Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
The following are excerpts from an extensive blog by Jacob Edgar on Pan in Trinidad & Tobago. Depending on the perspective, even beginning with the very title “Panned in Trinidad” can be cause for pause – after all, ‘panned’ itself is a word which is oftentimes associated with unflattering critique. Jacob Edgar’s blog paints a far less than positive picture of the steelpan instrument, the culture of pan and steelpan musicians of Trinidad & Tobago themselves, from our perspective. While Jacob Edgar is entitled to his opinion, it is troubling that he promotes himself as the eyes and ears for countless others – see his self-description in part: “….I travel the globe in search of the best music the world has to offer...and I suffer through some of the worst - so you don't have to!” Jacob Edgar’s content and opinions are world-read and accessed not only via his blog, but as host of his own music and travel series Music Voyager - http://www.musicvoyager.com/
Maybe Jacob Edgar is not qualified for the task he has undertaken – at the very least when it comes to the steelpan art form. Maybe someone from Trinidad & Tobago who is qualified (other than his ‘old friend’) –- ought to have educated Jacob Edgar on the eclectic capabilities and showcases of steelpan in Trinidad & Tobago year-round – outside of “Panorama” - and while they were at it, have a chat with him of his stereotypical view of a ‘Panyard’ re: “Much beer is imbibed, fights break out….” Sadly, Jacob Edgar reminds us of some of the old National Geographic reporters who made us cringe.
Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - Given the choice between Chinese water torture and being forced to listen to a recording of steel drums I might lean towards the former. The steel drum, or steel pan or just “pan” as most Trinidadians call it, is one of the instruments that just doesn’t translate very well to recordings and it is best appreciated it in its natural setting: performed by an orchestra of hundreds on a hot, sweaty night in Trinidad, ideally during the annual Panorama competition and with a belly full of local rum.
....I was a guest at a film shoot for a new movie docu-drama that tells the story of the development of the steel drum, from its humble beginnings in the poor neighborhoods of Port of Spain to the awesome Panorama competitions that attract an audience of thousands from all over the world. The film is to be called Pan! A Modern Odyssey and its producer is Jean Michel Gibert, an old friend who has been at the forefront of the Trinidadian music industry for years.
....I also walked by the steel yard of the Renegades, an orchestra that competes every year in the Panorama competition. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it back to the yard later that night to attend their evening rehearsal, which I’ve heard is more of a social club. Much beer is imbibed, fights break out, and occasionally, the groups strikes up the metallic cacophony that is a true steel drum orchestra. Sounds just like my kind of scene!
I wanna smack somebody, but I suppose everyone is entitled their opinion. So much for "pan can play anything"... it can, but apparently this guy wants to give Chinese water torture a try instead. I say "Go ahead."
Reply by Sidd
There is an element of truth in what he's saying. Remember he came during the year, when pan is down time in T&T. It is a criticism long held even by Trinidadians. There is insufficient pan concerts held in pan yards during the year. If T&T is the mecca of pan, there should be a pan concert every weekend, held in one of the pan yards big or small or at the many "squares", savannahs, open fields, road sides and so on especially on Friday nights complete with rum and beers and some eats. Nothing is wrong in that. There are some street parades being developed now but that was not always like that. There is a lack of real interest in pan even among the pan communities and pan bands. It is what is known as a direct blow criticism. Many truths in it. It is we Trinidadians who don't have sufficient interest in it as in the 50 and 60's and 70's folks had at that time. The interest goes down each year. Now with the innovation of the electronic counterpart lets hope that a new source of blood will flow not be violence but by interest shown in the mass of musicians now using electronic equipment as well as the acoustic crowd support. But it is for sure, pan has faded terribly in T&T outside of the Panorama carnival season. There are no more long time fetes one can go to that employs a steel band even in carnival. If you tell the world TT is the mecca of pan, then that's what they would expect a mecca. (in this meaning a place that attracts visitors.) This is where Pan Trinbago is called to task. They should be very busy organizing band concerts throughout T&T and in conjunction with the business community and government support. People will respond accordingly. After all its a Friday night lime. Then when tourists come in they may be informed of a "my kind of scene".
Are you some kind of an ass? Pantimes is saying just that, that someone who actually gives two hoots about steelband (maybe I dunno, Kim Johnson for example? or any serious pan-loving Trini) should have “educated” Jacob Edgar about different aspects of pan in Trinidad & Tobago throughout the year instead of him going off fully cocked and writing total shit even having the audacity to bring in Chinese water torture into the fray and the first paragraph no less!
