Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
Jouvert pan has been gone, what - how long?
Since 2003, when Starlift danced past a bonafide Bomb competition in tribute to Highlanders’ guru and acclaimed innovator Bertie Marshall - the contest held within stoning distance from Pan Trinbago, closer to Sacred Heart Girls' Roman Catholic School. So a sardine crowd packed Park Street.
It may’ve been a sacrilegious move by Starlift. Still and all, no wonder the Woodbrook band bypassed a Bomb contest that required steel orchestras to reprise jazzy but colourful Highlanders arrangements.
It’s safe to say that Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II hadn’t dared to dream of an adaptation on pan featuring “It’s a Grand Night For Singing” (from the movie “State Fair”) and "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ " (from “Oklahoma!”). Granted, the few millennial revellers may have found the sound “foreign,” but, by and large, quite a few at least sang the first line, and everybody la-la’ed the melodies.
The ‘Lift had sought an opportunity to blow apart the audience with the Bomb, and bold-faced so, they backed it up with style, briskly tearing through Park Street. To hell with the competition. We’ll take the crowd. The bombs, packaged like a double at Globe, or Royal, Pyramid, for sure, you got both songs in a one-two combination, Starlift making a raid for truth, what with newcomers gallivanting to the high music and simple lyrics: “Oh what a beautiful mornin’, Oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feelin’, Everything's going my way.”
Soon, the band reached the bridge.
The bridge served as the “hook,” dolled up as change key. So people get on, making a lot of antics and getting away with it.
I mean, the bridge hooked the crowd with a catchy combination of melody and rhythm. It would never leave the listener's head, because it took you straight to The Bomb, Part II: “It’s a grand night for singing, the moon is flying high, and somewhere a bird who is bound he'll be heard, is throwing his heart at the sky!”
Such lines may not have reached John Public that way, but fellas from the pit crew at the movies rolled the lyrics off their tongue like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
I think that we cannot continue to let things happen "just so".
The Carnival , the steelband and indeed the culture are crying for change , a sense of direction ,whjile we in the pan bubble continue to insist that Panorama is the be all and end all of the steelband, especially in T&T.
Some of us cannot even accept the fact that modern panorama music has little universal appeal since it is too complex for the casual fan, making it appealing only to hard core panorama fans.
Why do you think they created "the Greens"?
Lillian, much appreciation for the sentiments.
I was moved to write the piece, particularly after an encounter with Earl Lovelace on Park Street in 2012, when we stood there alone, wondering where the music was. I told him that I'd just left the empty Charlotte Street Bomb competition, held in from of Renegades' panyard, and was on the way to Victoria Square. Lovelace said he had just left Victoria Square and Pan was dead, so he was hustling down to Renegades. We stood there, like two birds on a branch, watching a city bereft of an old but exclusive culture that had gone moldy and sour. Lovelace decided right then and there he had better things to do at home , so off he went. I hustled to my car, drove to my apartment, packed and headed to the airport. Never to return, as Minshall would say (in a different context), "to that cemetery of lifelessness." Dalton Narine
As much as we love Panorama , Dalton , it has morphed into some type of succubus that sucks all the energy from the steelbands at Carnival time,and there is little left for J'ouvert , or the carnival parade.
Dalton, you are a griot. Thanks for those memories. I think carnival has outgrown the country. Always remember that we did our best and had the brightest in a colony that lasted until 1962. While you and others have progressive ideas, this generation is not interested because they want to create their own memories. History always move forward and never backward. I am grateful to be born and raised in a time when community meant family. You supported your community steelband and felt happy to push their pans. I remember fighting with my pardner Rupert (Horse) woman to push his pan jouvert morning. She and I still talk about that to this day. It was a joy to see panists play their instruments. Every steelband had a panist or panists who demonstrated their skills on the pan. Despers had Cazabon, Synco had Knolly Shine, Kelvin Hart and Boots, Allstars had Rupoert, Spoongy and Shoreland, Joyland had Tash, GungaDin (before they joined Despers and Ju-C and Invaders had Jack, Moutha Be and Zephryn. Things change because nothing stands still if you don't prepare your next generation. We took it for granted and did not prepare the young ones to continue the traditions. Jouvert has been transformed to meet the changes in the country.
Syncopators: What a representative response! Much appreciation for writing, You touched every nerve, it seems.
What I took away from your gut reaction was the line, " Things change because nothing stands still if you don't prepare your next generation. We took it for granted and did not prepare the young ones to continue the traditions."
Well articulated, sir. I wholeheartedly agree, though I'll toss into the callaloo the lack of incentive from sponsors to panists; a truly democratic competition spread among small, mediun and large bands and, of course, the Carnival body's insensitivity toward this eclectic art form. Simply re-arrange the DJs' route around the Savannah and leave Carnival Monday from dawn to midnight to Pan. Dalton
So, Dalton: With all your accomplishments and influence -- how come your voice is not heard by the authorities?
Claude, thanks for inquiring. The best I can say is that I'm considered a "foreign." Also, I call a spade a spade. I mean, I write about the Greens, the archaic lighting on stage, their stuffy methodology of interviewing people in the arts. Interviews call for substance but they bring none to the festival. And they don't like the way I treat their nonsensical "conducting," as if they know what they're doing. They jokey, yes. Finally, professional jealously. Like I care. So "the authorities" don't care about me. One more thing, when they hear that you wrote for the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York weekly, the Village Voice, for years, and won writing awards at the Miami Herald and Ebony; gained status as a Features editor at the Herald - snd write what nobody dreams about publishing in the Guardian, Express and When Steel Talks, they get jijiry and probably feel they don't have self-worth. Their problem, not mine. I'm writing a feature-length screenplay and I could care less, Claude. Dalton
I hear you , Dalton.
The most you can do is to put your thoughts and ideas out there , hope they stimulate discussion , and thereby influence change.
I saw the new Star Wars movie recently , and the thought occurred to me that in the "old" days , some steelband , either in P.O.S. or in Sando would most likely have put a Star Wars inspired mas on the road , complete with a mock-up of the Millennium Falcon or an X-wing fighter ,
That is the creativity and ingenuity that pan people brought to the carnival that is sorely missing from today's bead and bikini parade.
Great piece by Dalton Narine. A true authority on the subject. No doubt, there is a generation that is crying out for a return of the good old days of sweet pan, when steel bands ruled the streets on carnival days, leading off with jouvert and closing out with last lap on carnival Tuesday night. Times have changed, and money seems to be the determining factor that attracts and motivates the young pan players. From the Success Village, Laventille community where the famed Highlanders Steel Orchestra rose to fame, and where the band is currently going through a serious rebuilding phase, 2017 saw the band making it to the semi final round in the small band category of panorama. A first since the Bertie Marshall era. The band's leadership understands and appreciates the Highlanders legacy, and with arranger Kareem Brown, is determined to be a serious advocate in the campaign to return pan to its rightful place in our culture.