Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
The large bikini Mas bands have abandoned the Savanah for the Socadrome. The greatest steel orchestras in the world are playing to an empty Grand Stands at 3:00 am in the morning. And the streets of Port of Spain as Mr. Rubadiri Victor showed are empty on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Maybe this is truly an opportunity for the steelband to go back on the road.
In his excellent analysis, Mr. Davis raised an important point that I must admit I had not fully explored in my thoughts on this subject.
That is the role that financial compensation ,or lack , thereof played in the diminished presence of steelbands on the road on carnival day.
This is very important and should not be overlooked , since that was the reason for the steelband strike of 1979.
This will be one of the things to consider if steelbands are to again have an important role in the carnival parade.
I would suggest , in the interest of culture , tourism etc. , that just as government funds have been used as an enabler to divert steelbands from focusing on the street parade, and to concentrate instead on the Panorama , so could funds be used instead , in a constructive way, to facilitate the return of those bands to the streets.
After all , doesn't everyone in T&T benefit from the influx of tourist dollars based on Trinidad's historic image as the land of steelband and calypso ?
the problem is NOT BEING SAID....we all know it but if said it disturbs people ,hurt some, scares some ....we are the problems ...........take time to analyze this statement .......(don't shoot the messenger.)
Steelbands took themselves off the road. Steelbands also decided to put pan on truck and I believe many community supporters don't care for it. The roads are always always open for steelbands to perform on carnival days. Driving around a truck all day with pans and players attached, with no community supporters on the ground looks very stupid. Hence the reason for their carnival days absence.
The amazing thing is that many of us, including some pan people , never seemed to recognize or acknowledge the fact that the steelband was the most distinguishing feature of Trinidad's carnival parade, when the carnival was seen as the best in the world.
Which is why , just about all calypsos sung about carnival in those days mentioned "jumping up in a steelband' , even years after that was actually the case.
I know Machel had a popular tune about jumping up behind a "Big Truck" but somehow , this doesn't have the same vibe.
That steelband /carnival connection is the thing that is broken , and there's no fix without somehow restoring that connection.
Carnival like Panorama is run by an oligarchy. Notice in the past 30 plus years there has been only three presidents of Pan Trinbago, Owen Serrette, Patrick Arnold and Keith Diaz. Arnold became head of NCC after he left Pan Trinbago, Owen Serrette has been a paid consultant to NCC in recent years (I am sure about 2013). Further, there are individuals like Richard Forteau, who has held different positions on the Pan Trinbago executive over the past 30 years, Melvin Bryant, who has been serving as “advisor” to Pan Trinbago for several years, and the list goes on and on. Time to break up the oligarchy!!
It's about time. They should also be investigated.
Oligarcies develop when there is no challenge, or rather no credible, sustainable challenge to ruling powers.
Challenge requires effort, time strategy and planning, for the battle and for reforming and running the organisation when the battle has been won.
Don't blame those in power for remaining in their comfort zones. It is the lack of challengers that keeps them there.
I Said it before and will Say it again. The Steel bands are the only People to remove Keith Diaz and His Cronies at Pantrinbago Democratically. They don't have the Guts to do it, and Pantrinbago knows this and is not worried. We can Huff and Puff until We get Blue in the Face. Nothing will ever Happen if the Pan People don't Make a Stand. According to Sparrow. ''They Like it So.
TIME TO FIX OUR CARNIVAL
By Ruthven A. Davis
In my post A TIME FOR CHANGE I discussed the negative impact of PANORAMA on carnival and emphasized the point that PANORAMA should be moved to some other time of the year. In this post I will discuss how to improve our carnival, more precisely how we go about putting ‘carnival music’ and real ‘mas’ back in carnival.
