production of steel pans.”
She said it has been as much of a struggle for member bands and players as for other individuals and organisations in the arts and culture in TT.
As a result, Pan Trinbago established the Social Prosperity Fund to help meet individual needs and “provide tangible support to vulnerable families, supporters, players and workers within the steelpan community who are experiencing hardship.”
The current down time, she feels, “should be used to create focus groups and think tanks aimed at addressing the shortcomings of our cultural sector here in Tobago and finding ways to make our culture more accessible, not only to nationals and our regional neighbours but also internationally.
“We are in a state of cultural evolution. This is the season in which creativity and innovation must and will drive us forward.”