For lovers of carnival,the sound of steelpan in the air signals the official start of the festive season.The National Single Pan Steelband preliminaries, which got underway on 2016 Friday 8th and ends today, Monday 11th in Tobago, is the first of several competitions which comprise Panorama, the competition where steelbands battle annually for musical supremacy.
Panorama started in 1963 and was first won by Pan Am North Stars of St. James, led by Anthony Williams,one of the greatest panmen of all time.In the early days there were no distinctions or categories among various bands.There was simply one competition and everyone competed for the same prize.
Modern steelband, which in its original form comprised of individuals carrying pans around their necks, evolved to pans being placed on stands and being wheeled to their destination. Williams is credited with this innovation. This also allowed for one player to play more than one pan at the same time, for example, the double tenor or the six bass. This format, generally, still exists today.
In 1972, a band from St. James, Esso Tripoli went abroad to perform and never returned. Its supporters were left with such a void, that by November of 1972 they formed a new band which they named Tripolians. To the amazement of everyone, Tripolians decided that they would go back to carrying pans around their necks, and paved the way for a new category in Panorama, the Single Pan competition.
Tripolians quickly entered the Panorama competition, and were immensely popular. However they proved no match for the conventional steel orchestras,where one person could play more than one pan at a time. Panorama also began to show that the larger the band, the bigger the sound, thus the better the chance of winning the competition. Despite these obvious disadvantages, 'Pan Round the Neck' mushroomed and by 1975 a separate competition was established within Panorama for these novelty bands. It was duly won by Tripolians.
Many young people had by then begun to play pan, as compared to the original days when pan was considered as trouble makers and not accepted by the authorities. The weight of the bigger pans, such as the basses, proved to much, especially for the young ones who flocked to these bands. Wheels began to re-emerge. However, the competition catered for pans around the neck. Eventually, in response to many requests from bands, the competition was redesigned, and became known as Single Pan. Pans were allowed to be placed on stands, but with the stipulation that only one pan could be played by each member.
Today, as the National Single Pan preliminaries come to a conclusion, they herald the start of carnival 2016. From that beginning in 1972, there are now sixty nine Single Pan bands entered in this year's competition. Thirty two will qualify for the semi- final by the end of this weekend and at the conclusion sixteen will be selected to compete for the winner's prize. Who will emerge?
The sem-final will be held on 2016 January 22.