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Meet Aquil Arrindell Musician, Educator & Pan Activist - UpClose!

On separating himself from the former executive board of Pan Trinbago  "..if there was a fight between the players and the executive then as an executive member I would be standing on the wrong side. I am a player before anything else. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life"...  - Aquil Arrindell says

Aquil Arrindell is confident that his relentless fight and actions as they relate to bringing fairness and fair play to the steelband community in Trinidad and Tobago will land him on the right side of history.  Buoyed by his own sense of right and wrong and with his principles as his guide, Aquil says he is committed to making that positive difference in the lives of the panists in Trinidad and Tobago.

He was one of the central figures in the recent upheaval and re-make of the Trinidad and Tobago embattled steelband governing organization Pan Trinbago. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - panist, administrator, educator and steelpan advocate - Aquil Arrindell tells it as he sees it and lets the chips fall where ever they may.

WST - “You are an excellent musician, panist and dedicated educator - but increasingly your time has been spent as an advocate for the rights of the pan players. Are pan players being abused through the current band/player relationship? What role, if any, should Pan Trinbago play in negotiating such relationships?”

Aquil A. - “I have dreamed of being a musician who could pay all my bills comfortably. I have realized that dream. I am trying to give others that opportunity. I often tell parents ‘yes’ to the academics, but give me this child and I will make him a musician. I will make him a panist like me. However, the people you are selling a dream to, have to see the dream living out in front of them. Therefore, the pan man has to be a symbol of something respectable. We can’t have an organization that continuously disrespects pan people. We can’t have our leaders referring to pan people as ‘hustlers’ in public because it will be that I am asking a parent to give me their child to make them - a hustler, and for what, TT$500.00?

“There was this one time the representative from Siparia Deltones stated at a general meeting, “The fish does rotten from the head” and he was spot on. The biggest hustlers in Pan Trinbago usually come from the executive, who are predominantly bandleaders chosen by bandleaders. I am saying none of them have the moral authority to call the players ‘hustlers’ because they all contact players to come play for them. Then after acquiring the players’ services, talk ill of the said players because bandleaders are of the view that players should not charge, they should ‘play for the love.’ I know other instrumentalists play for as many bands that they can handle and we refer to them as professionals. Why is it different for the panist? We have a new executive and I am glad they are trying to change that hustling culture but they need to start with the big fish, and show the players of the national instrument some respect.”

WST - “Isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest, having an organization like Pan Trinbago representing both players, and the steel orchestras?”

Aquil on the picket line
Aquil (left) on the picket line with fellow protesters

Aquil A. - “It can be. But what constitutes a steel band? Is it two band leaders and some pans? Or is it pans? Probably just two band leaders? No, a band must consist of players. According to Pan Trinbago’s constitution, the players must be registered with a band and the players must pay dues every year. Most of the time bands pay the dues for players because if the band doesn’t have a minimum number of players names to pay for, they would not be considered to be a band. Therefore, if Pan Trinbago is collecting dues every year from players, then what level of representation should the players get for the dues that they are paying annually? So technically, Pan Trinbago’s membership is not the two [band] delegates that come to their meetings. They are all the players and the two delegates are sent to represent their views on their behalf. Pan Trinbago’s membership is the pans and the persons who play those instruments so then they must represent players.”

WST - “It is no secret that you and others like Gregory Lindsay and Dane Gulston were instrumental with your “taking it to the streets and internet” movement - on behalf of a better pan environment - in ushering in a new climate of hope and high expectations for the future. Therefore - are you concerned about the way things have begun for the new administration?”

Aquil A. - “Well of course I am.

“We have fought for players for over 2 years and it is heartbreaking that my fellow CIP members are now sitting in executive positions and singing a different tune. I am still hoping that I am not hearing right, and I can wake up any morning and hear that the executive has re-thought their decision and would show Trinidad and Tobago that the value they put on players is way more than TT$500.00, or the now proposed $0. It is sad to see that every debt owed by Pan Trinbago, the new executive intends to pay in time - but pan players’ debt, they say that it’s dead and they are not paying it. But CIP members have learnt to disagree with each other without being disagreeable. So, although we are on different sides of the debate, we will still knock a glass from time to time without any malice.”

WST - “Your most recent document “Cut the prize money and pay the players,” takes on the whole Trinidad and Tobago pan movement in a call for fairness to Pan players, by spreading the pain around equally. In this regard, although you have remained publicly supportive of the new administration - are you prepared to return to the battlefield on behalf of the players? Even if it may mean holding to account your current colleagues?”

Aquil A. - “One of the hardest things I had to do, was to publicly criticize Mr. Diaz and Mr. [Richard] Forteau mainly because, as I said before, they treated me as a son. But I still did what I had to do because it was not ever about me, it was way bigger than that, it was about pan progress. So to answer your question, yes, I will. However, I need to see more involvement from players in seeking their best interest. I keep reminding players that I have no TT$500.00 cheque to collect after Panorama. I am an arranger.”

WST - “In a recent article it was rumored that President Beverley Ramsey-Moore was seeking a meeting with the former president of Pan Trinbago Keith Diaz, to essentially figure out where monies controlled by his administration have disappeared to. Should those monies be chalked up as a loss? Do you believe there may be grounds for criminal charges, and if so, should they be pursued?”

Aquil A. - “That statement is just a political statement from a good politician. Nobody in this country makes it to jail for stealing money through fraudulent activity in government-funded organizations. A little pressure was directed to the president and she decided to deflect it on to the former president. That’s all.”

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Aquil A. - “That statement is just a political statement from a good politician [Beverley Ramsey-Moore]. Nobody in this country makes it to jail for stealing money through fraudulent activity in government-funded organizations. A little pressure was directed to the president and she decided to deflect it on to the former president. That’s all.”

AND THAT'S THE TRUTH ... and all the people who are talking about locking up DIAZ either don't have a clue about TRINIDAD POLITICS or they come from Grenada on a boat. Or maybe they just BLUFFING like BEVERLEY.


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