I see his old friend is none other than Jean Michel Gibert who actually was happy to have him in Trini to currently promote and hype his own film on Pan, so we know where Gibert’s best interests lie. Typical. A visitor comes to Trinidad, writes his/her opinion and on that world stage that WST is always going on about. Your yapping about pan on the downtime in Trinidad and Tobago is not the point.
Why didn’t his good friend Jean Michel Gibert tell him about the upcoming Pan is beautiful festival this month? Or tell him about some good classic recordings with Trinidad All Stars? Or about Pan Family Codrington and Duvone Stewart’s Pan Fantasy, and old Panazz recordings and performances? What about North Stars and Winnifred Atwell’s classic performance and recording? And that list is lengthy as you well know. You can be damned sure if that was the case, Jacob Edgar would have thought twice about this hatchet job.
Instead he’s comfortable talking about Renegades panyard, referencing fights and a supply of beer, while music is incidental. I am sure that Renegades president Michael Marchano is not pleased.-- But no, Sidd, there YOU go defending him, and laying the blame at Trinidad’s doorstep. Typical Sidd. You and Jacob Edgar are cut from the same cloth.
Keep in mind that Jacob Edgar is not just another average visitor to Trinidad with an opinion, apparently, but according to that music link he has a platform, and music show series where he travels around the world, so it seems his opinion is "considered." Which means he has done damage.
I disagree... I don't think it's about Grammy's or electronics. This guy says steelband is a bunch of noise. Soloists and little combos are too cliche.
Unfortunately, pan music is only used to sugar-coat popular songs, much like many instruments counter-compliment vocalists. Trouble is people are less interested in instrumental music... they need lyrics to understand music. Why do you think today's "music" lacks musicianship... all you need is to throw a few shocking cuss words and twerk in a body-toned bikini to sell "music"...
True pan artistry is not suited for that, so I doubt any of us will become millionaires as pannists, unless we play an electronic pan for pop samples to come from them.
But this article writer has a lot of nerve. I almost promise that I would have much to say about the quality of "music" he enjoys... a load of trash.
But on another note... In Trinidad, any time of year, a person, local or tourist, should never have to travel far to hear a steelband perform or rehearse. I think Pan Trinbago and the government could invest in revitalizing some neighbourhood facilities to improve the culture.
Corey, glad to see you disagree with that knuckle-headed statement. Again, SIDD is one of those "flip-floppers"; he sentenced pan and the steelbands to extinction, saying that everything has a shelf-life, and evolves into something new. He claims the E-Pan is the steelpan evolved, when we ALL know that isn't true or factual. The FACT is the steel drum/steelpan is an IDIOPHONE, and the E-Pan is an ELECTROPHONE. Musical instruments are classified NOT by how they look, but by how they produce the sounds they make. Ghost did not say that; that is "conventional wisdom". Again, like jazz musicians, pan players play for love of culture, not for profit. My college jazz professor, Mr. Melton Mustafa, used to play with Count Basie's band, yet he is not concerned about making it to the Grammy's or playing electronic (trumpet-shaped) controllers to increase his popularity or money in his pocket. He is an ambassador to the art form, and has helped create pan players like Freddie Harris III, Leon "Foster" Thomas, Iman Pascall, Carlon Lyons, Joanna Shortt, and other Florida Memorial University music graduates. His payment is in spreading the jazz culture, and in creating the virtuosos of today. So, to answer wmlpan's question, we can sum up the answer in one word: JACK!
Ghost Who Knows All Jackasses Can Do Is Bray.
Like you an' Edgar is gud fren'? Allyuh both talking a pile ah caca. I wud like to give allyuh anudder kind ah torture! Sen allyuh in Renegades yard every Friday, geh some bottle in yuh caca!! I can excuse the foreigner Edgar, who, obviously was talking out of his backside, but YOU, a TRINI, I feel you don't know what's going on down there? Corey told you of all the Pan concerts etc that has been happening this year! I wish I was able to come down to ALL.....but, you live down there? AH BET YUH EH GO TO ONE! Electronic pan is NOTHING like the real thing.....Edgar is a NOBODY, who wants to score some points off of INSULTING, YES, F'ing, INSULTING PAN!!!!!
