Put the Steelband back in the Carnival

Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - Columnist Michael Joseph shares his opinion about Trinidad and Tobago’s planned introduction of the People’s Band on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival 2011 as announced by that country’s Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters. Mr. Joseph expresses his concern that the steelband was left out of this venture.

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  • Thank you, Scobie for a thoughtful contribution to the discussion as to the future of pan in T&T .

    It would greatly benefit the steelband, the culture, and the Carnival if the steelband could be re-involved in the carnival in a significant way.

    For this to happen difficult decisions will have to be made, and things may have to be done differently to how we've traditionally, and may include "thinking outside the box".

    Bands will have to prepare a varied repertoire of tunes to keep the masqueraders happy. This may mean less of an emphasis on Panorama, as much as we love the competition.

    This is why I've been advocating moving the Panorama to another time of year, to allow the bands to focus fully on preparing for the road on Carnival day.

    I believe we touched on this issue a couple years ago when I was "down in the 'Bella"(as we used to say back in the day).

    You also expressed concern about the "dead panyards" after bands got knocked out of the Panorama.Having bands back on the road would take care of this issue.

    I believe these are issues that can and should be addressed by the steelband governing body AND the relevant government Ministry.
    • GRJ I whole heartedly agree with your sentiments.

      When I returned to Trinidad for carnival in 2005 having been away for 39 years, I was surprised to find that bands which were capable of getting on stage with over 100 players on panorama finals night were reduced to just a couple of tractor pulled racks on carnival Monday and Tuesday; perhaps as a result of financial restrictions, logistics and badly maintained roads. Although I accept that life had changed and pan pushers were as extinct as the dinosaur.
      The subsequent years 2006 -10 left me dumbfounded to the point of depression when Starlift's "House of Music" remained deserted for the vast majority of the time when they failed to reach the finals in 2008, 9 and 10.

      Back in the 60s this would not have happened. Or maybe it did and because Starlift were always in the finals I never bothered to check on the rest. However I don't think Casablanca and Syncopators were ever hampered by not getting to the finals. They still had their devoted followers and were able to take to the streets with enough tunes to keep them chipping

      Any self-respecting steelband would have a carnival repertois of at least 2 pop songs 4 calypsoes and 1 classic Bomb tune

      I remember having to learn at least 3 or 4 tunes to ensure I had a chance of playing on the road.

      These days Phase II, Invaders, Tokyo and dear I say Despers are also depleated in numbers once Panorama has passed. Only All Stars' presence with over 1000 sailor suited revellers reminded me I was in Trinidad Carnival.

      Perhaps Steelbands themselves need return to being mas bands for carnival and have their own productions to re-kindle the community's interest. Lets face it, that's what steelbands were, community flagships.

      I'm not saying there should not be progress, but I don't consider carnival without a heavy steelband presence progress.

      Randi S Curvan
  • I don't know why I thought I was the only one, I have been saying this for years. Let me add, If they (the powers that be) are too scared to ban the trucks then they should only be allowed to play recorded steelband music. But then I was always radical!

    Randi S Curvan
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