Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
Hello once again WST Community!
Last year I made my first pilgrimage to the Mecca of Pan and had the opportunity to write about my experiences over the two month period I spent in Trinidad and my first Panorama. Since returning home I longed to return to Trinidad's shores and get back into the thick of things for the 2012 Panorama season. Unfortunately I was only allowed two weeks to make my pilgrimage this year, and so had to choose between playing for semis or finals. Though finals is the big night, I've never seen more pan in my life than at semis, so for the pan jumbie in me the choice was clear... Before I left, WST asked me to write about my experiences again this year to get a second-timer's perspective. Due to the short but sweet amount of time I had in Trinidad, I have waited to chronicle my return trip until now, when the snow and cold of Indiana makes the memories all the sweeter! I received many positive responses to my writing last year, and I hope you find these posts equally as helpful, interesting, or otherwise meaningful and entertaining. If there is something you would like me to talk about, please feel free to let me know, and in the meantime I thank you all for reading!
I flew in on January 26th and like last year I took the late flight into Port of Spain, though this year I felt way more confident about the whole thing. I knew my way around Piarco, and what's more, once I found my friend and got out of the airport it felt like I was picking up where I had left off last year, like I had barely been gone. Where I felt disoriented and lost last year driving around, this time I knew exactly where I was and, for the most part, where I was going. Funny enough, my first meal in Trinidad this year was also at KFC, which I thought was my ride's way of making fun of me last year! I was staying in Diego Martin, right by Merrytones' yard, with a friend of some of the people in Starlift - arrangements I had only solidified the night before (I had plenty time...)
The next day I got up and immediately went over to a little place that sold Rotis around the corner... I don't know if it is a case of "absence makes the heart grow fonder", but my first taste of Roti was just beautiful. Dhalpurie with chicken, chana, potato, pumpkin and pepper: oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is one example of why Trinidad has the best food in the world! After that I grabbed a maxi into town to make my way to Starlift's yard. Since I got there in the afternoon, it was almost like coming home from college but sneaking in the house and surprising your family. As more people arrived I got a really really nice "welcome home" feeling as I reunited with my friends and pan family from last year. When I went to grab a pan, I started looking around for one of the low C tenors from last year and found all but one of them, and each one was already spoken for (the last apparently had disappeared). To put this into context, I have eight years or so of low C tenor ingrained into my brain, and I only play a D on occasion (never playing Panorama music). Knowing that I had to translate the music and muscle memory I'd already memorized and train myself to learn on this new layout, I knew my time leading up to semis would be a lot more down-to-business than last year. With Prelims three days away, I knew I had work to do... Despite all that, when rehearsal began and the band played together I remembered how powerful a large Trini band is and what it's like really feel the pans playing. That night I had to struggle to take breaks from focusing on learning my pan and my parts in order to enjoy the music. I wasn't always successful, but I tried to keep this in mind throughout the rest of the trip.
My return back to Mecca started off with familiarity, confidence and a nice home-coming with my band. Though the next week was mostly spent in the yard, there were still some new experiences in store for me as well. I will leave off here for now, but in the next day or so I will write again with some of the more memorable moments of the days leading up to Prelims.
Life for Pan,
I'm glad you made it back. Sad that I won't be able to meet you as I will be in POS on Wednesday 15th.
Pity Starlift never made the cut but I'm glad you enjoyed yourself.
Ah Randi, one more reason I wish I was back in Trinidad now! Hopefully next year we'll meet up in Starlift's House of Music.
sad u had to eat kfc killing future children
Hey Eric, I was looking forward to hearing from you. I saw you on the night of prelims when they were hassling you all on stage. Just when I was wondering if you were here. I love reading your experiences here in sweet Trini.
Hello again WST,
My apologies for not writing sooner, but things have been really busy since I got back. Speaking of which, I learned a valuable lesson from my trip that I feel is important to share for anyone who may be considering a similar trip in the future. Although I loved my time in Trinidad this year, I will warn you that going to play for Panorama and leaving before Finals and Carnival is a recipe for some SERIOUS pan tabanca! All of my friends are talking about playing for different bands and all the things they are doing, I've gotten some "it's too bad you couldn't play with us this year" comments, I'm reading about Junior Panorama and Single/Small band Finals, seeing pictures and status updates from people still in the thick of it, but finally and worst of all, it's becoming more painfully real to me that I will be watching Medium and Large band Finals on the internet from home (though I thank the internet gods for a good feed in advance!) Next year I am going to state that my trip is a month-long religious pilgrimage so nobody can ask questions...
So back to where I left off: despite feeling like I had all this experience in Trinidad, I was introduced to a few things leading up to Prelims. First, I learned that there are very important but loosely defined hand signals for maxi drivers. In Deigo Martin I thought a driver was pointing and telling me to get in the front seat, which I thought was strange but did as he asked since it was his vehicle... It turns out, in Diego Martin that signal means the driver is making a "short" trip, so wanted to go only as far as the pharmacy down the street, not to Starlift's yard in Mucurapo. But, this same signal meant different things in different places too: I think people used it for Wrightson Road, downtown (from Barataria), etc. People tried to educate me on other hand signals, but essentially it seemed like people just pointed or made some hand gesture and told the driver where they were going. I basically decided to not worry about it, just hop in and adjust accordingly if I found out we weren't going where I expected.
