PAN Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore announced on the weekend that the organisation will host at least four virtual events over the next few weeks.
The organisation has sensibly chosen to partner with WACK Radio, which stepped up early after covid19 lockdowns to offer online performances by calypsonians for a fee.
The station also has prior experience with streaming live performances and producing live recordings of steelbands, and that background will serve Pan Trinbago’s project in good stead.
But technical issues aren’t all that the steelband stakeholder group will face, and simply saying that “all covid19 protocols will be observed” doesn’t explain how a series of performances that will demand large gatherings will be handled.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith warned in a release on Saturday that virtual events are not an opportunity for expansive public gatherings, and while he was specifically warning online fete promoters, any event that pulls significant human resources into a single space should be particularly cautious.
With the exception of the very smallest bands and individual players, putting a steelband performance together has always been a personnel-intensive process and it’s one that now brings with it significant risk.
If those concerns are competently addressed, the constraints of existing health restrictions also present an opportunity for the steelband movement to move forward as a creative collective.
For far too long, Pan Trinbago has organised itself around competition and not more useful collaboration. The production of online performances offers an opportunity to create recordings of international standard to offer to the world, not just the Queen’s Park Savannah.
Pan lovers and those who are curious about the music have had either to travel to the land of its creation or seek out diaspora performers or a growing profile of international steelbands to experience the music of the instrument created in this country.
Quality recordings are sparse and hard to find, most video recordings to be found on YouTube are of spotty quality and the presence of the steelbands of TT on the internet is abysmally poor.
The steelband movement is overdue for the next phase of its transformation, presenting itself as a mature musical form, with skilled and educated practitioners working a unique community ecosystem that is very much a product of both the inventiveness and cultural character of this country.
To do that, it must be prepared to create and support the production of more high-quality intellectual property capable of travelling to international markets, and it all begins with a compelling story.
Pan Trinbago has a unique, exceptional and multifaceted tale to tell about the steelbands of this country. This series of virtual events offers an opportunity to begin writing the first definitive chapters of that narrative.