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Revisited -- Getting Panned in Trinidad -- (insult or not?) - The Jacob Edgar Saga

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.






Jacob Edgar - Ethnomusicologist, music producer, writer and researcher with an insatiable curiosity for the diverse ways in which people express themselves through music.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!
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From the sounds of it, many "from the surface" assert that steelpan is, No longer getting panned!  So a bit frustrating when an "untuned" outsider assumes it still, Getting Panned in Trinidad.

With that intro, out of the way, let me attempt to discuss the dichotomy of the good and the bad as espoused Jacob Edgar's Musical Adventures to unravel the ugly, of his opinion.

I'm not sure if the Reply by Jacob Edgar constitutes the type of apology constitutes the type of needed apology and others are searching for.  As far as I'm concerned, his apology leaves much to be desired and he has demosntrated that he lacks the "proper authority", which makes his journalistic endeavours in this regard, defenseless, Opinion Blog nothwithstanding.  His stance is patronizing.

Really, serious!!!  When it come to Renegades, their record of achievement is hard to beat.  Panorama Champions 1982, 84, 85, 89, 90, 93, 95. 96 and 97 (with mo...   The debate about the need to play "ketchy touristy" music has echoed many times over the relatively short history of the steelpan, but "refinement" does not always lend itself to "earning a living" for many of the performers, outside of Panorama.   That extends to the debate where steelbands struggle with competing interest of seeing it as art, culture or business.

Some may try to characterize the sounds of the steelpan in certain elements as noise, but I remember hearing it said by a musician that generally, percussion instruments are inherently noisy by nature.  For me and many inside/outside of T&T, the sound of steelpan is one of the most beautiful cacophonies we continue to enjoy.  That's my choice and I continue to love it so.  Now personally, Hard Rock Music does not entertain me.  It hurts my ears and sensibibilites and I have never ever really learnt to appreciate and understands it.  Thus I prefer to avoid it, but that's me, to each his own.  

Obviously, he has not been privy to recordings such as this, ent.

Now to the pretext he uses about the recording of steelpan music, You Be The Judge.  When it comes to amplification to capture the real ring-and-ping timbre of the steeldrum, for live or recorded performances, that has not always been the easiest task to surmount.  While Again, it's difficult to reproduce the real "live and unplugged" sweet sound of pan, it's not impossible.

From since Bertie tinkered to do his ting, others have tried to do their own ting with various mikes/pickups.  STEELPAN RECORDING GOES HIGH-TECH / Microphones for Steelpan  Whether using Piezo-Electric Pickups or Variable Reluctance Pickups (etc.) staged from every imaginable angle to best capture the effect.  DPA Microphones

None other than departed Terry Joseph wrote on Miking solo instruments.  Without annoying or provoking others (as Noah  has alluded), the electro-pans of new (e-Pan, ESD, and PHI-pan) are also trying something to address the issue in terms of exploring steelpan sounds, with the digitilization offered in tandem with the sampled recordings of Indigisounds.

But the steel-pan as it has evolved could and should exisit alongside the elecro-pans because the latter was NOT created to replace the former.  It is an e-volution and NOT a be-all to end-all panacea as some have tried to allude as the solution.

One must learn, one of the things Trinis do in we culture, is to appreciate the ability to "take your licks", because the violence surrounding steelband gangs of yesteryear is not how things have played out since then.  Pan-People will defend we turf jealously and zealously from anyone who do pay their dues and earn stripes when they insult, intentionally or otherwise.
There is a fine line between critiques and insults and once has to be mindful when navigating the troubled waters when Pan-Maniacs are involved.  Other than provoking this discussion, I find little value in what and how Jacob Edgar has run his mouth.  His knowlegde of leading steelpan players across the globe appears to be very limited and thus his critique lacks merit and carries offensive subtones.  
I and others have called for it before in this domain and others, but I will call for it here again as it would help the cause.
We need a Centralized Repository kept in the Pan Museum of Pan Trinbago's Future Headquarters.  This should house for posterity, the history and evolution of Pan!!!  The library should house all the archives in all forms of media, print, audio (recordings) and audio-video (films).  Works of past and future contributors need this home.
This way, it will be accessible in person and/or online for and to all who wish to research and pay homage, with wide exposure especially Social Media outlets.


Now alongside that "Old Is New Vision", let's hope and pray the "Blueprint For Steelpan Success" as updated by George D. Goddard will soon bear fruition, because it's time has come to progress both the instrument and the movement.  If "business" was being conducted the way it should be, these types of disctractons would be few and far between, and moot save for drawing reference to the PanTrinbago Museum.



F.Y.I. When I mentioned...

Now personally, Hard Rock Music does not entertain me.  It hurts my ears and sensibibilites and I have never ever really learnt to appreciate and understands it.  Thus I prefer to avoid it, but that's me, to each his own.  

I was refering to Hard Rock Metal Music, cool...

somebody took a picture of my worst side boy I was embarrased,I feel if it did not hurt to chop off mih big belly, I have heard some cheesy pan playing, people might even call mine cheesey too, I have, we are apt to be careless, I was hanging out with a Trini friend at his first panorama and when he heard Despers on the track, he thought they were horrible, they won that year, from where he stood all he could hear was noise, I did not blame him when he went to the grand stand and heard Despers he was on his toes "now that is more like it, not that set a noise that deapers was making",he said not even realising it was the same band, need I say more

Ah cyar leave it like this, I have a Luther Vandross Cd with him trying out cover songs, sorry to step on toes but now I understand why the judges gonged him at the gong show in the Appolo theatere and told him not to give up his day job, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and depending on its view some people might say yuck whilst others say yeah, they not crazy that is what they see, go easy on the man, allyuh wanted to kill Peter Tosh for saying take off that noise, is the promoters fault the steelband should have been on stage like the other artistes later read between these lines  

Bugs correctly said  and his friends in Trinidad who supposedly love Trinidad culture and people so much  said nothing

in defense of this rubbish that was written  

They had a 6.4 earth quake in the Mecca and they are still asleep.


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