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STEELBAND SUSTAINABILITY AND SURVIVAL IN THE POST PANDEMIC ERA.

An open letter to Pantrinbago presidential hopeful Aquil Arrindell.

Dear Aquil,

The future of many steel bands in Trinidad and Tobago hang in the balance, business cannot continue as usual. This discussion attempts to provoke thought, and start relevant conversations among stakeholders in the fraternity.

What will define bands that;

  • Stay ahead of the pact?
  • Enjoy benefits of their sacrifices for generations?
  • Attract wide support?
  • Evolve to stay relevant?
  • Survive sustainably?

Let’s consider the following;

  1. Technology.
  2. Real estate. 
  3. Management.
  4. Democracy.
  5. Human resource.

The use of technology in steel bands is necessary in this ICT age. Bands must invest in, and harness that potential (internally/externally), and provide the latitude for its development and expansion in a relevant context. 

Security of tenure could propel bands to sustainability faster than bands not similarly disposed. Many bands still call nowhere home. A deficiency bands must address in-house. Partial responsibility may lie elsewhere and dialogue may be necessary to initiate decisive action. 

Bands must encourage, support and practice astute, dynamic management. Some autocracies shall continue to attract wide support by association and flourish. Other dictatorships may survive by continuing to manipulate the system, and oppress their memberships.   

Democracy as it relates to member eligibility and elected representation within many bands may be a farce. It must not be written-off or discouraged though. In the foregoing context, freedom of expression and thought should be encouraged as a platform for growth and development.

The  movement’s most valuable resource is its human resource. Bands that have invested in it as policy shall reap the benefits. Some bands survive by importing/contracting manpower. The sole purpose is to advance in competitions. Going forward, to tap into steelbands’ most abundant income stream may be require restructuring. 

How will the movement’s leadership govern the sustainability of its most vulnerable members? How will governance going forward impact the survival and sustainability of the fraternity? How will leadership step up to overcome the challenges the foregoing present?

Some bands have already adopted models that would ensure their survival. Many have not. Would entrepreneurship within memberships as a move towards capitalization of operations be sustainable? Emphasis should be placed on members of the (late) Millennial and Z generational eras, nurturing generation Alpha and beyond sustainably. I would not discourage the emergence of professional ensembles from the nucleus of established band, within a manageable framework. This could provide marketable options to maximize a band’s revenue earning capacity outside of carnival time.

I suspect that attendance at public events in the foreseeable future may be hinged on attendees’ ability to demonstrate immunization for, or negativity to, the COVID 19 virus and variants. How could this impact steelbands, and what mitigation is being considered?  The leadership of the movement must take a stand on vaccination. Traditional income streams of steelbands are usually events of mass gatherings, steelbands cannot survive sustainably performing in a bubble. Available data suggests that steelbands cannot survive on recording sales and/or royalties at present. The likelihood of events attracting mass gatherings occurring anytime soon is remote. Consider the status of the quadrennial summer olympic game!  The leadership of the movement must act swiftly and decisively.

In these times of crisis the movement does not need martyrs or lackeys. The movement demands meaningful change, not anticipated continuity or subservient patronage. The movement cannot survive sustainably in its current structure. The movement does not need advice or support from failed, corrupt leaders. The movement needs dinosaurs to be extinct. How will those offering themselves to serve transform the movement from dependency to self sufficiency? The movement needs honest leaders, strong people, individuals with integrity, determined to stamp out nepotism and corruption. The movement needs leaders who are determined to reduce dependency at the top of their agenda, if steelbands are to survive sustainably in the post pandemic era of this 21st century.

I desire only the best for the steelband movement, and the best for others. My expectation is that good sense will prevail.

More than a century ago, the great scientist Louis Pasteur said "Chance favors only the prepared mind." By this, he meant that sudden flashes of insight don't just happen, but are the product of preparation. (wikipedia)

All stakeholders must be vigilant and prepared. 

Yuh country bookie bredrin.

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RUSSELL PROVIDENCE: You are TOO HIGHLY EDUCATED to be writing about THIS PAN TING. Half the people doh (and cannot) understand what you are saying -- nor do THE LEADERS have the ADMINISTRATIVE SKILLS to deliver any products that you DESIGN.

BEVERLEY RAMSEY-MOORE has an ELABORATE ELECTION PLAN all lined up and the DUMB DELEGATES will swallow her PROPAGANDA -- HOOK LINE AND SINKER ... and VOTE HER BACK IN.

