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Do arrangers of pan music seek consent of composers?


THE EDITOR: Are writers of original musical compositions approached by pan arrangers to rearrange their original compositions? If so, are composers compensated from the prize monies won from the Panorama competition?

Customarily, steel pan arrangers choose a piece of existing music, which is further modified and presented as an innovative piece for the Panorama competition. This new musical arrangement, which incorporates the pre-existing composition, is called a “derivative work.”

A derivative work must not be confused with a cover version. In the case of steel pan arrangements, a cover version is a direct interpretation or rendition of an existing composition without substantial alterations to the melody and musical arrangement.

Conversely, as stated above, a derivative work involves significant alterations and changes to an existing musical composition.

Copyright consists of a bundle of rights that grants composers the right to authorise and prohibit certain actions with respect to their original musical compositions.

Included in the list of rights is the right to create derivative works. From this perspective, anyone performing such actions without prior permission is seen as violating a composer’s rights.

This begs question: do pan arrangers obtain authorisation to alter, change, rearrange, and even modify original compositions? Provided this is not a common practice in TT, it does not in any way mean it is permissible.

It would seem the steel pan fraternity has overlooked this fundamental principle for decades without realising the implications of such action.


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Mr Alfonso

I am hard-pressed to endorse pan-men, who give so much for so little, parting with dollars  to be able to render an enhanced version of a tune.  My understanding is that the judges pay attention to development of the song and not departing too far from it.  If bands have to pay to do this they may just resort to playing songs composed by their arrangers and those songs would only belong to the panorama context.  This would marginalize pan music.

I cannot agree that Carnival should be treated as a business.  I agree that those who work so tirelessly to make it what it is should be remunerated but once it goes into business mode, much would be lost.

I wonder whether you think that a band that doesn't reach to the finals, or that places 10th in the finals should pay the same as a winning band or one that placed in the top 3 positions?

I wonder whether you would apply the same logic to the bomb competition on Jouvert morning? And if the band wants to play their panorama tune after carnival, would they have to pay more, or pay again? 

It really is not such a simple question and cannot be subjected to entertainment business principles in all respects.

In closing I refer you to the great Lord Kitchener's lyrics ( Pan in A minor0:


They say to me they want a musical change in pan,
Well I didn't tell them yes
But I didn't tell them no
I say well gentlemen, I gonna to do the best I can,
As long as you challenge me
Well I going to have a go
They all indicated that they were getting bored
And they would appreciate something new
So I thought it best to change to the minor chord
To see really who is who,
Boogsie on the tenor
(Beat pan) Bringing out the minor
(Beat pan) Up come the Professor
(Beat pan) To add to the fire
(Beat pan) I calling on Bradley
(Beat pan) To challenge Beverly
(Beat pan) Which mean Desperado
(Beat pan) Go answer Tokyo
You gonna hear pan in A minor
With them steelbands from all over
You gonna hear them at their best
They will be going through a test
You're gonna hear them…"
A testimony to the relationship between the composer/singer and the panmen.  I know we now have "artistes" but I believe the sentiment still obtains and the relationship still exists. As recently as last year nailed Blackman expressed her love for pan and admiration for panmen in "Iron Love".

The T&T Copyright Act of 1997 has been amended more than 20 times in recent years to take into account anomalies and omissions from the original. IT IS NOT A BIG PROBLEM TO PASS ANOTHER AMENDMENT TO LEGALISE THE STATUS AND SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS OF ARRANGERS IF THAT IS NECESSARY.
But the impetus for change must come from the two sides, maybe with PanTrinbago as a convener and maybe referee.. To kickstart the thinking I did a quick layman's search and found this lawyer language excerpt.
(6) Nothing in this section shall be construed
to deprive the performer of the right to agree
by contract, on terms and conditions more
favourable for him in respect of his performance.”.
5. Section 19 of the Act is amended in subsection (1),
by inserting after the words “moral rights” the words “of
the author”.
6. The Act is amended by inserting after section 19,
the following section:
19A. The rights under section 18(4) shall
be protected until the end of the fiftieth
calendar year following the year in which
the performance was fixed in a sound
recording or, in the absence of such a
fixation, from the end of the year in which
the performance took place.”.
Section 19 amended
Section 18 amended
I repeat my original comment. Let's get it legally determined before a composer or a composer's agent or an entrepreneur who purchased rights stops a panorama finals sometime in the future.