The second new experience came after I got home from rehearsal and the young woman I was staying with asked if I wanted to go see a 3CANAL show in town. Merrytones was jamming a block away, and I wanted to go check out their rehearsal, but she convinced me to go with her anyway. Well as it turns out, the show was finished by the time we got there, but since she had gotten dressed up and such, she asked if I would go dancing with her for a bit. GULP. Now I've learned a little bit of salsa, swing and other kinds of dancing, but by no means am I the type of person who goes dancing regularly (or especially voluntarily...) It was an opportunity for a new experience in Trini culture, and if nothing else, I told myself it would be a good way to learn some new soca tunes. I am proud to say that I actually did pretty well despite being the only white guy in the room and sober (she agreed and seemed sincere anyway.)
The last thing I want to talk about is how awesome the presence of pan culture in Trinidad during Carnival time. No matter what time of day, you can find pan in some shape or form! The tuner for Merrytones worked in their yard a few mornings, during the middle of the day in Woodbrook you could go hear Fire Service killing it by the park, you could hear school groups in the early afternoon, and rehearsals and practicing bounces off buildings and echoes through the streets from evening to early morning. This all increases as you get closer to the competition days (and Carnival, though I won't be there to enjoy it myself this year), but I was able to appreciate it even before preliminaries.
Well, I intended to have most of this written before Finals, but here we are on the big night and I'm only two posts in. I will do my best to give everyone something to read when they're cooling off from Carnival at least! In the meantime, good luck to all the bands competing today! Judges, please do your best to listen to the music fairly and give credit where credit is due. I hope my band wins, I have a feeling I know how this year will play out, but I hope to feel good about the outcome at the end of the night!
For the Love of Pan,
I too am in Indy with pan Tabanca but I will be up tonight until the very end. For the first time in almost 40 years I will see my Panorama without having to lie about where I am.
I look forward to reading your account.
Hello Again WST,
Well folks, watching finals last night was bitter sweet in a lot of ways. On the one hand I got to see more of the competition than I would have as a player, but on the other hand I watched with the knowledge that I saw those bands in person just two weeks ago. I don't necessarily agree with some of the placements by the judges in both categories, but I would rather have played with almost any of the bands last night than watch it on a computer screen... I'm joking, kind of... I won't go into my thoughts and critiques, but at least the bands I liked did well (though not as well as they should have). Congrats to all the bands that competed last night anyway!
Now I want to take it back to two weeks ago for prelims. A few days before, I was practicing at the yard in the mid-afternoon when I realized I felt cold. It was cloudy, I thought maybe this was a sign I was becoming more Trinidadian... No, in fact this was a sign I had come down with something, and by the evening that something was hitting me pretty hard. Chills, headache, congestion, and feeling light headed began, and after a day or so of rest, fluids and punches of various fruit combinations (which is tasty way to get vitamins), I asked my friend Barry to take me to a pharmacy on his way to pick up his friend who had just flown in. Now for whatever reason, in Trinidadian pharmacies I apparently have no ability to judge the amount needed for whatever I'm looking for. After my ugly encounter with the Tobago sun last year, I came away with about two and a half bottles too many of aloe gel. I was directed to a flu/cold medicine called Panadol, with each box having about 48 hours worth of tablets. I hadn't gotten any better and I definitely didn't want to be sick during Semis, so I figured three boxes would do the trick. Let me assure anyone not familiar with Panadol that three boxes is too many: after sharing one box and leaving another behind, I still came home with an unopened box of the stuff.
Anyway, in addition to the sickness, this year was completely opposite of last year's prelims experience. Last year we went first, did not have a huge crowd, I had almost all of the music in my hands and head, and I got to see a number of bands afterwards. This year we went last, we had a huge crowd (including a number of friends and acquaintances I hadn't seen since last year), I had probably 65% of the tune solidly, and I did not get to see any other bands. I was one of three players out in front of the racks, which was both exciting and awkward. The band played with a lot of energy and I remember having fun performing for the crowd, but in terms of music it was pretty rough personally. This was really the first stage of my wrestling period with the tune and the layout that would last the next few days, but I was making progress at least...
I was also introduced to a new Trini dish! Some other players told me the band had some food for us in the back, which was a kind of green/brown, meat-looking-yet-oddly-vegetarian East Indian dish called Sahiena. I was told its made of Dasheen leaves, flour, split peas and other ingredients, but whatever it's made of it is delicious!
Now begins the week leading up to Semis, and my last week and a half in Trinidad. Over the next week I made some friends, tried some new food, finally got some real time seeing other bands, moved houses and made more and more progress in my struggle with the tune and the D pan. Since I would probably be arrested for celebrating J'Ouvert by myself in the neighborhood, I guess I'll have to experience the celebration and pan on the road in my dreams. I hope everyone has an amazing and safe J'Ouvert, Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
Life for Pan,