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Thumbs down for pan initiative

Thursday, March 6, 2014
PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars during their performance at Adam Smith Square, Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain on Carnival Monday night. PHOTO: ROBERTO CODALLO

A Carnival Monday night pan event got the thumbs-down from several steelband leaders yesterday. In an effort to re-introduce steelbands into Carnival, Pan Trinbago organised two events for bands to display their musical skills on Carnival Monday evening. One was the second edition of the Groovy Soca Steelband Competition in all of its regions, and the other a Health & Fitness Chip, an initiative under the aegis of the Ministry of Health, through its Fight the Fat Campaign, for Carnival 2014. 



This non-competitive event took the form of a steelband parade from Tragarete Road, Newtown to Adam Smith Square on Ariapita Avenue in Woodbook. But steelband leaders were not impressed by the new initiative. Some said their bands brought out presentations on Carnival Monday so experienced great difficulty in finding the energy needed to participate in the event, despite the lure of a $12,000 appearance fee.


Manager of Freedom Steel Orchestra Joseph Donawa said the organisation of the parade left much to be desired, as the steel orchestras had to contend with music coming from several large music trucks on Ariapita Avenue. In addition, accessing the venue was challenging as several streets in Woodbrook were blocked off to accommodate the earlier Parade of Bands. “My band did not get out of Woodbrook until 1.30 am Tuesday,” he said. 


“There were some 20-plus bands listed to participate, but some were still on the stage in the Queen’s Park Savannah between 8 and 9 o’clock Monday night, so they arrived at the venue very late, adding to the congestion. “I do not think Carnival Monday night was the best time to hold this initiative.” Vice president of Pan Trinbago Bryon Serrette promised to send a statement from the organisation but none had been received by press time.



‘pan needs a big idea’

“It started reasonably well,” said Christopher Abraham. “I was standing at Colville Street and Tragarete Road corner from 6 pm. The first steelband was there very early (Pan Elders) and they assembled by 5.55 and got going. “Cordettes, Arima Golden Symphony and Invaders followed, then there were scanty arrivals, with some not having the full complement of players. I left at 8 pm so, hopefully, it would have picked up and run smoothly.”


Pan enthusiast and marketing specialist Dennis Ramdeen said: “Pan on the Avenue on Carnival Monday night was painful for me. Steel orchestras spend so much time on eight minutes of music that they can't learn another song? “One or two bands have to break out of the pack and take another road. The current road is a dead end, and I fear we are coming close to the end. 


“Pan needs some innovation and oxygen and no one else but pan people will figure this out. Pan needs new arrangements—and I’m not talking about the music.” Asked for his thoughts on the impact pan had on the Carnival celebrations, Ramdeen responded: “The steelband’s impact on Carnival 2014 has been consistent with its downward trajectory of the past several years. 


“Pan therefore needs a new vision. Pan needs a big idea, like when Peter Ueberroth made the 1984 Olympics the TV games, raising close to a billion US dollars from broadcast rights. Previous to 1984, others focused on stadium seats to be the main supply of revenue. “Ueberroth changed the product distribution from the stadium seat to the living room couch. We are still relying on selling physical seats in one place. 


“For example, what if we went on a massive pay-per-view and YouTube thrust where we put steelbands in worldview and simultaneously start a conversation with the world? Blogging and building communities interested in tuning, arranging, organising, studying teamwork dynamics and all the other great stuff that pan people are so good at? “This will mean pan people learning some new skills. Skills that are no harder than what they do now. “Pan must find other markets if it is to grow.”


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