Prof Copeland did not invent PHI
By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, July 14 2011
THE idea of an electronic steel-pan was developed in 1994, said pan pioneer Garnet Broadbelt, who yesterday told Newsday he worked on such a project at York University, Toronto, Canada. He also rejected the notion that it was Prof Brian Copeland who pioneered this type of pan.
He spoke to Newsday days after Attorney-General Anand Ramlogan issued a pre-action protocol letter that asks engineer Prof Brian Copeland to concede the Government owns the rights to the Percussive Harmonic Instrument (PHI) which are presently being made and sold by Copeland’s firm, Panadigm Innovations Limited, of which former San Fernando West MP Junia Regrello is also a director.
Broadbelt said he had submitted a proposal for an electronic pan to Pan Trinbago in 1995, long before the PHI was launched in 2003.
Broadbelt is a past pupil of St Mary’s College, a former teacher at Belmont RC Primary School, a former policeman in TT and in Canada, a former columnist with the Toronto Star newspaper, and the father of a former Miss Black Canada. He did a combined degree, Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA), in Music and Anthropology, from 1989 to 1994, also serving as a paid assistant to the former head of the Music Department of York University, the late Prof . Steven Otto.
Broadbelt explained why an electronic pan was a good idea, saying it overcomes the normal steel-pan’s problems of being heavy, noisy and contains harmful chemicals, plus it needs to be tuned. He said his son had once suggested that an electronic pan was ideal for schools where pupils could practice quietly.
Broadbelt said a York University study had concluded that an electronic steel-pan could earn millions of dollars in sales. He said he had written a computer programme for the electronic pan, which he said could be played at alto, soprano or bass levels. Such a pan could be programmed with samples of tones from TT’s top tuners, whom he said, stood to earn huge royalties for their samples, which would exceed their income from tuning acoustic pans.
He said York University had declined to get involved with funding the production of electronic pans because the appropriation of a project from a developing country would be frowned upon in academic circles.
Broadbelt said he had returned to TT where he had impressed the then acting director of culture (Merle Albino De Couteau). He then presented the idea to Pan Trinbago. He said he had got a good response when this body was led by Owen Serrette, but said later on Serrette’s successor, Patrick Arnold, had favoured the acoustic over the electronic pan.
Broadbelt said Regrello had been present when he presented his idea for an electronic pan to the Pan Trinbago national executive. Rejecting any idea that Copeland had invented the electronic pan, Broadbelt said he himself has the right to be heard.
He said that in 1995, the Ministry of Culture had sent the matter to top attorneys, JD Sellier and Company, which had said the concept could be patented. Hailing Ramlogan’s recent move, he said, “The Attorney-General has opened the door to what we’ve been seeking”. He said the truth would come out.
Broadbelt said he had once made an agreement with an industrial lawyer (Sterling Belgrove) to seek out a firm in the Far East to come to TT to make electronic pans, but nothing had come of it.