Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
Trinidad US Biden
Vice President Joe Biden, left, accompanied by Trinidad & Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, tries out a steelpan, the traditional percussion instrument of the Caribbean twin-island country, during their meeting at the Diplomatic Center in St. Anns, Trinidad, Tuesday, May 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Anthony Harris)/TTO106/333178237095/1305290100
Trinidad and Tobago Newsday:
....“I’m asking each of you heads of state to please write a note to President Obama,” he said. “Tell him it’s critical that I come back to Trinidad and Tobago and then I can visit each of your islands for us to stay at least a couple weeks.”
....Minutes after he ended his speech and bid the Prime Minister farewell, Biden stopped the vehicle that was taking him to the Piarco International Airport in order to give one final message to the Persad-Bissessar.
“Don’t forget that steel-drum is mine!” he said. “You tell President Obama that!” As with his arrival on Monday night, Biden had been greeted hours earlier by pan music as he walked the red-carpet to enter the double doors of the Diplomatic Centre at 11:14 a.m.
Steel pan leads the way !
WHAT’S BETTER FOR THE STEELBAND INDUSTRY, A “PHOTO OP” OR INCLUSION IN THE “BRUTAL TALKS”?
As with any “panman” and “panwoman”, I too felt a sense of pride on seeing this photo of two world leaders –one, our Prime Minister, and the other, the Vice-President of the United States –pose with the instrument I (and we) all love, adore and cherish.
We all know that there is something unique and distinct with the timbre of our (unofficial) “national instrument”; a sound that cannot be duplicated. You know the sound of a pan –an acoustic musical instrument made of steel –when you hear it, even if you cannot see it. So, it is not surprising that either VP Joe Biden or PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar would find the instrument fascinating.
However, when one looks at the underlying opinions and attitudes of both (the “VP” and “PM”), as they relate to immigration, trade and investments, it becomes evident that this was no more than a “photo op”. In reality, both societies (US and TNT) still view the instrument and the lumpen who make up the steelbands’ memberships, as an economic pariah, incapable of industry and commerce. As such, the steelband and the steel drum/steelpan “industry” are not part of the “brutal talks”.
So, as far as society is concerned, the pan becomes a convenient pseudo-patriotic prop of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, only because it is the only instrument that is uniquely “Trinbagonian”. (Key words: “only” and “only”.) Yet my colleague Hameed Shaqq’s plea to constitutionally make the steelpan the (official) National Instrument, has been fall on the ears of deaf politicians. Maybe, the all need to wear hearing aids like the “Doc”, for certainly, the governments of Trinidad and Tobago, have not done all they can to promote our “industry” as a viable, exportable commodity on the global market.
On Immigration and Deportation – The vast majority of our local panmen (and, eventually panwomen), myself included, are “model citizens” in our respected “adopted countries”. Very few panmen and panwomen in the US, myself included, have ANY criminal records, have been or are felons, and are deportees of facing deportation for felonies. I am reminded of the fact that, according to Clifford Alexis, he got his break when George “Sonny” Goddard relinquished the passports to members of the National Steelband who wanted to remain in the United States. Mr. Alexis, an immigrant, continues to be an ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, whether that is important to him or not. Our young panmen and panwomen like Leon “Foster” Thomas, Iman Pascall, and others, continue to be role models to their Trinidad and Tobago peers. The Prime Minister, if she really honors the instrument, would look at these local success stories as testimony that the steelband and the instrument, have tangible positive impacts on our society and our communities. If the Prime Minister was really serious about promoting our “national instrument” internationally, then there would be a steelband or panman or panwoman at EVERY one of our consulates around the world.
On International Relations/Trade and Investments – Here again, the opinions and attitudes become clearer to the non-gullible. This would have been the perfect occasion for the Prime Minister to include the steelpan as part of our marketable commodities. In reality, there is no “local steelpan industry”; just a few “manufacturers”. And, guess who is (now) teaching them to make the instrument? So, steelpan industries in other countries will continue to develop and dominate, and the local “industry” become irrelevant, then extinct. Where are the steelband leaders and self-proclaimed “gurus” who cannot stop begging: “Do something for pan!” Nowhere in those talks. Where is Pan Trinbago? Who cares? Neither governments respect that organization nor its pseudo-leadership. In contrast, in the 1966, one would find that, when Queen Elizabeth II paid our twin-island nation a visit, the (then) Governor General, Sir Solomon Hochoy would be introducing HRH to Mr. and Mrs. George “Sonny” Goddard. Why? Because, in those days, the steelband leadership, under Goddard, had the respect of nations and their leaders, including royalty. From the Vatican to the White House, the National Steelband and the National Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen (NATTS), had earned their respect because they were visionary, and practiced “responsible governance”. Unless the steelpan industry becomes just that –an “industry” –the instrument will be no more than an exotic prop, similar to the fake coconut trees and fake dreadlocked knitted “tams” that many foreigners associate with the “island vibe”. The pan, in my opinion, is MUCH, MUCH more than that. And the local industry deserves to be included in their “talks”, regardless of how “brutal” they are, or not.