PAN WILL CONTINUE TO SUFFER THE WORSE FOR IT!!!

TRINIDAD DONE LOSS THE GLOBAL PAN MUSIC GAME and THEY HAVE TO BE DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND NOT REALIZE THAT. DOH LET ONE RIGGED PANOGRAMA RESULT FOOL ALLYUH!!!

Mr. Russel Providence.

 

Thank you for you continued support. Words cannot express my gratitude. I cannot talk to specific things at this time because of the level of confidentiality I am bound to in regards to our progress. What I can say is that a lot of what you mention are things that are being worked on at present. An analogy in regards to our organization is that it is like a sick person and to cure that person many fundamental steps must be taken. We also realized, thorough observation is the very first step and has not been practiced. Due to this, we have continuously misdiagnosed our patient and administered the wrong medicine. That first step is to talk to your patient.

Five months ago, we started at your band where we met and moved from pan yard to pan yard gathering information to do a critical assessment of the organization. We are not yet finished but we have gathered enough information to know that a lot of what you mention is needed and is presently being addressed.

Aquil if you are contesting the upcoming Election make an announcement, let the public know for sure...

Aquil, please tell yuh pardner...

by purposefully submerging us in trash, in a concerted effort to discourage meaningful discussion that may not necessarily align with an immigrant's agenda. Peace.

Thanks for the post. Well-thought through and well-formulated. Analysis followed by suggestions are always constructive. Much appreciation.

I just have one "doubt": On several occasions reference is made to the the "movement". I am not sure about this. My understanding of the word is a group of people with a particuar set of aims or ideas and "understood" common goals.

In my 45 years as a panman and member of several steelbands I have seldom found the spirit of a "movement" among the people in steelbands. On the contrary, I have experienced a spirit of "hostility" - where steelbands and their so-called "supporters" regard other bands as "the competition/enemy/adversary.

Sorry, the intention is not to throw "cold water" on an excellent article. It is just to state my experiences for the past 45 years.

Stay trrong and keep safe.

George: Give me a bucket of that COLD WATER!!!

You know of what YOU SPEAK!!!

Mr Rampersad, when I speak of the movement, I refer specifically to Pantrinbago who continually refer to that body as the world body for pan.

I concur that the movement should be, "...a group of people with a particular set of aims or ideas and "understood" common goals."

It is not strange that, "...steelbands and their so-called "supporters" regard other bands as "the competition/enemy/adversary."

I sincerely appreciate your contribution, as this discussion was created, "...to provoke thought, and start relevant conversations among stakeholders in the fraternity." When I was offered an assignment in China in 2004, I had to be released from the assignment I was on then. In authorizing my release, the OIC told me, "When you get to China whenever you identify problems and issues, make sure to always suggest a solution, or else you would be considered a trouble maker."

Thank you for your feedback.

What would you be inclined to suggest to steelbands going forward post COVID 19, as it cannot be business as usual?

Mister Providence,

Thanks for your reply.

With respect to your question “What would you be inclined to suggest to steelbands going forward post COVID-19, as it cannot be business as usual?

  1. All of us want progress, but if you are on a dead-end road, progress could mean turning around, going back and finding another road.
  2. If we assume that Panorama will continue in one form or the other. That is okay as competition can have certain advantages. It can drive creativity and provide an outlet for the talent of players/arrangers.
  3. Contrary to the popular cliché that “pan is in danger”, as an instrument/family of instruments, pan is alive and well. In the past 36 years I have seen people here in Europe getting to know it – and learning to play it.

There are also individuals - like the pan tuners - who are a driving force behind the continued improvement and development of the instrument.

  1. If we look at the other side of the equation, we will see that the panman (including the females!) is the deciding factor. The pan, regardless of how popular it becomes, cannot play itself. So what can be done for the people who play the instrument?
  2. There is a saying: “People will only help you if you help yourself”.

What is the panman doing to help himself? What can he do? Are there any avenues to explore?

If you are interested in continuing this discussion, I would certainly like to take part.

Now it have ah lot ah so-call “Trini-tuh-de-Bone” (including de “expat-experts” in North America)  who does like tuh run dey mouth – ah talkin bout de sarcasm, name-calling, bullshit, dotish talk, mauvais langue etc.

As ah humble Trini who thankful tuh de people who gorn before we, an create ah cultural legacy dat second tuh none, ah go have tuh say: “Ah done wit dat” an go mih way. Ah eh willing or able tuh waste mih time wit dat, an ah sure yuh go agree wit mih, ent?

