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What is the true worth and scope of the national instrument?

Published: 
Thursday, March 22, 2018

From the “voiceless lower-class” who, pre-pan, beat the living daylights out of dustbin covers and realised different tones emerged as the surface stretched in own fashion from varied indentations. They were scorned, hauled before a judge and placed in jail without a second thought or question asked by the police. Today, their great-grandchildren, by way of tertiary education and other means, have become a ‘class’ that’s mastered the art of refining, playing, and manufacturing; becoming music literate and on a higher note, arranging music.

This once-upon-a-time harsh and ill-favoured metal of societal annoyance and disgrace, evolved into a sophisticated, delicate, artistic and respected work of art, and has earned credential alongside the sophisticated harp and violin, globally.

Produced from ordinary oil drums, this instrument of worldly stature has ironically, seen the police – the pan-haters of yesteryear – become pan-lovers today, gaining a sense of personal and national pride, and self-worth from respectfully aligning themselves with the instrument in multiple ways.

While the yesteryear “Mecca-of-pan” police were hoarding pan players in jail “for disturbing the peace” – with many players in the 1970s, like myself, experiencing loss-of-friends and reputation for simply associating with this unique and priceless artform – since in the 1960s, the late great, elite, American music connoisseur, Liberace, found the “noise” to have been specially pleasing, mesmerising, interesting and valuable to the music world, stating, it’s the “best” sound he has “heard in the music world.”

Is there an elite realm of pan?

How should an elite steel orchestra be characterised? Does T&T comprise elite steel orchestras – yielding Bach, Beethoven or Tchaikovsky-quality music worthy of concert fees being $1,500 or US$250 per entrant?
On the When Steel Talks site, a March 18, 2018 piece: “UK pan players invade Trinidad for Panorama 2018,” written by Shareen Gray, highly commends the 2018 large-band Panorama champs’ winning piece – Year for Love as arranged by Duvonne Stewart – describing it as “a classic piece of music that will be going down in history.”

This, her maiden visit, Gray, president of Steel Pan Agency in London, UK, articulated, “it’s after seeing the Renegades Steel Orchestra perform on TV in the UK during the Panorama Semi-Finals, I booked my ticket two days after to attend the Panorama Finals…,” alluding to, “’four’ universities in the USA will be studying this piece of music for theses.”

The pan manufacturer’s entire North and South Panorama Finals’ experiences brought realisation home to her, “It became clear to me, that Trinidad is truly the Mecca for pan ‘players’.”

In the ‘Mecca’ today, however, while many pannists are not being hauled into jail for ‘making (pan) noise’, they feel disrespected for other reasons as effects of myopic visions take centre stage – no true worth, no foreseeable benefits.

Who benefits from the royalties when the music is used to benefit the world?

Are T&T’s steel orchestras’ ‘golden’ pan hits copyrighted? Are the musicians and arrangers appropriately insured or insured at all? What about the elite orchestras? Who are they?

What about billion-dollar endorsements as similar to elite athletes? Are the Desperadoes, Renegades and All Stars Steel Orchestras elite orchestras?

Is any steel orchestra’s non-instrument commercial products found in leading malls, worldwide?

We speak pan, we speak respect!

Entrepreneurial potential to be educed, and boosting and diversifying the economy, but to be employed and create “light out of darkness,” as the most recently-installed President of T&T – Her Excellency Paula Mae-Weekes – pronounced in part of her novelty speech on March 19, “When we go to work, we must really work.”

Hello, hello, hello Pan Trinbago, what is the true worth and scope of this instrument called pan?

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