Ray Funk & Andrew Martin
For many in T&T and the US, the name Mannette is synonymous with pan and steelband. As the Kennedys are to American politics, so are the Mannettes to steelband. It is no surprise, then, that in Barry Mannette a new generation of Mannettes is making a name and forging a new path in pan in America and the Caribbean.
Barry Manette grew up in Woodbrook and, as the son of Vernon "Birdie" Mannette, was practically raised in the Invaders Panyard. A pan legend in his own right, "Birdie" Mannette ran Invaders since 1967 after taking over from his brother and Barry's uncle pan legend Ellie Mannette.
Barry Mannette was surrounded by pan and began playing at the age of nine and played in his first Panorama at the age of thirteen.
Beyond Invaders, Barry has performed with many of the top Trinidadian and American steelbands including Phase II Pan Groove, Starlift, Desperadoes, Renegades, Humming Birds Pan Groove, Valley Harps, and the Northern Illinois University steelband.
Since the age of nineteen, Barry has been an active arranger for steelbands in T&T, US, and the Caribbean. Barry is also an active educator and is the founder and music director for the Starlift Junior Steel Orchestra (2005-2011), steelpan tutor for the National Youth Steel Orchestra of T&T, steelpan tutor for Music Literacy Trust, and several other positions in steelpan education.
Barry Mannette's life has been a whirlwind of late. For the past two school years, Barry has been living up in De Kalb, Illinois where he just graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Master's Degree in Music specialising in pan. With the teachings of Professor Liam Teague and the great Cliff Alexis (who just found out he will be inducted into the Percussion Arts Society Hall of Fame!) in hand, Barry is off to St Vincent and the Grenadines this summer to arrange for the St Vincent and the Grenadines Panorama–his first experience arranging for this particular band and Panorama.
He definitely impressed the staff at Northern Illinois and as Cliff Alexis notes, "There's a very bright future for Barry as far as I can see in steelpan today. Hopefully, someone will recognise his talents and give him a job."
The process of arranging for steelband in St Vincent and the Grenadines is similar to the process in T&T. Barry was hired this past spring to arrange for the Southeast Steel Orchestra. After considering several Vincentian soca tunes he settled on the classic In The Panyard by one of St Vincent's best known calypso and soca composer/singers Winston Soso. Pan Yard was first recorded on Soso's Ah Feel to Party (1986) album is featured on a recent Best of CD. Barry finished the score in March and the band's music director Marla Nanton has been drilling the Southeast Steel Orchestra ever since. She can't wait for him to get there!
"For me, sitting at the feet of an arranger who is clearly more experienced than I am is an opportunity for me to observe and further develop the craft of creating Panorama arrangements. Also, the band is primarily young people (12-25) and Barry has experience with youth bands in T&T," she said.
Barry himself is excited to get to Kingstown to hear the fruits of his labour and to make any final adjustments to the arrangement.
Like many other Caribbean islands, St Vincent and the Grenadines has a long history with pan and panorama competitions. With pan not just limited to Panorama, St Vincent and the Grenadines has enjoyed a tradition of J'Ouvert competitions dating back to 1949.
However, Panorama is king in Kingstown. Held in the capital city of Kingstown, the St Vincent and Grenadines Panorama began in 1962 shortly after the inception of Panorama in Trinidad. Competition at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Panorama is stiff and this year Barry Mannette will be challenged.
The Sion Hill Euphonium Steel Orchestra has won the title the past four years and their arranger Seion Gomez, who himself is another Trinidadian and Northern Illinois University steelpan graduate, is hoping to extend the winning streak to five in a row this year. The St Vincent and Grenadines Panorama will be held on July 5.
In mid-July, Barry will return home to Trinidad for good with a mind to teach pan, arrange for pan, and be involved at every level with pan.