THE EDITOR: On September 1, 1992, after having celebrated 30 years of independence from British rule, a daily newspaper wrote the following in its editorial:
“Prime Minister Patrick Manning struck a delightful note on Sunday night when, in his independence address, he declared the steelpan the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. It is a note, we hope, that would resound beyond our shores, telling all and sundry that TT is not only the proud birthplace of the steelband now heard around the globe, but remains the creative heartland of sweet pan music.”
The editorial stated that “the PM’s declaration must now be followed up by the appropriate action, possibly legislation (proclamation), to reinforce the national status of pan…”
Next September 1, the day after the $7.5 million celebration of our 60th anniversary of independence, will the newspaper write that pan’s national and international status was elevated to that of our national flag, our coat of arms, our national flower, our national birds and all our other recognised national emblems and symbols, via parliamentary proclamation?
Would it be written that pan, in the land of its birth, was given a birth certificate that legally identifies its birthplace? It should be because pan is our gift to the world of music.
We in TT seem to take pan’s uniqueness for granted. We are not overly concerned about the speed with which the international community has adopted this family of instruments, a family that is fast becoming a musical force to be reckoned with.
We appear to be overjoyed and for good reason. But do we understand and appreciate the significance of having created instruments that can be played in a solo capacity or as a body of instruments – an orchestra – that can interpret all genres of music?
Today, music is taught on pan instruments in universities in North America, Europe and in New Zealand. In TT, a Pan in Schools project was stopped.
Have we forgotten that pan is the only definite-pitch acoustic percussion musical instrument invented in the 20th century, in TT? Its creation preceded our attainment of both independence and republican status. The descriptive word “national” as it relates to pan, the instrument, is a reflection of the combined and historic senses of pride, community, identity, respect, unity, ownership and patriotism that are continuously experienced by all nationals of TT. Technically, pan is our first national even though it has not yet been deemed a “national” via parliamentary proclamation.
May I add that when the decision to elevate the local and international status of pan to that of all our other national symbols and emblems is made, there will be some issues that must be dealt with immediately. Brian Lewis, the former president of the TT Olympic Committee and the medallists in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games appear to have anticipated pan’s elevation by requesting that our national anthem be played on pan when they mounted the winners’ platforms.
TT awaits with bated breath the recognition of pan’s identity on September 1.