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Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

Above all, the steelpan

By Sunity Maharaj
Re-published with the expressed permission of the author

"... Why do we need to plan our lives and educational strategies around a divisive concept like multiculturalism which, contrary to its benign 'many cultures' facade, is intended to emphasise differences rather than celebrate commonalities?"

—Henri Muttoo, Guyanese

stage designer/director

It is good that school doors are being opened up to the great variety of musical instruments available to our children. For too long they have been locked out by a curriculum that still refuses to recognise the validity of so much that is of such importance to us as a people.

But as we make way for the Indian dholak, the African djembe, the Chinese chaozhou dagu, the Syrian darbuka, in addition to the European violin and piano and the American trap set and whatever else, let us remember the special gift of the steelpan that is truly and completely ours to embrace, to understand, to develop, to promote and to represent to the world.

There is a worrying sub-text to the government's argument for elbowing aside the Pan-in-the-Classroom Unit in making room for the new and expanded Multicultural Music Programme Unit. Underlying the case is a view that the steelpan is merely one of the broad range of ethnic instruments of our multi-cultural society. The view is based on the false notion that the steelpan is an African instrument, as the dholak is an Indian instrument and so on. It is not. The steelpan is a Trinidad and Tobago instrument, both by origin and by culture. One might even insist that it could never have been invented anywhere else but in the Caribbean and, quite possibly, only in this country. In what other place in the world could the precise set of circumstances have existed to have given birth to the steelpan?

Despite the NAR government's designation of the steelpan as the official national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, pan remains a subject of great ambivalence in the land of its birth—and not only among Trinidadians of East Indian extract.

Like Bob Marley on whom Jamaicans were so divided during his lifetime, we are yet to come to terms with pan. Indeed, we had an Afro-Trinidadian prime minister who was so uncomfortable with this invention by the sufferers from up Laventille Hill that he was willing to spend big money to re-invent it, adorn it in the cloak of professorial science, and re-christen it. For him, the steelpan had to be stripped of its history and re-formulated as a university-sanctioned, modern scientific instrument for it to be accepted as valid, legitimate and worthy of representing his warped idea of T&T as a sophisticated modern society. The problem, of course, was not the pan but the man.

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I do agree with Sunity and Mark. To long now the reality was hidden. I lived it from the beginning in 2003 until 2010 and I am living to see it reach this phrase. Pan still in danger and are the wrong hands   

In Guyana, a country which has adopted the Steelpan with respect from their Caribbean neighbour Trinidad & Tobago  ,has been involved with the Steelpan in Schools since in the year 1979, possibly earlier, if,s it only now that the authorities find it fit to introduce the same into schools , bearing in mind that T&T is the birthplace,birthland of the Gifted Instrument,,,,well?????, in the inception of me joining this website i had propagated for the National Instrument of T & T, the Steelpan to be taught  at their schools,,this was in 2011,,,, i am happy to know that an effort is being made,,,, in deviating from  this,  my compliments to Maharaj for making the comment..

Greetings: Well said my bredren. Give thanks for this profound analysis. Dr. Lance Seunarine

Spoken like a true East Indian. What is so wrong with crediting the various "races" for their contributions to "civilization"? As usual, those with this opinion fall into two categories - East Indians (which you are), and "Uncle Tom"/ "House Negroes" (who are ashamed of being African, which they are.) Glenroy, you remind me of the latter, and you do a terrible disservice to the younger Afro-Trinidadian generation, in your endorsing the attempt to remove the cultural contributions of OUR ancestors. As Malcolm X said, if a cat had a litter in an oven, you wouldn't call buscuits, now would you? Maybe you would, but I will always be proud of my African heritage, which includes the steel drum, our version of our African drum. We were not trying to replace the tassa, not attempting to replicate East Indian rhythms. That is a historical fact, and no attempt at "color-blindness" (covert racism, really), can remove the "Africaness" of what we now call "pan". We all know jazz is an American music genre, but we also know the "racial" group from which it originates. I can GUARANTEE that NO OTHER "RACIAL" group ANYWHERE in the ENTIRE WORLD could have invented the steel drum, other than the victims and descendants of AFRICAN CHATTEL SLAVERY. Not one! To pander to those who have identity issues, when it comes to "who invented pan", by presenting its origins as stemming from some "multicultural effort" by "every creed and race", is only a feeble attempt at rewriting both Trinidad & Tobago history, and omitting the cultural contributions of people of African descent, both "at home and abroad". So while this "Trinidadian" with an East Indian name, most-likely her East Indian religion (Hinduism. which by the way looks down on "black" skin. See my videos.), lives in a country that has East Indian public holidays, an East Indian Prime Minster, who went back to her "Grandmotherland" (as she put it) to visit long-lost "relatives" (as she put it), in a country with NUMEROUS East Indian restaurants, East Indian talent shows, their own music genre (chutney), who live in segregated neighborhoods and attend segregated (Hindu) schools, presents this position, in reality, descendants of Africa who happen to be born in Trinidad & Tobago, as a result of their holocaust (MAAFA) from the ancestors of other "Trinidadians and Tobagonians". And just like the Nazis couldn't take away the cultural contributions of the "Jews", and call it "German", no one will ever be able to take away the steel drum and other cultural contributions of the African-slave class of Trinidad & Tobago. No one. Pan would have quicker come out of that class in Haiti, Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbados, or any other slave post in the "West Indies", than from ANY other class in Trinidad & Tobago, including the plantation and indentured classes. And that, EVERY Trinidadian & Tobagonian, who claims patriotism, should be thankful for - that "our Blacks" got to it first. I know I am. THANK YOU BLACK SLAVE MAN AND WOMAN FOR YOUR INVENTION OF THE STEEL DRUM! Signed, A Patriotic Trinidadian, and an African descendant.


