When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

Over the years, I have heard a number of pseudo intellectuals and charlatans pontificate about Steel bands and the business of pan. People who have never organized a running race or even played hoop or hopscotch in their lives, who hardly had boy days, honestly believe that because they may have attended some school of higher learning and left with five stack of papers, that all of a sudden, they have the right to be an expert on something,.

So the Steel band leaders and the Steel bands organization seem to be a soft target for them. They really believe that this Steel band business is a dolly house, although that, too, most of them have never even played.

They believe that they are qualified to castigate Steel band leaders of long standing, and finding them unsuitable, unqualified and incompetent for the roles that they have being playing in their communities, some for over fifty years, and going as far as accusing them of indulging in child labor. Not knowing that they are exposing their ignorance of the history and inner workings of the Steel bands, and the role they played andare still playing in their respective communities.

Firstly, Steel bands were developed mostly amongst people of the underprivileged and depressed communities by young men who seldom had opportunities to improve their lives and life style and were considered rouges and vagabonds, the dredges of society, people without ambition, and always up to no good. Ask the Mighty Sparrow who sums it up in his immortal calypso “OUTCAST “.

These brothers who deep down inside, wanted to do better but refused to be submissive to the colonial masters, found an avenue of expression and resistance through the creation and development of the Steelpan instrument.

This invention, just like its inventors, were rejected and condemned and branded as noise by the very same social class, who today have so much love for it, but still dislike those who sacrifice and resisted years of prosecution and persecution to preserve and improve the lot of its practitioners.

Today, these newbies believe that they have all the answers because they see everything in dollars, with no sense of Steelpan evolution, hence the reason for them accusing Steel band leaders of exploiting child labor in the Pan Yards and living nice on their exploits - Maliciousness to the core!

Steel band in the community over the years has served as a unifying factor, especially amongst the depressed communities, and promoted the steelpan culture that was successfully able to create a buoyant and sustainable industry outside of the norms of society, to the benefit of a large number of young people whom the society had never catered for in the job market. The Steelpan has expanded the entertainment industry and created jobs for many. Hence the reason the Steelpan organization was granted a number of national awards including the Trinity Cross, the nation's highest award of the day.   

In the Pan yard is where a lot of youths developed their social skills. Other than learning to play the instrument, they learn music, how to arrange music, some learn to make the instruments, some learn welding and fabricating and many other career driven skills: at whose expense?  Some parents in the communities use the Pan Yard as a day care center by dropping off their children for a few hours, knowing fully well, that they are in a safe and clean environment, equipped with instruments of learning, water, lights, toilets and toiletries, all free of charge. All this, through the exploitive and incompetent Steel band leaders, who must maintain a Steel band twelve months of the year in their communities, including the three months leading up to the National Panorama where it is believed that the leaders make the world of money, that in no way reflects their life style.

Have any of you social media rabble rousers, ever looked at the cost of maintaining a Steel band and its facilities through the year? Do any of you know the cost of mobilizing a small unsponsored Steel band for the Panorama? Do you know the kind of sacrifice some leaders make because of love and commitment for the Culture? Most of us are addicted to the arts and money is not the main factor, but, we are fully aware of the value of our contribution to the nation's stability and the returns to the treasury coming out of the national festival.

So, of course there are legitimate expectations. We are not dependent on the government, but do expect some compensation for our contribution which take our time and energy and is very costly, where returns are never forthcoming in a timely and satisfactory manner. But, we are committed to our culture in spite of.

The Pan Yards are not a place of children exploitation as maliciously introduced by some of our social media scientists, but a place of children development and learning. It is a place of social, cultural, spiritual and educational activities. The parents appreciate the accomplishment and progress they see in their children after a short stint at the pan yard  and are very proud to see them on the panorama stage or any stage for that matter, and are quite satisfied with their children's achievements coming out of the Pan Yard. And they keep sending them, realizing that there is some technique in the in the Pan Yard that the schools don't possess. So while you harp on the few negatives, try to see the many positives.

It is not my intention to burst anyone’s bubble, but there is a false notion being bandied about that the International Steel band Foundation, the big 5, is the vehicle for change going forward,  because they are not depending on handouts as most other Steel bands. Firstly, all sporting and cultural organizations across the globe depend on handouts and sponsorships for their existence. If truth be told, the big 5 premier presentation has left them in debts way over their heads, in spite of all the concessions extended to them by the NCC and other cooperate entities. But that is not my issue at this time.

