PANNIST Earl Brooks Jr has several accomplishments to his name and he recently added PanoGrama champion to that list.
PanoGrama was an innovative, virtual pan competition for individuals held at the height of the covid19 pandemic last year. It attracted many local, regional and international pannists especially as the entertainment industry was at a standstill.
The virtual competition will take place again with the prelims running from May 7-9, the semifinals on May 13 and the finals on May 22.
After winning the PanoGrama title, Brooks Jr received a lot of attention and support, he said in a phone interview.
Brooks said the virtual competition has encouraged network building, investing, knowledge and elevation.
“I really loved the fact that it kept people in suspense. No one knew what to expect when the next performer came on. The online brought a different approach to the artform.”
But the biggest bonus for Brooks Jr was that the competition was open to the world.
“There is a lot more outreach than the local or physical competitions.” And he sees this as helping the artform.
Admittedly, navigating the pandemic as an entertainer and musician was difficult. And while he was able to find work it was nothing close to what he was used to.
“It has been very tough mentally and emotionally trying to navigate through everything. Not having the same funds to be able to cover your grounds. So it has been tough but we still give thanks to the creator and put things in place so we can do better,” he said.
He also found alternative ways to earn income.
He teaches, writes, performs and records. During the pandemic he was able to play on a few records and also did some online performances.
PanoGrama taught him many things but the most glaring for him was that he needed to practise.
“I need to start finding a way to practise. I do not practise. I love the fact that I improvise on spot and I’m able to convey emotion and also soak in what is going on at the moment as well.
“After entering the competition and hearing some of these people, I’m like, ‘Oh. I got a lot of tricks in my bag but I don’t want to be continually relying on tricks. Time to practise and be sufficient and fluid like some of these guys out here.
“It has definitely taught me to get back to the drawing board. Go back and do my homework. I have been learning piano and basic theory again. We are going back to basic,” Brooks Jr said.
But competition generally builds character and sets a standard. quit. Some people always go home and train and come back next time because they don’t want to lose their game again.”
Brooks Jr is also set to launch his album between March and June 2022. The album will be all originals and he may add a cover.
He also plans to open a school for underprivileged and underdeveloped youth called the Brooks Arts Academy. There was a physical launch planned for last year but it was cancelled because of the pandemic.
He now plans to launch the academy later this year.
He added that the students will learn music and percussion through pan while learning the cultures and traditions of the Diaspora.
Brooks Jr has no fear as the sector slowly reopens and the world, region and Trinidad and Tobago vaccinates itself against covid19.
He is instead anxious to see how the sector and the world reshapes itself going forward.
He also has no fear as May 7 approaches and the 2021 PanoGrama gets on the way.
Come May 7 people will see how confident he is about keeping his title, Brooks Jr said.