The 3rd International Conference on Steelpan
Author: Louise C. F. Shah Nostalgia Steetband

- The 3rd International Conference on Steelpan witnessed a paradigm shift in intellectual debate on the carnival arts as compared to the first held in 2006. This year’s theme, integrating the three elements of carnival: steelpan, calypso and mas, revealed that practitioners in the field hold a unanimous position on the benefits of forging greater symbiosis between these three art forms.

Whereas calypsonians in Trinidad can expect their compositions to be played by steelbands on the road and contested at Panorama, the UK’s home-grown calypsonians are rarely honoured in this way, despite the high standards achieve yearly. The use of Mas as a creative expression of cultural, political or historically relevant themes is, even if pursued by craftsmen are lost amongst UK audiences who are disengaged from the lyrical social prowess of calypso or indeed the historical roots of carnival. The potentiality for social evolution and creativity derived from these three art forms is highly under-utilised in the UK today with calypso, steelpan and mas never having been combined holistically on the road.

A major issue arising from the conference was the rapid decline of grant support, which is leading to deterioration standards across these art forms. This was vividly evident when Nostalgia Steelband, conference hosts, announced that their second application to the Arts Council England was refused on the eve of the meeting which left the financial responsibility purely on shoulders of the steelband. These preliminary observations set the tone of this two-day conference.

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