A community beleagured by crime and a notorious reputation, the denizens of Laventile and its environs exemplified the best behaviour and hospitality last Sunday when the 2012 edition of the Laventille Steelband Festival was held. Thousands of people from across the country braved torrential daytime showers to revel in an evening of wonderful steelband music, presented by the Laventille Steelband Foundation, led by president Michael Cooper. The actual parade of steelbands was proceeded by a cultural production, featuring the music of Emancipation and the vibrant performers of new dance sensation Wasa Foli, and members of T&T Defence Force. Setting the ambience and mood for the remainder of the programme were the young musicians of the Laventille Police Youth Club. Smartly decked off in neon green jerseys, the spirited performance of this ensemble of young pannists was a talking point along the length of the Eastern Main Road in Success Village, no doubt inspiring the hundreds of other young pannists participating in what seemed to be a line-up of no fewer than 50 steelbands. Parade organisers had originally planned on having 50 steelbands on the route, to commemorate the nation’s 50th Independence anniversary. Among the steelbands to entertain and thrill the huge crowd were bp Renegades; Caribbean Airlines Invaders; Petrotrin Phase ll Pan Groove; Starlift; PCS Silver Stars; Witco Desperadoes, BP Renegades and 2012 National Panorama champion Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars. Coming from the southland were NLCB Fonclaire and Old Tech.
Pan pan everywhere, not a drop to drink
I was embarrassed last weekend when a group of young people from Finland and Denmark were asked to contact me to find out where they could go in Port-of-Spain on a Friday evening to hear live pan music. The visitors said they play pan in Europe and, having come to Trinidad, they thought there would be pan music on every block of the nation’s capital.
“Aren’t you ‘the land of the steelband’?” asked Henrietta. I was stumped for an answer as I had no tangible proof to provide her with to support that boast, and widely touted claim. In an attempt to appease the visitors, I phoned Pan Trinbago’s office and, speaking to a trustee, was told: “Nah, it have no place where pan is played on a Friday evening, or on a weekend. But, if they (Fins) still here on Sunday, they could go to the Laventille Steelband Parade.” I also called an official of bp Renegades, knowing that the Charlottee Street band recently hosted a vibrant Friday-evening show, who also said there was no live pan action in the pan theatre, but there would be some guys playing All Fours. I also called around to no fewer than half dozen panyards....same answer...no live pan music.
This revelation has left me bemused. A visit to “the land of the flying fish” and you can find live pan music at almost every major hotel in Barbados. On almost each of my visits for new fewer than 25 Crop Over festivals, since 1980, I have felt at home hearing the national instrument played at every hotel I’ve stayed at, and along Broad Street, the main street in capital Bridgetown. The same is true of Antigua. I remember years ago when Jit Samaroo and the Samaroo Kids played at nights at the Hilton, and delighted locals and tourists alike with some truly exhilarating live pan music. I can go even further back, when visitors, landing on the Port-of-Spain jetty, off cruise ships, beat a straight path to Penthouse nightclub, atop Salvatori Building on Independence Square, run by the late Roma Kim Aming Sabeenay, to hear live pan music. It was the same when Penthouse moved to the top of what is today First Citizens Bank, on Brian Lara Promenade. I also was a regular visitor to Miramar nightclub, on South Quay, where there was live music, with calypsoes being sung by Brigo, Lord Blakie and some of the popular bards of the day.
So, one may ask, whatever happened to the pannist and his instrument in ensuing years? What have successive executives of Pan Trinbago, and successive Culture and Tourism ministers done to propogate the life of the national instrument?
One cannot deny that, on the eve of an October election, this incumbent Pan Trinbago executive has done some work with promoting pan and the steelband by staging sporadic annual events, like Pan in the 21st Century, Down Memory Lane, and, Pan in De Countryside. Other entities, like the Laventille Steelband Foundation, have also chipped in with various pan events, like the successful, biennial 8 of Hearts steelband concert in Laventille, as well as Southern Marines steel orchestra, which produced an annual talent show for young people. Mention must also be made of PCS Silver Stars and Brian Kuei Tung’s Carib Woodbrook Playboyz for their annual, weekend Christmas productions. However, unfortunately, there is no where in Port-of-Spain, or anywhere in Trinidad for that matter, that a person, or visitor to our land, can go to hear live pan music, and this is an extremely sad indictment against the government, pan administration, hoteliers and show promoters of our land.
The heat is on in New York City as the Big Apple gets ready for the 2012 edition of Brooklyn Carnival and the Everybody’s World Soca Monarch competition on August 28 and 30. With many of the world’s biggest soca stars showing interest, the two-night event will be held at Tropical Paradise Ballroom, Brooklyn, with the semifinal planned for August 28, and the final scheduled for the eve of T&T Independence Day. Everybody’s has staged four previous World Monarch contests: Chalkdust won the Eveybody’s World Calypso Monarch on two occasions, and Ronnie McIntosh and Edwin Yearwood won the World Soca Monarch title. Popular Trinidadian radio DJ soca personality Jason Benn is promoting and organising this year’s competition on behalf of Everybody’s, with a panel of international judges chosen to select ten artistes from the semifinal to compete in the August 30 final.
The other hot ticket in NYC this carnival is the Calypso & Soca Revue Tent, located at the Tropical Paradise Ballroom, in Brooklyn, and managed by Count Robin. Last weekend the veteran bard said, “Although New York City is perceived by some as a Caribbean town, it is not a Caribbean island. Therefore, it is not practical to stage the event outdoors; we are going modest by holding it indoors, in an 800 capacity venue. “Moreover, government is not underwriting the competition or awarding monetary prizes as is customary in the region.” Everybody’s is giving a minimum of US$3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 to the first, second and third prize winners, respectively. The other artistes in the finals will receive a performance fee.
The artistes billed to appear in the Calypso & Soca Revue Tent include 2012 National Calypso Monarch Duane O’Connor, 2012 Barbados National Calypso Monarch Red Plastic Bag, Sparrow, Calypso Rose, Shadow, Edwin Yearwood, Lord Nelson, Sugar Aloes, Becket, Swallow, Sexy Suzie, Count Robin, Brown Boy, Fatman George, Susan Kennedy, Poser, and Dance Master. Musical accompaniment will be by the Sunshine Band.
Calypso & Soca Revue Tent events:
Opening and Trinidad & Tobago 50th Independence Anniversary Gala.
Ladies Nite and Two on One Ticket
Toast to Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica 50th independence
Trinidad & Tobago Independence Nite
Soca fever in Barbados
Veteran calypsonian Red Platic Bag (Stedson Wiltshire) copped his tenth national Barbados Calypso Monarch title last Friday night at the Pic-o-de-Crop production, held before a large audience at the Garfield Sobers Complex. Bag, aged 51, defeated nine rivals singing Thank You Calypso and Royal Visit, defeating debutante Ian Webster and Gabby. Also in the final were Adrian Clarke, Popsicle, Christal Cummins-Beckles, Blopod, Adonijah, De Announcer and Smokey Bruke.
However, despite the hotly contested monarch final, the soca aspect of the festival captured the public’s attention with Mikey winning both the Party Monarch (Power Soca) and Sweet Soca (Groovy Soca) titles. Singing a ditty titled No Behaviour, Mikey won two vehicles for his work. His runners-up in the Party Monarch were Lil Rick, Edwin, Khiomal and Slim Jim. Runner-up in the Sweet Soca battle were Lil Rick, Red Platic Bag and Khiomal. The 2012 Crop Over Festival ended on Monday with the staging of Grand Kaooment (Parade of the Bands.)