Keep safe an stay strong, bro.

GEORGE: For decades I have been reading ALL THE PIE IN THE SKY ARTICLES with people staggered by the brilliance of the ideas -- yet ALL PAN DOING IS STAGNATING IF NOT GOING BACKWARDS.

The BIG CLAIM is that the STEELBAND WORLD in TRINIDAD is SO FULL OF TALENT ACROSS THE BOARD. But I am yet to see any DEMONSTRATION  OF THAT TALENT either in the ADMINISTRATIVE ARENA of the PERFORMANCE ARENA.

And the older heads are dying left and right without ever seeing an INCH OF PAN PROGRESS. Yet the PIE IN THE SKY ARTICLES continue to FILL NEWSPAPERS and SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS with PLENTY BRAVADO and ZERO PERFORMANCE.

Ah hear yuh, bro. Doh worry...pan eh in danger...!

Keep safe, eh!

Dear Mr. George Rampersad.

1. All of us want progress, but if you are on a dead-end road, progress could mean turning around, going back and finding another road. (GR)

  • How would we define progress in this context sir? By what benchmark/s should we measure that progress? I would not be inclined to suggest turning around, as much as I would be inclined to suggest switching tracks to arrive at a more hospitable destination. (RP)

2. If we assume that Panorama will continue in one form or the other. That is okay as competition can have certain advantages. It can drive creativity and provide an outlet for the talent of players/arrangers. (GR)

  • I see panorama being continued. I foresee an insatiable appetite for live entertainment when our population is sufficiently vaccinated to permit mass gatherings. However, I do not see panorama surviving sustainably, or profitably in its present format. (RP)

3. Contrary to the popular cliché that “pan is in danger”, as an instrument/family of instruments, pan is alive and well. In the past 36 years I have seen people here in Europe getting to know it – and learning to play it. (GR)

  • I too believe that Pan is alive and well, although I also believe that its growth may be measured incorrectly, fueling the misconception of it being in danger. Whose responsibility is it to shape and determine the direction in which pan should go and grow? Who determined the shape and direction in which the piano or the guitar gained global popularity? (RP)

There are also individuals - like the pan tuners - who are a driving force behind the continued improvement and development of the instrument. (GR)

  • I concur. Independently, they may be doing it. How can these improvements and development be accelerated? How are they documented? How is the quality controlled?  (RP)

4. If we look at the other side of the equation, we will see that the panman (including the females!) is the deciding factor. The pan, regardless of how popular it becomes, cannot play itself. So what can be done for the people who play the instrument? (GR)

  • Again, I am inclined to agree with you here. I have already addressed this deliverable that I have identified and described as human resource. I support gender equality. Massy Trinidad Allstars may be blazing the trail in this regard, considering what they have in place for their stage side members. AllStars’ model could be used as a template for other steel bands. (RP)

5. There is a saying: “People will only help you if you help yourself”.

What is the panman doing to help himself? What can he do? Are there any avenues to explore? (GR)

  • I would say without hesitation that there are many pan men who are not doing enough to help themselves. In contrast, there are scores of pan men around the globe breaking barriers. Dane Gulston, Andy Narrel et al. I would be inclined to suggest that bands to which panmen are affiliated, and where they may hold membership do more to develop and market that talent. I believe that there is no mould in which panmen are cast.  (RP)

If you are interested in continuing this discussion, I would certainly like to take part. (GR)

  • If you are interested in continuing this discussion, I would certainly like to take part. (RP)

The following paragraph is lifted from the discussion;

"I suspect that attendance at public events in the foreseeable future may be hinged on attendees’ ability to demonstrate immunization for, or negativity to, the COVID 19 virus and variants. How could this impact steelbands, and what mitigation is being considered?  The leadership of the movement must take a stand on vaccination. Traditional income streams of steelbands are usually events of mass gatherings, steelbands cannot survive sustainably performing in a bubble. Available data suggests that steelbands cannot survive on recording sales and/or royalties at present. The likelihood of events attracting mass gatherings occurring anytime soon is remote. Consider the status of the quadrennial summer olympic game!  The leadership of the movement must act swiftly and decisively.".

The government (Great Is The PNM) is taking the lead, while the leadership of the world governing body for pan continues to slumber...

This Trinidad Guardian article continues to expose the incumbent's inability to govern the movement going forward...

Govt opens wider door for cultural workers to travel, return

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