When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

by Martin Daly

(published with the expressed permission of the author - Martin Daly (pictured))

EVERYTHING is set for a thrilling indigenous musical contest at next Saturday’s Panorama Finals and I open this column with an appeal to anyone who loves pan and our country’s youth to put aside their bad experiences with previous ridiculously lengthy Panorama Finals and attend the event.

This appeal is made because we may be at a new beginning of reconnecting pan to appreciative paying audiences. This new beginning is possible because Saturday’s finals will comprise large bands only. If properly run, the finals should finish at 11 pm, exclusive of the announcement of results.

The contestants include five previous winners: Desperadoes – 11 wins, Renegades – 11 wins, Trinidad All Stars – ten wins, Phase II – seven wins and Exodus – four wins. In addition, Renegades accomplished a hat trick in the mid 1990s and are positioned to accomplish another hat trick if they win this year.

A cursory look at the distribution of wins yields further anticipated excitement: will one of the two with 11 victories forge ahead in the winners’ tally or will All Stars join them at 11 wins? Will Phase II, having returned to the choice of an “own tune”, successfully challenge the recent dominance of popular air play music of composers other than the band arranger himself? In Phase II’s case, the renowned “Boogsie” Sharpe has been successful many times with his own tune.

Topping the tension may be the determination of all others to get in the way of another Renegades hat trick.

The other six contestants, who have not yet won, all have significant pedigree and musical accomplishments, but may be disadvantaged by a static judges’ panel and “formula” judging tastes, a topic for separate discussion and reform.

Nevertheless, this is the Premier League of pan and an opportunity to rediscover the thrills of the contests of old and to be part of the energy of the crowd, often said to be the 12th man of a football team.

These finals are something peaceful and positive to cheer for, to lend presence and to give renewed validation to the talent and discipline of many persons unjustly on the margin of society.

Let’s show Pan Trinbago that it is taking the right way back out of the muck of mishandling taxpayers’ funds with Government complicity. Give it the courage to make further reforms in the governance of pan.

Of course, this opportunity for shared glory between contestants and citizens depends on the event being properly run. Today I intend to be in Tobago to see what is made of the opportunity to keep the medium band finals crisp and begin the obvious linkage with Tobago tourism.

I hope not to see a late start accompanied by self-aggrandising speeches from ministers and other officials.

Let the people’s music flow and speak for itself. Gallery from the bands is also on the verge of becoming excessive and is demeaning of the music. Is this what is meant by “presentation”?

Change-over from band to band longer than ten minutes also drags a show down. Three bands per hour to include both playing time and set-up time seems a reasonable operational standard. This was more or less accomplished at the semi-finals last Sunday and we should not slip back into the time does not matter mode.

My closest pan compere says that a discussion of Panorama is not complete without a review of whether the concentration on Panorama at Carnival time has hurt the steelband movement in other ways.

We have been joyful All Stars sailors on many a Carnival Tuesday, this compere for decades longer than me. As other steelbands have dropped out of mas, I see some of their faithful present and embraced in All Stars. In my view, the concept of prime bands in prime time must also mean more steelbands on the road, but the question is how do we get more steelbands back on the road on a Carnival Day?

The problem for steelbands on the road is the control of the routes by juggernaut trucks and the noise levels on the routes. Recommendations for better facilitation of steelband on the road also require separate consideration.

About the author, Martin Daly

Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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This appeal is made because we may be at a new beginning of reconnecting pan to appreciative paying audiences. This new beginning is possible because Saturday’s finals will comprise large bands only.

Thank you Madam President!

Panorama Night

Panorama Night

Martin Daly why complain of juggernaut trucks? The steel-bands are doing the same for years. You and so many keep saying you need more steel-bands on the road, for heaven's sake you cannot find a  steel-band on the road on carnival days. All the steel-bands are on trucks.


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