Reply by Fabien Alfonso on Wednesday

I appreciate your contribution, Mr. Providence, It seems that you are certainly passionate about this topic. From what you have posted here, clearly shows that it is important for stakeholders within the Steel Pan Fraternity to have meaningful workshops with a qualified panel of experts to explore and examine the copyright component regarding all things pan. 

Father Knows Best - The Right Honorable Dr. Eric Williams

Thank you Claude

I didn't get all my questions answered however this is a start.

We pay for not knowing.  Do you think there is anyone at Pan Trinbago that understands the difference between BMI, ASCAP or Harry Fox ?


Mr Alfonso

The use of music from that year's Carnival or even a previous one, is a practice that has obtained from the beginning of Panorama.  It actually helps the sales of the song in question and enhances its overall popularity.  This is why singers of the songs( Nailah Balckman, Denise Plummer and Destra Garcia, for example) have appeared onstage on the finals of the Panorama competition, showing pride at having their song selected and rearranged.  The consent is implicit.

To introduce the concept you outline   would be to alter the cultural fabric of Carnival.

If what you propose is taken to its natural extension  the road on Carnival day would become a heap of written consents and a legal quagmire.  

Thank you, Ms. Haynes. We must be mindful that not all Artistes are responsible for writing the songs they perform during the carnival season. To be clear, I'm specifically addressing the contractual arrangement between songwriter/composer and steel pan arrangers/steel bands that do not exist. However, if the Artiste and Songwriter are the same, this issue also applies. Let me draw a reference. Soca Artists and Calypsonians approach songwriters to write original compositions for the Carnival season. An agreement is established between both parties. In addition to the songwriter receiving a financial advance to use said composition for the season, there is also a clause in the agreement that stipulates if the Artiste wins a competition i.e (Calypso, Chutney, Soca Monarch, Road March), they grant a percentage of the prize money to the songwriter. My position is, it would be fitting to structure a similar arrangement between original composers and steel band orchestras. I'm all for treating our carnival industry as a business.

Thank you for your responses Mr. Alfonso. As Pan Times wrote in response to a hypothesis I authored on AI & The Future of Panorama...

Appreciate the link, will definitely peruse and provide comments if necessary

Dear Mr. Fabien Alfonso, Is it correct to conclude that you are not a Trinidadian by birth and are not currently resident in Trinidad or Tobago?

(Chuckling)... Mr. Francis this is to confirm I am Trinidadian by birth and have lived in Trinidad all my life.



Dear Mr. Alfonso,

you have certainly brought this forum to life. It may not be unreasonable to conclude that the rumors surrounding a particular song played at this year's panorama may have motivated you to introduce this topic on this global forum. I am glad you did, as my inquisitive mind took me to ASCAP"s Web Site  a good starting point where answers can be provided, to get a better understanding of what direction this discussion can head. Additionally, when I considered what the acronym ascap represented, I came across this definition of Music Publishing on the internet, where the following sentences caught my attention:

 "However, it would be too demanding for a publisher to sign performance licenses with every club, radio station, and business office that might use a particular song. Instead publishers and songwriters register with a performing rights organization (PRO) to collect fees on their behalf."

Which brings us back to ASCAP, the publishers, and whether or not these composers and authors of songs that are most likely to be chosen as a steelband's panorama tune of choice are registered members of this Performance Rights Organization or any other such entity.

Nice topic. 

Yours respectfully.


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