World Steelpan Day was a significant development in the history of the pan movement. The day was declared by the UN on July 24 and will forever be marked on its calendar on August 11.
But there are many more milestones the organisation hopes to meet, Pan Trinbago’s president Beverley Ramsey-Moore said.
Growing the industry with specific attention to manufacturing and export is its first goal.
Ramsey-Moore said, “Our main focus at this time is the development of the industry. When we talk about the industry, it is not only about the manufacturing of the instrument, but the heavy focus on our export markets, getting into continents.”
She said the UN’s declaration of an international day for pan allowed the world to stop and take notice. This helped in the instrument’s promotion and awareness.
The organisation wants to further develop markets on the African, European and Asian continents, she said.
She said one of the first things it must do to grow its export industry is to establish international pan ambassadors.
“We have our people out there, but it is just that we need to re-organise and strategise as to how we can get through.”
Ramsey-Moore was pleased with the work being done by the Akua Leith-led Musical Instruments of TT Company Ltd (MITTCO). The company – Leith’s brainchild – is a musical instrument manufacturer and its first line of products is pans. MITTCO is based in Diego Martin.
“We now have this major factory producing pans, and other accessories to go with it, and that is major step in terms of the development in the country.”
Another major focus for the organisation is pan in schools. There is the non-governmental Pan In Schools Coordinating Council and the Ministry of Education-headed National Schools Panorama Title, held yearly.
Ramsey-Moore said she wanted more attention paid to pan in schools.
“Pan, as being Trinidad and Tobago’s invention, I would really like to see it being the main instrument used in our schools.”
With the instrument’s global recognition, Ramsey-Moore and the organisation also hope to look more at streaming and synchronisation possibilities. Performance and recording are also high priorities on the agenda.
This is an area the body needs to work and improve on, and hopes to do so with the help of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).
Ramsey-Moore added that it was very important in terms of how pan music is recorded and sold.
“This thing is so big, and that is why we are so pleased there is this huge opening, the global acceptance and it is definitely going to open up a lot of doors for us.”
Discussions about streaming and synchronisation were to be had by all stakeholders, she said, and have already started.
“We are definitely going to facilitate that discussion. The time is now. The enabling environment has been created by the Government and as such all stakeholders must come on board.”
Increased global interest was also something for which the organisation was preparing. It hopes to capitalise on the declaration and help in growing TT’s festival tourism offerings.
“Pan brings thousands to the country. You see it happening for Carnival.
"We are saying we can do much more than bring people here for Carnival. Through the World Music Festival and the various community festivals we hope to bring home the Diaspora and more visitors to our island.”
The organisation also planned to work through TT’s various missions to ensure that pan is “flooded throughout the world.”
Ramsey-Moore said there was a burgeoning conversation about the Geographical Indication (GI) for pan.
The World Intellectual Property Organization says a GI is a “sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place.”
She added that the Ministry of Trade and Industry had established a steering committee where discussions about the scope of the pan industry were taking place.
“I am extremely proud that the focal point now is on our national instrument. Things are going to happen. I want to assure you, in five years' time we are definitely going to see a paradigm shift. We are definitely going to see the productive sector called the steelpan industry.”
With World Steelpan Day, discussions might arise about the organisation’s headquarters. It recently moved into new rented headquarters at 55 Dundonald Street, Port of Spain, which it will officially open with an interfaith service on August 20.
Ramsey-Moore said a new discussion was needed on what was to be done with the 8.5 acres of land at Orange Grove Estate, Trincity, that the Basdeo Panday administration gave the pan body in 2001. She said a major decision is to be made on the way forward with Trincity, at its AGM in October.
“We are putting together a strategic plan for Trincity. The focus on Trincity was not only about the headquarters alone, but a series of businesses and a number of things.
“We are now taking a look and rethinking that entire plan. Is it that Pan Trinbago should get into all these businesses alone? Or to engage partnerships and investments from various stakeholders.
“We have to take a different direction. But definitely we have to rethink that entire plan that was out down for the construction of the headquarters and all the other business arrangements it wanted to get into it.”
But there were plans for its development, she said.
Asked if the declaration would have quieted some of her critics, Ramsey-Moore said she always speaks with action and has no time to give traction to foolishness.
“You see my works and you judge me by my works. I have no time for detractors and the noise. My business is about performance, and that is exactly what we are doing at this time.”
She said the executive she leads is result-oriented and it rebuilt the organisation from the ground up.
“We did not meet any system or structure in place and we have done that. We have rebuilt the credibility of this organisation. We have been able to win back the confidence of the Government and corporate TT. We have our members fully supporting this executive.”
She added this executive’s results speak for it.
Ramsey-Moore thanked the Prime Minister and Government for pan being given the recognition, adding that she was pleased and happy that it came at this time and it gave the “flip” it needed on the international stage.
“Pan Trinbago is extremely grateful to all the pioneers, those who would have laboured, those who were branded rogue and vagabonds, those who gave of their time and talent to ensure that the evolution of the instrument is today a world success.
“Thank you, TT, for your support and we look forward to taking pan to another level,” she said.
As Independence approaches, she says something positive is "coming to come" out of discussions on pan being officially declared the national instrument. In 1992, late prime minister Patrick Manning made such a declaration. However, it is yet to be officiallly declared by way of parliamentary proclamation.
Ramsey-Moore said Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell was working assiduously on that and negotiations were happening, when asked if she hoped there would be an official declaration on August 31.
A draft bill was sent to the organisation and Martin Daly, SC, gave his interpretation and advice. It was returned to Mitchell and he was now talking to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to be guided on how it could become law before the year’s end.