Brian, ent? lol. SIDD is good at only ONE thing: Swinging on other people's nuts. Make that two things; he is also great at kissing-arse of those whom he thinks will eventually reward him. He was swinging on Pan Trinbago's nuts at one time; then flip-flopped ans said the the "headquarters for steelband should be in New York". An agent of the Judas kind is ALL this degenerate is. Ghost.
What is the point of trying to convert the Edgar's through recording or electronics? He has his opinion.
My trip to Panorama, we went by Phase II the night before finals. I did not get to meet Boogsie, only witness his genius. My feelings about "noise" is that an outsider would not appreciate when a tuner touches hammer to steel or when sections of a steel orchestra are drilling different parts out of sync with each other. If the outsiders only observed the nice side of pan, we may not have to deal with the "Edgar's". I can't imagine how hard it would be for a panyard to have an enclosed, insulated facility that they could privately go about their business... near impossible, I would guess.
The recording I've been involved with here, the studios had large rooms that we could set the whole steelband up... that's the biggest barrier... most studios don't have a room large enough to accommodate a bass pan. We require a lot of space to get a great recording. Maybe recording studios in Trinidad have to have expanded facilities that can accommodate steelbands more effectively.
I believe the technology is there to record pan Not saying that electronics is a bad idea, just not necessary in the context we are talking. Electronic pan is not going to impress Edgar and change his mind about pan, because it isn't pan, per se.
I worked with a combo here, when our local steelband had few members. My brother and two friends (lead, double guitar, triple cello), a bass player, and a good drummer. Just those five had a lot of gear to get into a lot of gigs. But they got big gigs... they sounded great. My friend and I would come in from out of town (double second, double guitar) and join them. It was great. But the music we played seems like the sort of thing that Edgar would consider cliche. Local newspapers would write "I expected 'Yellow Bird', but I got Lenny Kravitz, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Peter Frampton, Black Eyed Peas, and some really high energy stuff that comes from the nation of Trinidad and Tobago... the birthplace of steelpan!" Many love what we did and do, but Edgar thinks something is out of place when we play covers. What should we play then?
And I continue this today as a soloist in the same way. It is great pressure to play without accompaniment, and I personally do not like how empty it sounds. I love when cellos and double seconds syncopate and fill the sound. But most of the time I play, it's with "conventional musicians" like guitarists, vocalists, bassists, sax players... I'm in the mix.
What would Edgar have to say about Robbie Greenidge's work with Jimmy Buffett? I bet he would say it's too cliche. There is no one I admire more than Robbie Greenidge for laying a path for me to play popular music with my pan. That's why he was the first pannist I approached when I explored micing my pans for a stage setting to play with amplified instruments.
You know, it would seem that since we are talking predominantly about an instrument that is arranged in a cycle of fifths, it would make it easy for a tenor player to take advantage of the technology. but what about the triple cello player, or the six bass player? What about them? The technology does not help them much, does it.
Yes, there are opportunities and potential advantages in the use of an electronic pan... it could be recorded in a room yet make no audible sound... all that goes to track is what the computer interprets in it's brain. With a conventional pan, the analog signal must be captured through a mic, which will also pick up any sound within range, like when you hit your stick on the rim or sneeze... no different than recording a vocalist. BUT it's not viable to say the electronic pan is what is going to open the door to those opportunities.
Do I wish that little combo could have gotten into the studio? Yes. But it's expensive to do that, and as instrumentalists, it's not easy to gain access to those resources... risk has been higher than the reward. Same would be true if we had an electronic pan back then.
Corey: You are showing a pattern of misconstruing or projecting things not said into postings that you read. Where in the Edgar article did you see him say that something is out of place when the PAN plays covers?
Claude, you may have to re-read the garbage he wrote. His second, third and fourth paragraphs are opinions I respond to, if you need to find why I wrote what I wrote. He doesn't deserve ink.
I mentioned in a recent post about utilising YouTube channels; it is important for the global audience to hear Pan at it's best. It would be easy to diffuse the views of Jacob Edgar by using social media to showcase the best talent through dedicated YouTube channels, this is more effective than local concerts for a home audience. Social media is an effective platform to extend the global reach of Pan and I would also suggest incorporating the phrase "steel drum" with published content as this is an important keyword. You can refer to my piece for more suggestions and the rationale behind it.
This discussion should generate over ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY replies. I would encourage the many readers who sit on the sidelines to share their opinions on this topic.