Trini people know what is ‘mas’ and they expect something of substance in every carnival band even if it is based on fantasy. I could remember when John Humphrey brought the band ‘Snow Kingdom’ and he had a section for each color of the rainbow, (or the color spectrum). The spectators began to voice their opinion saying to one another; “He’s playing Snow Kingdom how he could use those colors?” Well by the end of the day most spectators had come to the understanding that snow is not really white but that it reflect the full color spectrum and thus appears to be white. Of course, they then applauded his creativity, his authenticity and his originality.
These are the qualities of a true carnival bandleader. Carnival bandleaders have to be true to their production and to the people. In the mind of the carnival bandleader authenticity and originality are of primary importance and all costumes design is based on this fact.
Now It had always been known among carnival bandleaders that in order to attract women to ‘play mas,’ skimpy costumes had to be included as part of the band. Although this sometimes presented a challenge, the bandleaders handled it well. They made sure that skimpy costumes fitted into their theme and everyone was happy.
With the exportation of carnival, foreigners perceived Trinidad Carnival as a large street party and nothing else. They came in droves to dress themselves in those skimpy costumes and parade on the streets of Port of Spain. It did not take long before enterprising individuals realized that they can produce bands with only skimpy costumes that were a bikini, sequins and feathers put together, and neither creativity, nor authenticity nor originality mattered. Their only goal was to make M-O-N-E Y. These enterprising individuals were not of the group of bandleaders that possessed the qualities I previously mentioned. I will hereafter refer to these enterprising individuals as ‘the bandits’
Foreigners came in droves to ‘play mas’ with the bandits. The true carnival bandleaders, those who subjected themselves to authenticity and originality, were forced to quit carnival for two reasons; 1) They could not get the number of people to make their band profitable because (female) masqueraders went where there was variety of skimpy costumes. Men obviously went where the ladies were. 2) To the true bandleaders it was not a matter of ‘if you can’t beat them then join them’. The true bandleaders loved their craft. Consequently the quality of our carnival has since been held hostage by these bandits as the true bandleaders quit carnival one by one, year after year.
Although the ‘bikini, sequins and feathers’ presentations of the bandits grew in popularity, the true bandleaders continued to win the ‘band of the year’ title because they played ‘mas’ - real ‘mas’. When carnival bandleader Brian Mac Farlane announced his retirement from carnival, he may have expressed a common sentiment among bandleaders. In an article entitled ‘McFarlane Quits Mas’ which was published in the Trinidad Express Newspaper dated November 12, 2012. Mr.Mc Farlane said;
“Carnival is becoming more of a huge, fantastic street party—and nothing is wrong with that, it's just that for me: what I'm looking for, what I feel, what I want is to be creative in the art of Carnival—and that's what's missing, that's what's diminishing….”
It is not surprising that Trinidad All Stars were ‘Band of the Year’ winners for the last two years. The quality of our Carnival has diminished to such a point, but after all Trini people know their ‘mas’. This is not to belittle Trinidad All Stars. This is one of the greatest steel bands in Trinidad and Tobago and these are some of the things that make the band as great as it is:
● They have the largest and perhaps the most loyal fan base.
● They have about the most loyal players.
● They maintain a repertoire of music that allows them to be one of the top steel bands on the road
● Every year they play a very simple ‘mas’; sailor mas. But they play real ‘mas’ because each year they
use a different theme and their creativity, authenticity and originality stand out.
It is time to get rid of the bandits and allow our carnival bandleaders to demonstrate their creativity. Getting the steel bands back on the road is essential. However, this will require that the powers that be subsidize the steel bands as well as provide preferential treatment to steel bands over DJ’s. Here are some suggestions:
■ Steel bands that ‘bring mas’ or a carnival bandleader using a steel band does not pay a fee to register
■ Bands using DJ’s will pay a surcharge on the trucks to use the road on carnival day.
■ Steel bands that produce a carnival band will be a paid direct subsidy to cover the compensation of
players and transportation costs.