As you all should know, I love to do my research, and it is interesting to note that NEITHER Henri Muttoo, nor Sunity Maharaj are of African descent, and both are not only of East Indian descent, but Sunity was raised as a Hindu. See the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1691393772771&set=t.100... (Note the comments referring to their "ramayans", and of Sunity's request to "introduce another Kavita in the family".)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramayana (What was it about their "ramayans", that "brought everyone together from everywhere!" in their family? Answer, it connected them to their East Indian caste-based Hindu culture, which is why Kavita, Hindi for "poet", is the beauty standard. More "White" looking; a Brahmin-type skin complexion.) 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pyramid_of_Caste_system_in_India.png (Guess where people my skin complexion fits in on this pyramid? Answer: We are not even on it! The "Untouchables", as they are affectionately called, are below the Sudras...)

http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/wallpaper/unt... (Compare to life in Trinidad's Beetham "Estate", or Jamaica's Tivoli "Gardens". Estate and Gardens? Means different things to different races.)

http://www.kavitasuri.com/ (African or European "Beauty"?)

GHOST - Who researches, both information and source. And the commentary by  this "source", is in keeping with her East Indian Hindu cultural alignment. No surprise there. And, of course, no surprise, when the "lick-bottoms", begin chiming in as well.

Hello Royce,

                      I am still in T&T; I misplaced your phone number. Can you call me at 316-9483.




Then, Mark, let's define "Trinidadian". Are they the native inhabitants, the Caribs and Arawaks, the Europeans who "discovered" (what already had been "discovered"), the African chattel slave class, the indentured East Indians and Chinese, or maybe the Syrian textile traders who came to find their riches? Isn't a BMW built in America, still considered "German"? Do you think if "pan" was the offspring of East Indian culture, we would be having this discussion? I don't, for we know (and see) their obvious affiliation to their ancestral homeland, and the success they have as a result of NEVER forgetting who they are. And they are correct in choosing to align with their past, a privilege and luxury that Trinidad and Tobago's African descendants do not have. (Compare names, religions, dress, etc.) My point is, that as "universal" as jazz is, even the whitest jazz musician, knows (and accepts) that this genre stemmed from the African ("Negro". Spanish for black, and there is NO "Blackland".) in America, or African Americans. Again, the attempt to separate a people from their place of origin, is done only to one group of people, and it is because they "invented" this "Trinidad & Tobago" instrument, there is a need to for a kaleidoscopic inventor or inventors. To paint the picture that all "Trinidadians and Tobagonians" (African, East Indian, Chinese, Syrian, etc.) came together one day,and created the steel drum together, is a journey into fable and allegory, and not in keeping with historical evidence, which, again, distinctly show an African-only origin. In my opinion, the suppressing of that fact, serves ONLY, in falsely infusing other groups as having anything to do with "pan", until it became more socially accepted. In fact, even today, the vast majority of "panmen" and "panwomen" in Trinidad & Tobago, continue to come from the same African chattel slave class that invented the instrument (of African expression), and, those who still snob at this "noise-making device" (as they see it), still continue to come from non-African descendants. Finally, today, we also still see the race and class seperation during Carnival, and I would encourage you to look at any video clip, and you will see the evidence. Look at the makeup of the steelbands, and tell me if it is representative of the public, as it breaks down by "race". Mark, thanks for the great work you continue to do, and I look forward to meeting you again, as I think your efforts are EXTREMELY  important. Shem Em Hotep (May you go in peace.)

GHOST. Who looks at the evidence!

Greetings I, too, have also been a supporter of the Best concept of the steelpanyard as both an industrial and learning center. Brother Llyod had seen the pan as an economic asset and a way to enhance our human asset  especially among the youth and the frontliners. Panmen must bgecome more politicised and recognise their political worth. It is only then will they gain respect and enjoy the economic bonanza that is blowing across TT. We should also take the lesson from Marcus Garvey  "No one respects a beggar"( Martin: 1993). Give thanks. Dr. Lance Seunarine

THANK YOU!!! Doc, you hit it out de Oval, with this comment and quote from this GREAT MAN - Marcus "Mosiah" Garvey. OUR MOSES!!! AFRICANS AT HOME AND ABROAD! Those offended by the use of the word "African", may replace with "African descendant", if their covert racist hearts desires. (Yes, SIDDS; that's you I'm talking to, now♪♫)

GHOST - Who knows if I disperse mango seeds around the globe, the fruit produced, would still be considered "mango"!

Why do we make reference of the people of Laventille as "evil against good?" I am a proud,  productive Laventillian and so are 95% of us.

Ian, why do you think? How do you think he really views ANY other Black person? He already stated that Blackness is a curse for being sinners, and all who are bad will have to come back againg to serve White masters. We are dealing with a nut-job, but don't worry, the Ghost is the best one to place him into a therapy program on WST, and debrief him of his ignorance and racial prejudices. Then again, he may still need a lobotomy, as I think he may be too far gone for psychological approaches, and may need to be referred to a psychiatrist, to help him with his deep-rooted hatred of Africans and her descendants. (I know, SIDDS, you have "Black friends". So did George Zimmerman.) 


Sidd you are not even a good undercover racist.  What a vile character you are.  What do you have on the internet that you are selling for $4000? Are the people Laventille the only people who make pans in Trinidad? Who you calling boy?

I remember you. When the new government came in you were so happy you look like you were about to pee your pants. But you have never said a thing about all they done against the pan community since.

You are what Mrs.Maharaj is talking about in her article.  You are a deceitful racist character. It is ironic that all one has to do is read this article to see you for what you are.


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