The embarrassment that Pan Trinbago’s executive suffered when the Sunday evening instalment of Pan in the Communities collapsed at Williams Bay, Chaguaramas, is only the latest indicator of the failings that the steelband’s leadership has visited on the movement.
When the organisation began to prepare for the event at the venue, on lands granted to it by Dr Eric Williams, it ran afoul of the CDA’s security forces who ordered Pan Trinbago to stop the preparations for the production. “That’s the respect for pan!” declared Pan Trinbago’s president, Patrick Arnold. “We have been fighting that issue for years.” Pan Trinbago claims to have a deed for the land and has been paying water rates for the premium property for decades, but is still to make use of the land in any decisive way.
On its own, this could be dismissed as an unfortunate mix-up occasioned by a lack of shared information and communication, but this sort of thing has consistently plagued pan’s leadership and its plans for building something concrete to house its ambitions. In February, Panorama semi-finals in Tobago came to an abrupt halt when fire officers declared the stage unsafe for use. In December 2008, Pan Trinbago staged the T&T National Steelband Music Festival, Pan is Beautiful XI at the Jean Pierre Complex and opened the show in darkness. No lights were apparently available for the event. It wasn’t until the second band performed that television crews moved their lighting gear in so that the audience could actually see the performers.
Apologising for the situation, Mr Arnold said that “after all these years, we are still at the Jean Pierre Complex and this place is not suited for a steelband festival.” Later that month, Mr Arnold received a letter from the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs questioning the pan body’s use of the word “national” to describe its new youth steel orchestra. The letter pointed out the similarity between the new pan grouping and the Government supported National Steel Symphony Orchestra, questioning both the appropriateness and legality of the use of the descriptor in the new band’s name, as if the Government alone held the right to confer the use of the word national on such an initiative.
Such is Pan Trinbago’s seniority in the pan-naming game that it might well have countered that it was the Government which was intruding on its nationalistic turf. Patrick Arnold left well enough alone and proceeded to launch his band, but the continued disrespect paid to the prime body representing panmen must be irritating. Part of the problem facing Pan Trinbago is that the organisation has constituted itself more as a manager of government contributions to the movement than as an agent of entrepreneurial motivation for steelband’s managers and musicians. It’s a lingering humiliation that in the nation that created the instrument, steelbands still lurch along year after year, cap in hand, hoping for corporate and government handouts to keep their bands going.
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