In closing, I hope the “pan fraternity” come to value both themselves and their “industry” as being more than just props for the elite and snobbish. You are much, much more. In every aspect of society, you are a viable solution, and you are the true patriots and ambassadors of our nation. When they speak of deportees and those who bring shame to our nation, you are statistically insignificant, for you carry the torch of decency and honor; a torch lit after the violent clashes of the 1950s. Years ago, in the current environment with Pan Trinbago and their shady practices, “cutlass woudda be passin’…”, however, we have evolved as civilized men, to the point where women and children now feel free to play in a steelband. You have paid your dues, and represented your country and culture with decency. The time is now, for you to be financially reward and included in any “brutal talks”, where our local industries are being considered in those discussions. You can spare me the photo ops, for they do little towards moving the local industry forward, and feels more like the ole “mamaguy” more than anything else. As always,
George D. Goddard, B. A.
(Pan’tum – The Ghost Who Talks®)
Honoring the Legacy of George “Sonny” Goddard
Excellent piece, but what is most unfortunate is that although we should be invited be to those high level talks, the respect that Mr. George Goddard and other leaders from the past received, this current administration does not fit the bill. In fact what we have as a president now is a relic of the old "cutlass wouldda pass" era, who is creating an atmosphere of fear among most band leaders, and those who are willing to stand up to this modern day tyrant (Idi Amin) are ostracized and their bands victimized. I am sure you would remember the outrage that came from the president when 'DO SOMETHING FOR PAN' was released in 2010, in fact he even attempted to ban the song as a panorama piece (siting the lyrics were unacceptable) and it was only because of the outcry from citizens and pan aficionados that Phase ll was allowed to perform the song. Where are the leaders with Guts to stand up for what is right, to me most are just cowering in some corner trembling with fear, the others are simply selling their souls for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver or they are offered some position on some "paper" committee, with no real relevance.
Withfield, ALL TYRANTS die with their feet in the air. There are so many stories that are written. Very Good piece GHOST.
Maybe the time has come for all the big bands to step-up. I'm sure if the bands with sponsors ask for one hour of their lawyers time most will get it, there they all could come together and come up with a plan to move forward.
STEELPAN PRESENTATIONS TO HEADS OF STATES IS ONLY LIP SERVICE BY THE PM OF T&T. AN ACT OF PARLIAMENT MUST DECLARE PAN OUR NATIONAL INSTRUMENT
It is the only way to greet anybody at anytime in anyplace! Even Vice President Biden knows this! More pan! More pan! More pan people please!
So enthusiastic was our PM to introduce Mr. Biden to "pan" that upon disembarking from his aircraft he was taken to the performing steel orchestra whereupon the PM took the pansticks from a playing musician and passed them on to the VP! The VP passed them back to her!
Maybe the PM's enthusiasm got the better of her.
Nice pic , but it takes both hands to beat pan Mr. VP. and a little lesson. HA !!!
Great and defining article by George D. Goddard.
The Pan is always on the Front Line when it comes to representation ( or show-off) to other heads of state. Because nothing else in Trinidad & Tobago truly symbolises and represents the nation of Trinidad & Tobago ..but alas when the pomp and circumstance of the moment is over ... it is back to the long time ash-Wednesday scenario with no more respect for the Pan. How long will this continue on?... how many more heads of state do we have to give a Pan to as a gift? ... the President of the US ,... the Prime Minister of Australia.... the Vice- President of USA ...etc...how many more photo-ops?...
The solution lies in (1) As Goddard puts it ..the Pan must have its own INDUSTRY.. the economic perspectives of the Pan are unlimited ( money talks volumes) . (2) It must have as Hameed Shaqq presented its recognition as 'The National Instrument' duly enacted in the Parliament of T&T ..( not lip service). (3) and further more to make the above possible it should have its own MINISTRY whereby it can have the Political Clout, Will and Budget to enforce and determine its own agenda.
Anything short of this is lip service ..photo-ops and continued exploitation of this instrument we all feel so much about.
Again this is a well written article by Goddard which bring into focus the relevance, importance and the dilemma of the Pan
The present administration has to be removed is the first priority, boycott is not going to work with Trini people so we will have to come up with other ways of getting them out. Then we could work with the new administration about implementing these ideas.