My concern is with all those who suddenly, like Christopher Columbus, now discover the Steelpan, and with the help of local and foreign used collaborators, are hell bent and willing to put those who sacrificed to sustain and develop this our indigenous product on a reservation they want to create for the old practitioners, while they implement their nefarious plan of a hostile takeover. The spirit of our dearly departed pioneers will not rest in peace if we today sit carelessly and allow such sacrilege to prevail.

Long live the Steelpan fraternity. Long live Pan Trinbago. Long live the plantation culture, as we continue the struggle for survival, in our own land, where COWARDS FLINCH and TRAITORS SNEER, we will keep Pan Trinbago’s Flag flying high.

We continue to foster good relationships and unity amongst the Carnival interest groups as we contribute towards a better Trinbago for future generations.

Michael L Joseph

Public Relations Officer

Pan Trinbago Inc. T.C.

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Replies to This Discussion

Glenroy, Claude, Russell and Merrytonestothebone, what is this "Maliciousness to the Core." You newbies???

Too many contradictory statements...We are not dependent on the government???

Today, these newbies believe that they have all the answers because they see everything in dollars, with no sense of Steelpan evolution, hence the reason for them accusing Steel band leaders of exploiting child labor in the Pan Yards and living nice on their exploits - Maliciousness to the core!

Mighty Chalkdust - St. Joan Of Arts

..."So while you harp on the few negatives,"...Oh really?...So "negatives" do exist?...I wonder if carting off children nightly from band to band to earn money is one of them? 

Mr Joseph sometimes...just sometimes...It is better not to respond to criticism...

Well they walk on the CIP grave THIS MORNING!!! All who does talk night and day (especially GREGORY) about the PAN TRINBAGO CONSTITUTION -- KEITH DIAZ turn MADURO on allyuh!!!

"foreign used collaborators" -- Nice one Mr. Joseph!!!

While I disagree with your rhetoric most of the time I have to admit that you hit the nail on the head here. The suggestion that steelbands exploit child labor is offensive at best considering the actual exploitation of child labor that goes into things like, say, the making of half the pairs of shoes worn in a pan yard. People like to work themselves up and call it "exploitation" but in any panorama other than T&T they call it "keeping kids off the streets", "learning life lessons", "free music education"--but those competitions don't have that universal paycheck and the mistrust that follows.

I think it's important that people not lose sight of the financial realities of steelbands and the struggle they still face. There are most certainly unscrupulous and/or incompetent leaders who should not be trusted with money but looking at panorama as some sort of moneymaker is being deaf to the financial reality of the situation. The economy is bad, and panorama attendance is pitiful. This doesn't excuse the alleged malfeasance of Pan Trinbago at all--in fact it makes it that much worse--but some perspective is needed when money becomes such a central issue.

Unfortunately by promising all these riches that they couldn't pay out on, Pan Trinbago created a monster. This check went from a bonus to a must-have, a cause celebre that seems to have largely overshadowed what this is about at the end of the day: arts, culture, community. People played for years out of love, now with one little check it suddenly becomes hard labor and a hustle. And we wonder why there's no loyalty to a band anymore!

well said , Noah. Couldn't agree more.

Michael Joseph,

At yesterday's meeting, the last speaker for the evening was Makesi Joseph,...your own son.... His suggestion regarding a corporate communications department at PanTrinbago was made right straight up alongside that his utterance that " the Public Relations Officer for PanTrinbago is not working out for how we communicate, with notices to our various publics, and our membership in general"....That is a sad indictment for your years of long and meritorious service to this movement, and to the labor movement at large,....Very very sad,....indeed.....clearly like the President, you have a lot going on in your personal life, and your home life....that is running against your ability to be able to manage your portfolio, especially since your office phone don't work,.. And this is the only forum on When Steel Talks,..that you are actually able to show to the entire world exactly how much you are not fulfilling your mandate via this and your only forum....

One son Malomo Joseph, eating de only food while you are President of the SteelPan Tuners Guild, .and the other son Makesi Joseph, calling you publicly out on your inability to perform your job. What a contrast of two different perspectives from the same familial herd......Scobie...remember this,..nothing lasts forever....


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