When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

Hello to everyone in When Steel Talks,

I posted a discussion on the forum a couple months ago, asking for help with finding people to meet during my first trip to Trinidad and Tobago. I have studied the history and culture of Trinidad, and specifically the steelband movement, for around six years now. I fell in love with the pan my first year at Indiana University, where I played in the steelband for five years. Since graduating, I co-founded the Indiana Steel Pan Association to represent and serve the pan community in my state. I am really driven to keep the history and culture intact in the pan scene in America, and I want to do everything I can to make sure pan "grows up" right in my state.

Finally, after all my research and studying, I'm making my first pilgrimage to the Mecca of Pan, Trinidad and Tobago. I'm going to be playing with Starlift in this year's Panorama, but I'll also be meeting people to learn first hand about history and cultural things. When Steel Talks has asked me to do daily reports on my experiences while I'm down here. I feel this is a major step in my pan life, and while I'm here I will be working very hard to be able to learn and grow as much as I can. After all, there is an entire pan community that will benefit from any lessons, knowledge, or networking I can bring home with me! Hopefully some of this proves helpful or interesting, and I welcome any suggestions for topics and or things to include in my trip.

Thanks for the people who are supporting me down here and at home, and for everyone who follows this discussion!

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I HAVE ENJOYED YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH YOU.VERY HAPPY YOU HAVE WRITTEN THIS EXPERIENCE FOR ALL TO READ AND AS A TRINIDADIAN I HAD A CHANCE TO ONCE AGAIN RELIVE MY PAST YOUNG DAYS IN TRINIDAD IN MY OLD AGE THROUGH YOUR EYES--EXCELLENT--THANK YOU--"BANDIT" 

Ok so you all know the topic of this post... FINALS

I have to admit, it was different than I expected in a number of ways, and it was very different from Semis. First of all, I saw no other bands perform except the medium groups that were rehearsing in the savannah when I got there earlier in the afternoon. There was a lot of excitement in the band when we set up to rehearse in a car park by Pan Trinbago's North Zone office. The uniforms were really well done and personally gave me extra motivation, excitement and energy. We rehearsed, we ate, we had a pep talk/ band prayer, and everything seemed very well. Tensions and stress levels rose during the process of moving racks, fueled by confusion, the heat, and etc. When we reached the stage it felt just like semis, with everyone taking pictures, chipping to the tune, and generally feeling good vibes. I was happy to share a rack with some of my good friends from the band: Zig, Josana, Amber, Kai, BO, Salah Wilson, and the others whom I can't recall (my appologies).

I won't talk much about our performance other than to say I felt like Starlift brought a lot of energy to an incredible arrangement, and ultimately showed a drive and spirit that I think has been less evident in the band's recent years. The fact that Starlift was able to make it to finals and compete as the smallest of the large bands, and also the only unsponsored large band, speaks wonders of Liam's arrangement. I hope Liam and Starlift can continue to build a musical relationship in the future (and that I can be a part of it...)

There was one section that really didn't go well for me... It was a new section that was pretty technical, and the tempo rushed just enough that my mind struggled to find a balance between the different tempos. Then ... I lost it... For what ever reason my hands just stopped as I lost the timing, and what's worse - I wasn't the only one. I heard this hole where one of the most exciting parts of the tune was supposed to be, and my heart sank. I knew the band had lost hope of a first place finish right then. The tune was faster than we had taken it in rehearsals, but it felt comfortable all the way up to that point, and it felt fine right after and all the way up to the ending. That one spot though, that one mistake, ate at me for a long time last night (and is still affecting me somewhat). Eventually I was able to shake my fixation on the negative moment and appreciate the rest of the performanc - and the incredible experience it was to play on the Big Stage. (One area that was way better than Semis was the fact that we actually played to an audience last night!) I am very proud of the group and will remember that night for the rest of my life!

I have to say congratulations to All Stars, and as disappointed I was that Starlift didn't win (of course I was routing for us), I am happy for my friends in All Stars, as well as the members that I didn't get a chance to meet. Congratulations should be given to all of the medium and large bands that played last night, not just the winners!

Also, for those that haven't seen it, the Savannah's Carnival Village has some excellent cultural booths. I checked out Pan Trinbago's booth, and learned a lot about tassa in the East Indian booth right next to it. Plus there are some pretty great food vendors (including a pretty awesome punch stand).

I am going to play for J'Ouvert with Starlift, which I will be leaving for in about 2 hours, so I will leave the post here in order to get a couple of hours of sleep. I am excited to see my first J'Ouvert, but I am not sure what exactly to expect... With that in mind, until next time

Life for Pan

(PS can anyone help me find a video of Starlift's semi final performance from this year?)

Hi Eric,

It was also a great pleasure to meet you and to participate with Sarlift this year. when I returned to Trinidad for the season it was not really in my plans but after speaking with Liam, I am gald that I did and made some good friends in the process. Concerning the Final performance of Starlift, I aired my suggestion to Liam concerning the Adrenalin rush that always occurs on the Big Stage and why the Tempo had to be in total control from the start.......in the end that is how a Panorama goes . nevertheless the band did well and it was a very good arrangement from Liam. I hope that Starlift gives him another shot next year. Greetings to my friend Marshall.......Eric hope you enjoy your first Jourvert experience...I will check for Starlift on Carnival Tuesday

Salah

Incidentally Eric I will bring some additional Steelpan Text Book just in case anyone else is interested

Salah

Hi Eric,

I  came into POS on Carnival Tuesday around 4:00pm and tried to find Starlift, tried contacting my friend Marshall .Just could not find the band ...returned home......so please contact me to see what is possible before you leave 778-4820

Regards

Salah

If the last 5 years is anything to go by, they may have started out at roxy R'about at midday-ish so at 4:00p.m. you'd be lucky if they got as far as the ice factory.

