Track and field was the biggest attraction in Rio. That was not unexpected.
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For the love of Pan & Party
In the Grand Stand on Sunday, all day long, the muffled thump of dance music and soca was heard in the distance from the Greens. In between steelband performances it was clear a fete was happening in the white corporate tents where young men and women were liming, part of the “new demographic” that the vice president of Pan Trinbago, Byron Serrette, feels the Greens are bringing to Panorama.
While the bands played, all that could be heard was sweet sound of the All Stars, Phase II, Desperadoes et al. The distant noise and the drunken clamour of the North Stand were totally drowned out. But Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, who has publicly spoken out against the greens, was not impressed. Before Phase II began their tune he wanted silence. Dragging the moment out he waited, refusing to play, whilst the announcer’s voice echoed around the Savannah.
“We appeal to our friends, the party people in the Greens and the North Stand. Please turn down your party systems. We would like to continue the competition. We are still hearing the loud sound systems, please turn them down,” he politely beseeched the limers.
But the systems continued and so did the North Stand rhythm sections. Eventually Phase II played and their performance passed with no further incident. It created mild bacchanal, but for the elders in the Grand Stand it seemed to add to the excitement.
“If the younger ones feel it is more important to come and have a good time, networking and understanding the flavour of Carnival, then the Greens over there brings a bit more justice to a holistic event,” said Steve Chandler. He suggested the Greens could be more pan-related, but, he said, the stands are too small to take the numbers the semifinals attract, so the extended Greens are a welcome addition.
Former tenor pan player, Dennis Andres wandering on the drag, said of the Greens: “Of course it’s ok. They can enjoy themselves and let all their stress go. It’s good.”
He went on to dispel the myth of pan as somehow sacred.
“I played pan for over 40 years. I was in Silver Stars from 1958 until the 1990s. I started off with a band called Belmont Modernaires in 1952. My parents wanted to put me out because they figured it was a badjohn thing and the wrong people were involved with pan and I shouldn’t be among them. They thought I was trying to disgrace them. That’s how it was then. I had to hide to play. It’s not like now, where you can bring families.”
At the stage exit, Hakim Williams of T&TEC Tropical Angel Harps, playing in his seventh pan semis, told the T&T Guardian, “We don’t hear the rhythm section when we’re playing, or the Greens, at all. We hear nothing except us.”
Flagwoman Shenelle Edwards, also of Tropical Angel Harps, could hear the rhythm section, but not the Greens. It didn’t put her off, she said.
“We kept our focus.”
Inside the Grand Stand, Serrette said, “The organisation, PanTrinbago, is looking at new ways of doing things. We can’t be doing the same thing the same way all the time. We have to make ourselves as self-sufficient as possible. We have to take care of steelpan at home and abroad in any way we can.
“Some people may not agree. Some people are happy that the same thing goes on until they die. But I am not into that. Steelpan came about by somebody knocking a dustbin. How many drums were destroyed in trying to get something? You keep trying until you get it.”
The Greens date back to 2007, Serrette points out, when the stand on the Savannah had been knocked down. To attract people, CEO Clarence Moe suggested anybody buying 100 tickets would be given a tent. “And that was the birth of the Greens.” n continues on A30
By 2008 posses had formed.
In 2011 the Greens area was too close to the stage, Serrette accepts, “There was so much noise that it almost affected the Panorama.”
But now, Panorama is one of the biggest events of Carnival and the money the Greens bring in, says Serette, can be ploughed back into Pan Trinbago. He feels he’s also engendering a generational legacy.
“When I was in my teens and 20s, my peers were in the north stand having a good time. My peers are now in the Grand Stand. I understand that young people today don’t come to hear the pan they come to have a good time. Once I get people into the habit of coming here every year, when they get older they will still come.”
And for those in the Greens who want to hear pan, there are screens, speakers and live steelbands. He feels critics focused too much on the pool introduced this year.
“With no disrespect to them, I find it disrespectful that they should concentrate on the pool and not on the steelbands that are playing.”
In the north stand where Harts and Invaders partied to large rhythm sections, it is pandemonium. The stand is teeming with sweaty drinkers and drinks are spilt all down the aisles. The noise from here appears to be a greater distraction to the orchestras than the distant din of the greens.
“Make the stands bigger,” Esther De Silva turged. She doesn’t like the Greens. “It’s stealing from the pan. I don’t know where the sustainability is. The young people are either playing the pan or in the Greens.”
Leroy Pierre, sitting next to her, disagreed. “When I first heard about it I wasn’t for it. This is Panorama, I thought there could be interference. But now I say, everybody likes their own kind of thing. Each to his own.”
At the other end of the stand it’s calmer. There are families with picnic hampers. On the drag thousands gather at the barriers listening while security guards make sure nobody storms the gates.
In the Greens it’s hot pants, push-up bras and rippling muscles as far as the eye can see.
Derron Roberts, a feter, tells me, “I like pan and I acknowledge pan as our national instrument and I give it all its props. But I come, personally, for the lime. What I like about it is when bands come onstage they ask us to stop the music and you hear the pan.”
But there was scant evidence of that once night fell.
At the UTC Corporation tent a group of men in orange T-shirts tell me they come to the Greens every year. “Good friends, good lime, nice women,” is why they come here. “I like pan, but I’m not a panman. There’s no pan here,” says one. So why do they come?
“To watch women,” they laugh.
They used to go to the North Stand but the Greens is a better party they say.
“Ninety-eight per cent of people in the Greens, if not 100, are here for the lime. They ain’t coming to hear pan.” Pointing to the stands, one of them says, “They come for the pan, we come for the rama!”