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Telfer wants better pan music for Carnival
The time has come for Pan Trinbago and the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (Tuco) to get together and devise a method of encouraging better compositions for pan, with special emphasis on creating music for the road on Carnival days.
This was the view expressed by Mervyn Telfer, well-known to Trinidadians and Tobagonians, as well as people all over the world, as the long-standing stage announcer for Carnival events hosted by the Carnival Development Committee (CDC)/ National Carnival Commission (NCC), Pan Trinbago, and Tuco, in response to a request for a comment on the 50th Anniversary of Panorama being observed this year.
Asked to share his view on the music showcased at this year’s contest, he replied: “What I heard cannot be compared with what used to be played in Panorama years ago. But the reality is, that is the music the arrangers have to work with now. I can’t remember any band moving the crowd to get up off their chairs. I am a traditionalist by nature, and there was no motivation in the presentation of music to stimulate me.”
Telfer’s voice was the one listeners heard at Panorama in the Queen’s Park Savannah for over four decades. “I was involved in Panorama from its inception in 1963, and made my services available to the then Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen Association (TTSA) free of charge for over four years,” he recalled.
“In the initial years it was just me. I used to go down the track to learn what a band was playing and where it was from, then rush back to the stage to make the announcement. I was not aware that I should have been paid for my services until a friend brought it to my attention years later.”
As the years went by, Telfer was assisted in his duties, first by broadcaster Brenda De Silva and later, cultural stalwart and sports commentator Tony Williams. He was responsible for encouraging DJs providing music at the competition to start playing the songs the bands would be performing as they were setting up on stage. “Before, the DJs used to play whatever they wanted,” he said.
Telfer’s was, as well, the first face seen on Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT), as news anchor, when the station came on the air in 1962. His career began at Radio Trinidad’s B station where he was cast in the multiple roles of announcer, sportscaster and sales executive.
He regards the programme Plans of the Bands on the frequency as the “genesis for major expansion of membership in masquerade bands.”
Among the then bandleaders who contributed in large measure to the programme’s success were Irvin McWilliams, Mack Copeland, Harold Saldenha, Cito Velasquez, Stephen Lee Heung, and the Johannesburg Fascinators Steel Orchestra.
Mervyn also allowed for national exposure to parang music when in 1963, he introduced on TTT a programme titled The Lime that featured the music and history of the genre.
He also assumed responsibility for introducing the annual Extempo Calypso Competition hosted by Tuco.
The 80-plus-year-old has enjoyed a varied work experience, having been employed as well, over the years, in the positions of announcer/producer/ sales manager; pharmaceutical salesman; real estate salesman; marketing manager; public relations officer; and communications consultant. In addition, he was the founder/chairman of the Radio Workers branch of the Union of Commercial and Industrial Workers (UCIW), and political campaign manager for two local government candidates, and sat as an executive committee member of a political constituency.
Telfer, who lived and worked in New York for two years, is the youthful-looking father of 13 children, grandfather to 33 and great grandfather to six. He stays active in all forms of cultural activities taking place in T&T.
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