The Steelpan. Our national instrument.
It's a subject that strikes many emotional chords within our society. The rivalry between "town bands" and "south sides"; the families divided by supporters of All Stars and Phase II, Despers and Renegades...you must choose one, you can't support them all. Who is the real living genius- Boogsie or the Professor? The claims as to where the first steelpan really originated. Not to mention the actual clashes of" Bad John Bands" in the streets of days gone by...
The Steel Pan.
The arguments stretch to the business and administrative sides of things as well. Is enough being done to market the instrument? Are we prepared for Japanese innovation in creating pans? Why can tourists flock to all the smaller islands throughout the year to enjoy steel pan, yet struggle to find locations outside of the carnival season in Trinidad, the home of the steel pan?
Now we have "The Greens".
This addition to Panorama Semi-Finals has courted controversy continuously since its inception. There is no doubt that it has raised additional revenue for Pan Trinbago. However, has that money been used to improve the product? There is no visible benefit from the additional revenue stream in terms of facilities. Steelbands across the country complain bitterly of unpaid fees and prize money. Marketing of the pan itself and of pan events has remained relatively the same, which is to say, invisible to those outside the steelpan circles unless one actively goes seeking for information. To many, steelpan is dying and the greens is ushering that death as the most attended Pan event (pan semis) has now made the actual pan as a side-note with the focus being on the party. Ask any of the "young" generation who party in the Greens if they heard any of the performances and the answer in most cases would be a definitive "No!". The reason for the entire event is lost. At least in the North Stand the setup dictates that the party stops and the band on the stage is given due respect, not so in the Greens. It is probably linked to the fact that most DJ's on Carnival Monday and Tuesday are no longer aware of the rule that all other music must stop when a steelpan is playing...but that's another topic.
That is not to say that the youth are not interested in pan. Nearly every evening across the land you still find children practicing the instrument at various pan yards and the steelbands themselves are largely comprised of the younger generation. Outside of the players though, something definitely needs to be done to ensure that the love for the steelpan is not lost to upcoming generations.
Today at 10am, the future of the Steel Pan is to be determined as Pan Trinbago holds its elections for a new executive, for the first time since 2012. The incumbents, led by Kieth Diaz, have been in office for a longer period than constitutionally accepted due to the last elections ending up in the courts due to problems arising in the nomination period. With the courts ruling on that matter, 31 persons contesting 9 positions, have now put their hands up to help lead our national instrument forward. Many have not been happy with the current regime and Diaz may be under pressure to retain his position in the face of challenges from Beverly Ramsey-Moore, Manager of Tobago's Katzenjammers and Vernon Morancie.
Ramsey-Moore leads a slate of candidates calling themselves the New Visionaries and has put forth an action plan outlining the way forward for pan addressing many of the concerns. Simpson's team has dismissed this as "promise-makers". The power is in the hands of each steelpan to decide as they cast their vote at the Pan Trinbago AGM hosted at the Radisson today.
Is it time for a new vision or are we already heading in the right direction?