St James businessman Earl Crosby is uncertain about the future of the annual WeBeat Festival in St James. In its 12th year, WeBeat faces a dismal future as Crosby continues to receive almost no assistance and sponsorship from government and corporate Trinidad, especially from the business community of St James. WeBeat is the premier cultural event in the town of St James outside Hosay, and showcases the nation’s indigenous arts and culture, and honours luminaries and icons of the bustling western town. Relating some heartrending stories of the reluctance by many to support the efforts of Crosby and the St James Community Improvement Committee, Crosby told of just one previous Culture minister giving any tangible support to the effort in the dozen year of its existence.
He added that last year, the Ministry of Arts & Multiculturalism promised a subvention but months after the event gave him a percentage of the originally promised sum. Crosby said another promise was made for the ministry to assist this year but, as at the end of the festival last Saturday, he was yet to receive a cent, or be told the quantum of the 2012 subvention. This year’s WeBeat opened with a Honoree’s Dinner at Lions Civic Centre in Woodbrook for 2012 honorees—calypsonians Denyse Plummer and Trinidad Rio, and St James Tripolians leader Keith Simpson. During the week, the We Beat programme also included a keep fit burnout, a film night, lectures and a jazz evening. The Thursday night Pan Explosion was truly a night to remember, featuring a number of popular steel orchestras. Hosted by Phill Simmons, the evening was opened by Tripolians, followed by the Chinese Steel Orchestra of T&T, PCS Silver Stars and Witco Desperadoes.
Every band was exemplary in its performance, but the Chinese steelband not only made a packed house sit up and take notice but also made patrons rise to their feet with a standing ovation. Silver Stars gave a rivetting and exuberant performance, its young members displaying an exuberance like no other performance for the night. The Newtown band was particularly outstanding in its execution of One Moment in Time and Phantom of the Opera. One welcome innovation at Pan Explosion was Tripolians performing off stage during the change of bands. Among the dignitaries seen on Thursday night at the St James Amphitheatre were deputy Port-of-Spain Mayor Keiron Valentine; NCC chairman and former Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold; Pan Trinbago officials Allan “Pablo” Augustus and Ken Kerr; and advertising wiz Dennis Ramdeen.
• Vintage Kaiso Night was held on Friday and was attended by a standing-room-only audience. In fact, the WeBeat committee had to go in search for extra chairs to accommodate a late surge of patrons. The night of retro calypso was hosted by Tommy Joseph and CG, with excellent musical accompaniment by living musical legend Pelham Goddard and Roots. The billing included Rootsman, Contender, Singing Francine, Funny, Duane O’Connor, Trinidad Rio, Denyse Plummer, Scrunter and Black Stalin. Of the lot raising my pores was Funny, singing How Yuh Feel? Funny Win and Hokey Pokey. Smartly attired in all-white, calypso’s premier funny man, took his time to articulate How Yuh Feel? making an adjustment to this 25-year-old calypso, to observe this year’s 50th Independence anniversary. WeBeat 2012 came to a climax last Saturday night with its steelband parade along Western Main Road, witnessed by thousands and blessed with great weather and good music.
• Pan music returns to St James Amphitheatre on June 24 when icon Anthony Williams is honoured for the 50th anniversary of his steelband Pan Am North Stars winning the 1962 Steelband Music Festival with a memorable rendition of Johann Strauss’ Voices of Spring. The 1962 festival finals, held at Queen’s Hall in St Ann’s, was a significant one as it coincided with T&T attaining independence. The finals were attended by Governor General designate Sir Solomon Hochoy and Premier Dr Eric Williams. It will be a double celebration as it is also the 81st birthday of Williams. In appreciation of those who have supported him for the past 50 years, Williams will honour five arrangers. They are Ray Holman, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Earl Brooks, Robert Greenidge and Pelham Goddard.
There will also be live performances by Witco Desperadoes, St James Tripolians, Scrunters Pan Groove and St James North Stars.