When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

It's not an "Afro" thing , people. It's a "Trini" thing !

The steelpan belongs to Trinidadians , all Trinidadians.

We cannot on one hand refer to the instrument as our national instrument , and yet have it claimed by one ethnic group that makes up less than forty percent of the nation's population.
It is therefore extremely disturbing to me to see an argument made in support if the art-form purely based on racial identity.
Especially by the organization that seeks to represent all steelbands , everywhere.

This is extremely unproductive , and the worse sort of identity politics.
The major problems affecting the steelbands of Trinidad today are not problems of ethnicity or skin color , though historically class and race have been impediments to progress.
They are the struggles of an art-form that emerged from the poorest , least educated segments of our society , that is still trying to find itself, and its not easy.
And a large part of the blame lies in the fact that we've not yet fully learnt how to adequately and efficiently manage our affairs.
But in spite of all this , we have managed to make our mark , where the artform is recognized , studied and appreciated ,and the instruments played all over this planet.
As Trinidadians , we can be extremely proud of our creation,the steelpan .
But as Trinis , we all share in responsibility for its growth and survival , and therefore in the blame for its current stagnation , and all the blame (or credit )cannot go to one ethnic group.

True ,It came out of the urban areas of T&T , at a time when the majority of the Indian population were rural.
And , one cannot deny its African roots ( like most modern music- rock and roll , jazz , r&b, etc.)
Also , we know that Indian leaders have disparaged steelbands , and discouraged their youths from participation ( like middle class parents , back in the day).
I remember , though that the few non-Africans that lived in the neighborhoods were just as involved in the local steelband and its culture as anyone else , resulting in a number of significant contributors to the art-form.

And in my experience the panyards of T&T have always welcomed anyone who wanted to join ,and learn to play , even in the badjohn days.

The steelband is the most significant part of Trinidad's culture , with the most potential for contribution to the nation's tourist economy.

But it will take the involvement of all aspects of society , including the business sector.

Because the steelband is not an "Afro" thing.

It's a "Trini" thing.

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Notwithstanding the politics or race and the divisions of class, the truth remains that united we stand, divided we fall

'Nuff Respect Brother!!!

Andre: This is VERY COMPLEX ISSUE. I am sure that many of the readers and posters on THIS FORUM have figured out my political leanings at this point. But on this issue I am tempted to CHANGE BANKS and kindah go with the BLACK TING (Afro-Trini TING) on the grounds of FAIRNESS.

I am caught in a cross-wind on this issue -- even though all I talk about is ADMINISTRATIVE PROGRESS in PAN TRINBAGO. So like the ARTIST LADY say: we have to wait (and suffer) another generation or two for the INVENTORS to catch up to STANDARDS. That is just the way it is.

My politics mainly leans towards centre-left, so my aspirations are aligned with progressive-liberals.  I am of mixed ethnicity laced with an Afro, Indigenous and Euro heritage.  However my upbringing, born and raised in my native T&T islands while it's heavily influenced by many cultures, is predominantly Afro-Trini centric, so I hear where you are coming from.  While I accept the history of the origins of the art-form as predominantly and essentially Afro-Trini, I also am keenly aware of the notion that includes other ethno-cultural groups which have embraced and attached themselves, sparingly but increasingly, to the history of the Steelpan Movement, over the years.  The only way "we ting" can move on to higher heights is to have "all hands on board", Forward Ever, Backward Never for life is not a movie, it's the reality we live.  'Nuff Respect!!!

Nice passage!!! I like it!!!

But the Afro-Trinis do not have the global vision or the administrative skills or required disposition to MOVE PAN FORWARD in Trinidad. On the other hand, it is THEIR INVENTION. So you cannot uproot FORTEAU and SHEPPARD and DIAZ and JOSEPH from their seats in PAN TRINBAGO and replace them with Moonilal and Chin and Fernandes and Sabga -- that would be UNFAIR.

That is why I have to agree with the ARTIST LADY that we are TWO GENERATIONS away from waking up to PROGRESS IN THE ARTS.

My solution would be to form an ALTERNATIVE STEELBAND BODY (all races welcome) to focus on a GLOBAL APPROACH to making TRINIDAD relevant in the WORLD OF PAN.

Right now, Andy Narell and Ellie Mannette are working on some electronic PAN TONES that are going to lead to an explosion of popularity of PAN MUSIC around the world. These are projects that should have been hatched and developed by PAN TRINBAGO -- given all the MILLIONS that have passed through their hands and the PLATFORM FOR GLOBAL RECOGNITION that they have controlled for decades. Instead they sit there 41 million dollars in debt (and rising) still playing 'GIMME GIMME" with the GOVERNMENT and crying long tears because they fear that THE MARDI GRAS (Non-AfroTrinis) will come and take THE PAN from the AFRO-TRINIS who invented it but are incapable of taking it to the NEXT LEVEL.

The first phase was the invention (Afro-Trini Invention). The second phase was the global proliferation accomplished by EXPATS. And now the third phase is the RETURN ON THE INVESTMENT -- the business side of the invention.

I will say more about the politics under separate cover but regards to: Right now, Andy Narell and Ellie Mannette are working on some electronic PAN TONES that are going to lead to an explosion of popularity of PAN MUSIC around the world. >>
Does the project have to do with pick-up microphones or something else?
What is the delivery for the "pan tones", a keyboard or another steelpan-layout designed vehicle?

This was the man who led the steelband movement when it mattered most.

Personally, I do not subscribe to any notion that the only successful enterprises in T&T have been by ethno-cultural groups other than those of Afro-Trini ethnicity, if that's where your thoughts are leading to. In fact and to my knowledge, I am aware of many businesses and organizations that have been very successfully created and managed by Afro-Trinis, so if that's the bent, I categorically and unequivocally reject it. To name just a few who come to mind; Ken Gordon, Jack Warner, Cyril Duprey and there are many others.

However it begs the question, was the involvement (or lack thereof) of those whom you cited due to inclusion/exclusion of their own self-making or something else and if so on the part of which persons?

The socio-economical issue of poverty has much more to do with lack of equal and fair opportunity than anything else. Yes tribalism and tributism exists, but as part of the colonial legacy of the plantation society we are still shaking away the shackles of slavery from, even as the debates continue.

But if the freed slaves were given a good head start with measures such as these, as promised for reparations, maybe things might have developed differently, ent. We celebrate Emancipation Day in T&T, but many are still working to repair the shames of our colonial past.

David Rudder sang it right!


Yes!  Pan and it's development is "ah very Trini thing".  Consider  some of the earliest icons:

Anthony Williams (mix race, dougla)

Ellie Manette (multi mix race)

Hugh Borde (mix race,dougla)

Bobby Mohammed (Indian)

Junior Pouchet (mix race)

All these men and so many more, all Trini to the Bone.  Yes!  We know the "out of pain" history of Steelband. But we also know the truth,  So easy on de racial ting.

Afro Trini invent the pan and people should not try to water down that. It's not about race, just the truth....

Yes Cecil, Afro Trini invented the pan....then what? They also talk about the "first" nation in the world to "invent" Emancipation Day........so what ?........then what? We invented "PanTrinbago" too.


Like the man said - some people just can't handle the truth. LOL... I haven't heard anyone complain about who invented pan. Black folk invented pan. East Indians invented Roti, Europeans invented a 3D printed gun. And? 


Anyone remember this trini a “Portuguese creole” Albert Gomes champion of the Baptist and the Steelband Movement...doing something for Pan.

Very informative, odw. The end of the story validates some of my political bitterness towards the island. But in truth and in fact we need a few men like that RUNNING PAN TRINBAGO today.


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