To those who say “That is unfair to the DJ’s!” I must let you know that B-I-G M-O-N-E-Y is passing through the hands of those bandits and we really want to save our carnival. We must not expect the powers that be to subsidize the steel bands and not recover their money somewhere. The bandits are the obvious target. You take from the rich and give to the poor. Moreover, let us take a look at how things are done in Brazil. The following text is taken from an article entitle “Brazil Carnival 2012:” that was published in the International Business Times dated February 20, 2012.
There's big money involved in creating these roving dance parades, as well as big money to be made. The city relies heavily on attractive showings to draw people from all around the world. In fact, it relies on them so much that a portion of the funding for each of the samba schools comes from government grants and subsidies.
The Brazilian press reported that each of the special-group samba schools was given one million reals ($582,000) by the Rio city council this year and a further 400,000 reals ($233,000) from the state government to ensure the best showing possible. The money is used to fund the creation of costumes and floats, as well as pay the salaries of the dancers involved.
It is important to note that prize money, appearance fees, and transportation reimbursements given to steel bands for PANORAMA runs well over $2M. Now, if a subsidy of $50K is paid to each steel band that produces a carnival band then 40-50 steel bands can be supported and major problems with our carnival can be directly addressed.
In Trinidad and Tobago a carnival band is equivalent to a Brazilian samba school. The calypso and the steel band combine to provide one of the unique elements of the carnival celebration; 'carnival music' which is equivalent to the ‘samba’ in the Brazilian carnival. The calypso as part of carnival brings rhythm and lavway with catchy lyrics that the steel bands quickly learn and play on the road for the people to ‘play mas' and 'jump up' singing a chorus as they go. It is like a ‘samba song’ being played by a ‘samba band’. The other unique element in our carnival is 'mas' which is a presentation by groups of costumed individuals whose costumes are designed on a theme. The quality of a presentation is not just the use of color or size of the group but the creativity, authenticity and originality in the design of the costumes. This is what carnival is all about. It is an expression of our culture.
How sweet it would be, if the powers that be dedicated J’Ouvert to steel bands; only pan on de road - no DJ’s. Yes, just ‘traditional mas’ and ‘sweet pan’ all over the place. Ah tell yuh, “Sugar George go be smilin’ whey ever he dey”.
The ‘carnival music' can be fully experienced only during the actual carnival; on the streets and on the BIG STAGE during carnival Monday and Tuesday when the elements of our carnival, ‘carnival music’ and ‘mas’, come together. This is when judges determine among other things
● The best playing steel band
● The road march
● Best costumed band (in each category)
● Band of the year
● J’Ouvert band of the year
Understandably, ' carnival music' cannot be created nor actualized by DJ's on the BIG TRUCK and such does not provide a full expression of our culture. It is time to put ‘carnival music’ and real ‘mas’ back into carnival. It is TIME TO FIX OUR CARNIVAL
First there has to be people with vision in the positions to make decisions. not the ministers and their hangers-on.
Then we have to have the vision implemented so we have to get rid of the corruption that puts the money in the pockets of some and leaves the rest to 'jump high'.
Third 'do something for pan' so that it's marginalized at carnival, after all was always part of carnival until the DJs took over, with our permission.
If after all these years a simple thing like a route can't be decided on with input from the stakeholders, how can we proceed forward?
The problems with carnival are so easy to get rid of it's a shame that those in charge can't see past their noses and big heads.
Congestion on Tuesday: have Monday for small and medium bands and individuals with Tuesday reserved for large bands. Bands that don't want to compete, give them a separate route like around Nelson Mandela/George V park, so they can party all day/night.
Greens messing with panorama: have a greens party on another day/night. Why it have to be at panorama? Greens patrons not interested in pan so why confuse the two.
Stop sponsoring private promoters and use the money for increasing participation in public events especially those that promote and sustain the traditional carnival spirit.
Can't get the pan on the road: put pan on stage at strategic points along the parade routs. Pay the pan players to play there and have the DJ trucks shut down every time they pass a playing panside. In other words, reverse the trend.
This last one is a hard sell but desperate times call for desperate measures.
the pan pushers need to be paid the same as the pan players.