When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

Has Trinidad and Tobago dropped the ball on the steelpan?

Conspiring To Pigeonhole Pan, And That’s Cool?
  by Les Slater -

Chairman of the T & T Folk Arts Institute and former Highlanders Steel Orchestra arranger

Global - I don’t know if he remembers making the comment or still is of that view, perhaps more than twenty years later, but no less a pan-world figure than Boogsie Sharpe once said to me that if pan had been invented in Jamaica, it would have made greater progress. The particular reference to Jamaica (or anyplace else, for that matter) in that context might precipitate some spirited give-and-take. But be that as it may, there’s no doubt lots of us have had occasion, over time, to ponder the path pan has traveled, and whether we Trinidadians, as its creators and gatekeepers of record, have come anywhere close to affording ample opportunity for pan to realize its full potential.
read more

Views: 240

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

This is an outstanding document Mr. Copeland.  Has there been any move to further study and implement any of the models discussed?

Hello Dika


Thanks for the kudos which I will relay to my colleagues. 


The Ministry of Planning was following this plan up to the departure of the Minister. The last I heard was that they had formed a fore-sighting committee. Her husband was a co-author of the paper which itself  crystallized out of the very many years we worked together on projects in industry that sought to build a higher level of self-sufficiency at the technical level locally.  Those efforts, though successful as projects in their own right,  never really bore fruit in that the companies we were working with never developed the cultural change we were hoping for.  We had to speculate on the reason why this was so, hence the pyramid and diamond concepts.


I am not sure what the Government intends to do with those plans ; my sincere hope is that they do not throw the baby out with the bath water. 


Until that is resolved, all that remains for now is the Steelpan Initiatives Project  which was actually viewed by myself and the Ministry as a pilot project of sorts along the lines described in the paper. There is also some activity at NIHERST where  fore-sighting exercises have been held over the past few months.   


I have attached an updated summary of the paper in the attached - just 1 page.


thanks for all this work



I kind of agree with that statement Boogsie made years ago .I was always seeking great interest for the future of the Players ;instrument and marketing of all steelband music,in which the majourity had gone to waste ,since most of it had not been recorded.But i am glad that i accumilated a great collection of pan music .One day i will fullfill my venture creating another Pan website.My site will have a differenf flavor,remember we are all talented in various ways and i am ready to introduce my Steelband Talent.Therefore pan lovers  and listeners will get more interested in the music and the instrument and also tis will create business for Pan soloist and steelbands . geveryone

In my opinion Pan is doing just fine, at no time in history there were Pan in so many countries.  Most high schools and universities in the US have steelbands; recently a student graduated from Berkley using pan as her principal instrument. Salah Wilson did the same years ago in Montreal.  Pan would only get better seeing that it is all over the world, but in Trinidad there is reason for concern about the steelband. Again I would like to stress that Pan and Steelband is not the same thing, Pan is the instrument that steelbands use. 

                Any meaningful solution for the present state of the steelband [not pan] inT’dad would have to come from abroad.  The attitude of people in T’dad is that things are going to workout for itself and we know that is not going to happen.

The discussions held at Medgar Evers University should have happened years ago in Trinidad, it is good to know that there are people who are willing to study the present situation and if possible share there solutions with the movers and shakers of the steelband movement.

The government has to be the caretakers of the Pan, not PanTrinbago. This is our culture; we need people with the resources to research, develop, and make sure that steelbands partake of the revenue that carnival generates. Carnival is a big money making machine for people that have nothing to do with the steelband and it’s a shame, seeing it is history.

Tough decisions have to be made concerning the steelband and carnival and it’s up to the government and PanTrinbago to make them.

In order to bring steelbands up to speed with the 21st century we have to design racks to carry about 70+ players. These racks could have two levels but made in a way that the players could see one another; and then find the right way to amplify the instruments making sure to maintain their natural sound. Here is where our universities could get involved or invite tenders.

Players must know when they sign on with a steelband that it is for the carnival season not only for panorama, their job is to supply music for the people who pay to play mas. Steelbands must have two crews so that when one is resting the other maintains the flow of music.

After the steelband people understand what is required of them the government must step in and make every mas band that comes on the road hire a steelband. Another solution is to make carnival   Tuesday for pan only.



I would like to see Pan Only on Carnival Monday Rather Than Tuesday.If so a fixed route can be created.

Lloyd I only said Tuesday because more people play mas on Tuesday, If we could have all the big mas on Monday most people would play with a steelband on Tuesday.


Cecil the only reason why i suggested steelbands only on carnival Monday ,is because of the younger /adult pan players will have the opportunity to play mas and or enjoy the one day as a reveller and witness the parade of the masqueraders.
Sid although there is technology to make ten players sound like a hundred I don't think much people would attend a panorama with ten men playing, we have to use technology to enhance what we have not wipe it out.Now don't get me wrong there could still be a pan side with all the technology you spoke of to play in dances but for panorama and on the road I don't think we are ready for those 10 men.


                I am the person who said that carnival Tuesday should be for Pan only, I suggested that because Steelbands are at a crossroad where they could easily go the way of the dinosaur if something drastic don’t happen. History would remember Trinidad for the Steelpan not carnival.

                The Steelband and Steelpan need protection from the same people that created it, this is why the government should step in to save them. We use Jamaicans as reference because they  stand up for their culture and always promote it, why can’t Trini do the same

                Here we are talking about a truck with 10 players with acoustic and electronic pans and other instruments with state of the art sound equipment and mega speakers, what we are talking about here is the beginning of the end for pan and steelbands. This outfit you spoke of, can it be called a steelband? I don’t think so. The PHI and the Epan are not pan and is capable of wiping out the whole steelpan industry, wait till the people who make Fender and Yamaha get their hands on one you see what will happen.  Those who came up with these inventions say that “they are not here to replace the pan” but what do you think will happen? If you have a choice of buying a tenor pan or the PHI which one will you go for?  I am sure that you will choose the PHI because you figure out you are getting more for your dollar.  You spoke about it’s only the sound that’s needed, there are synthesizers that sound like pan already. My only beef with these instruments is that they are trying to market them as a pan that sound like other instruments, when it is another instrument that look and sound like a pan.

                People who are paid with TNT tax dollars should protect and promote the national instrument which is the pan not the PHI and Epan.

                 Steelbands are worth fighting for even if it mean loosing 100,000 people going back to TNT to play mas, also it should not have to be around  electronic bands and DJs. Yes, I said that they have to be protected, you don’t put a goldfish in the same bowl with a piranha. When there is nothing  else around “the dead” passing sound pretty good.   

It is time to for the Ministry of Arts and Culture to take charge of the steelband, the people at Pantrinbago lacks the vision to move  the  steelband foward.   

                 Carnival is the house that steelpan and steelband built,  electronic bands and DJs are the noisy tenants who moved in with their almost naked women, Huston  I think we have a problem lol.


I cannot add any more to this. It captures much of how I feel. We were blessed to be the portal through which pan made it into the world, But there is so much in pan that is yet to be understood and brought out. It should not be boxed in. The electronic derivatives are here .. but there is more yet to come.

Pan evolved from earlier forms such as the tamboo bamboo. I wonder if the tamboo bamboo players complained as much when pan came on the scene?


                The tamboo bamboo was just rhythm but the pan started to bring melody so they could now play what they were singing or chanting.

                No one wants to put pan in a box, but all technology should go on the pan itself, finish the work Bertie Marshall started.

                The PHI and Epan are good inventions but they are not pan.





© 2020   Created by When Steel Talks.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service