Pan Opportunity

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Wes­ley Gib­bings

Let’s face it, notwith­stand­ing the se­vere dif­fi­cul­ties cur­rent­ly be­ing faced by the or­gan­i­sa­tion with over­all re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for the steel band move­ment, the an­nu­al Panora­ma com­pe­ti­tion has not been the “dis­as­ter” de­scribed by peo­ple who are in­dif­fer­ent to the val­ue of the in­stru­ment as cre­ative ex­pres­sion and as a so­cio-eco­nom­ic re­source.

It is true that pan is much, much more than this decades’ old con­test for mu­si­cal su­prema­cy em­ploy­ing rather rigid stan­dards wor­thy of con­stant re­view. But it has played an im­por­tant part in as­sert­ing a well-found­ed tru­ism that in T&T we have the best steel bands in the world ca­pa­ble of play­ing the mu­sic of the great­est pan arrangers, on in­stru­ments blend­ed by the lead­ing pan tuners any­where on the plan­et.

We al­so need to recog­nise that Panora­ma, as a com­pet­i­tive mu­sic fes­ti­val, is unique in its em­ploy­ment of an in­dige­nous in­stru­ment, to­geth­er with the so­cial and cul­tur­al modal­i­ties that make steel bands work. In this re­spect, there is noth­ing else like it out­side of the Caribbean, though we have had to in­vent and rein­vent ways of get­ting things to work over the many years.

How­ev­er, none of this is to sug­gest that we have al­ways been able to get every­thing right. The re­cent elec­tions to in­stall a new ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee to run Pan Trin­ba­go raised most of the vex­ing is­sues.

For ex­am­ple, like al­most every sin­gle na­tion­al in­sti­tu­tion, there are is­sues of good gov­er­nance to be ad­dressed by the for­mal steel band move­ment—how­ev­er much they are of­ten repli­cat­ed in the in­di­vid­ual pan yards as na­tion­al or sec­tion­al or­gan­i­sa­tion­al cul­ture. Wit­ness the iden­ti­cal chal­lenges in sport, civ­il so­ci­ety con­duct, the pro­fes­sions, and in pol­i­tics.

The es­sen­tial el­e­ments of trans­paren­cy in the con­duct of busi­ness, to­geth­er with a high lev­el of per­son­al and col­lec­tive ac­count­abil­i­ty are of­ten chal­lenged by au­thor­i­tar­i­an in­stincts. These are, of course, a state­ment on the na­tion­al con­di­tion, but no ex­cuse for mediocre per­for­mance when it comes to the things that mat­ter most.

The fi­nanc­ing of pan was al­so al­ways des­tined to reach the point where se­ri­ous ques­tions of fi­nan­cial sus­tain­abil­i­ty had to be con­front­ed. The cur­rent cash crunch na­tion­al­ly and with­in a debt-rid­den Pan Trin­ba­go will hope­ful­ly get us to the point of set­tling the is­sue soon­er rather than lat­er.

In­ci­den­tal­ly, I am among those who do not put Panora­ma in the same col­umn for state sup­port as mas’, fête, so­ca or ca­lyp­so. Un­like the oth­ers, the na­ture of the re­lief re­quired to sup­port pan ought to span the en­tire spec­trum of en­tre­pre­neur­ial ini­tia­tive, cor­po­rate in­vest­ment, and a mea­sure of state sup­port. The peo­ple who want to have fêtes, con­tests, and shows (in­clud­ing ca­lyp­so tents) need to find their own mon­ey.

The chal­lenge to raise stipends for pan play­ers this year can and will ex­pose bands to pos­si­bil­i­ties for­gone in pre­vi­ous years. The steel band de­mo­graph­ic, how­ev­er, ex­pos­es un­even eco­nom­ic ter­rain, and cor­po­rate fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment ought to fol­low ar­eas of great­est need, as they will most like­ly find that bang for mar­ket­ing buck need not emerge ex­clu­sive­ly from the pop­u­lar­i­ty or the past suc­cess­es of bands.

Fi­nal­ly (for now at least), let’s talk about the 163 steel bands that re­spond­ed to this year’s Panora­ma roll call. And let’s be bru­tal­ly frank. T&T is not a 163-band coun­try with­in the con­text of a com­pet­i­tive mu­sic fes­ti­val.

Most peo­ple in the know can tell you that big and medi­um bands rou­tine­ly re­ly on a breach of Panora­ma Rule 4.4 (b) which pro­hibits the par­tic­i­pa­tion of pan­nists in an or­ches­tra who are al­so play­ers in oth­er bands with­in the same cat­e­go­ry.

This rule ei­ther needs to be changed (and there is a case for open­ing it up) or more rigid­ly ap­plied.

Ms Ram­sey-Moore has mean­while quite right­ly sig­nalled to the free­load­ers that this year will not be busi­ness as usu­al. There is al­so a need to in­sist on greater or­der­li­ness while bands are on stage, and con­sul­ta­tions with pho­tog­ra­phers, video­g­ra­phers, and re­porters cov­er­ing the shows to both set the pro­to­cols for cov­er­age and to en­sure con­di­tions are right for pro­fes­sion­al con­duct of their du­ties.

The new Pan Trin­ba­go crew has my sup­port but will re­main un­der the mi­cro­scope.

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