A band which is heaviliy populated with over 50s like me doesn't move too fast on carnival tuesday.

Ha Ha

Hello everyone,

I am sorry I haven't posted anything since finals, but between Carnival, enjoying my last day in Trinidad, and leaving, I havent had time! Even though these are late, I'd like to share my Carnival experiences in this discussion, so thanks for sticking with me!

I played on the road with Starlift for J'Ouvert, Carnival Monday and Tuesday, and what an incredible series of experiences!! I have never seen anything like Carnival in my life! An entire city partying over the course of two days (really three though)... It's something that I think needs to be seen and experienced to really understand! There is much to talk about, so I'll start with J'Ouvert.

J'Ouvert was nuts! Pure craziness... Walking from my friend's house at 3:15am to find Starlift's pan truck, there were already (still is more likely) people partying in the streets, waiting for their bands to assemble. While we loaded up the pans, people were walking by with a wide range of dress: some in shorts and t-shirts, some in old tattered clothes, some looking like they were... well, more nightly types... Men in dresses, people covered in metallic silver paint, groups of people running up and down the street chanting and randomly screaming... Around 3:30 the bands really started to assemble and by 3:50 the streets were flooded with sound trucks and their hordes of chipping, wining and paint-smearing revelers. 

I have to be honest and talk about the one negative thing I experienced. A few minutes after we started playing down the avenue, there was a huge fight, which ended in a rum bottle being smashed against someone's head and bottles being hurled around, one of which unintentionally hit the trailer and sent pieces into the pans. Nobody in Starlift got hurt, it had nothing to do with us, but it was the first time I was legitimately scared (this fight went on a good while, and happened practically right below my pan...) For potential first-timers playing J'Ouvert in the future, just be aware of your surroundings and go with people you know. There are plenty of police out, and it is telling that this was the only negative thing I saw all of Carnival...

Anyway, after that we proceeded down Park Street heading towards Victoria Square. There was a traditional mas band in front of us with a steelband I couldn't identify. I saw all kinds of characters: huge ornate costumes, moko jumbies, Bookmen, dragons, Dame Lorraine, a couple devils, and a really great bat (with extending wings and everything!) As we were approaching Pan Trinbago's bomb competition, Renegades jumped in front of us, which was cool for the Renegades fan in me. Because we didn't prepare a Bomb tune, we played one of our road tunes just for kicks ("I Feel Like Dancing"). I was excited to see Hugh Borde as one of the judges!

One of the greatest things I saw throughout Carnival, but particularly during J'Ouvert, was the love and respect for pan that people showed. Whenever we approached a DJ truck, they turned off their music so we could be heard, and many of them gave the band a shout-out to the crowd. Without a second thought, the people in the crowd and passing by would jump up, throw their hands in the air, chip, wine, and sing along to the tune. I loved seeing people (particularly young people) look up at the band and react like we were the best music they had heard all morning! It was also cool to see people playing along with random metal objects and cowbells they brought with them. What is even more incredible is they all played in time and sounded really good!

J'Ouvert was like nothing I have ever seen... Sailors, devils, cross dressers, people covered in mud, people covered in paint, all in the streets drinking and having a good time. People of all shapes, sizes, colors- everyone was in the street together, acting out together and enjoying the DJs, rhythm sections and steelbands together. By the end of the morning there was paint all over the roads, people were slowly drinking and dancing back where they came from... I could feel the energy was still there though - the show wasn't over, everyone was just doing a costume change... As a friend drove me back home, we passed through a band of young people that, um... took wining in the street to the next level, shall we say. My friend turned to me and said, "And you know, come Wednesday these people will act like nothing ever happened!" I about died laughing!

Before J'Ouvert I had an hour of sleep. I got home and had about 20 minutes of sleep before I had to head out for Act II: Carnival Monday! I don't want to make this post too unbearably long, so I will stop here and write a separate one for Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Thanks again to everyone who has been reading this post, and I hope you will stick with me for these last posts! Until tomorrow,

Life for Pan

LOL! Great commentary dude; you put the reader smack in the middle of the action. Bring on the next chapter, please! :-)

Thanks for the memories!! I won't miss your next posts.

Cecl Louis

Hey Eric,

Nice piece,all I can say is "just another day in paradise".Looking forward to more of your posts.

Rod.

great stuff eric this brings me back to the old days it was a pleasure following you for the whole carnival season good job we hope to see you with the other post  thanks *******

Hi Eric,

Fantastic! Am happy that you survived it all with one negative incident when there shouldv been none, but all-in-all, you look forward to 2012 a better prepared pannist bringing an army of people with you.

I look forward to reading up on "Carnival Monday and Tuesday".

Ooops!...that's what we did on j'ouvert morning: "jumped in front of you guys"? Sorry on behalf of!

And can you imagine some "Trinis" have never exprienced j'ouvert, or Carnival on a whole? So kudos to you!

My 3-year computer decided to act up last week (5 keys sticking) making writing a task instead of a joy. A new one is in train for this week, however, so writing, in a big way, will be back on the front burner.

Caio!

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