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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WORLD STEELPAN FRATERNITY FROM SOUTHERN MARINES STEELBND FOUNDATION

On behalf of all conscious Pannists everywhere, I extend a heartfelt thank you, to Bro. Salah Wilson and those Pan Lovers around the world, who signed a petition in support of our struggles with the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism to retain the One Thousand dollars as negotiated with the former regime, to which the Panorama players had become accustomed. Regardless of the outcome, I say thanks to all of you.

 

In Trinbago, the home of the Steel Pan, there is mischief afoot. Please allow me some space to tell my story.On the night of Feb. 9, 2011, just around 10:45PM the Southern Marines Steel Orchestra was outside their Pan Theatre rehearsing for Panorama 2011, as is the custom and practice for the near sixty years of this Steel Orchestra in the community of Marabella and with Panorama preliminaries just three days away two Police offi-cers, PC #13246 and WPC #17908 (information given by them) in Police vehicle # PCL 9796, came and informed a member of the leadership that the Steelband does not have permission to practice outside the yard, and they should stop playing the instruments immediately.

 

The members thought this had to be an early all fools trick, so they kept on playing. I came in time to see the driver reentering the vehicle. I indicated to him and the WPC at his side, that, maybe we should talk. He made a sign indicating that he was not hearing and drove off. Within half an hour a member came into the Pan yard to inform me that they were back, with reinforcement. When I came outside, I saw one other officer, making them three in number and they were trying to explain something to a member of our executive.I intervened by saying goodnight, who is the senior officer in charge here. The new comer identified himself as the one.

I invited him to walk into the Pan Palais where it was more appropriate to converse, seeing that the band was rehearsing outside. Inside the Palais, I asked him for his name to which he replied that he was Gar-raway #10886, and we were breaking the law by playing outside of the Pan yard, and we should stop.I gave him a brief history of the Steel band in the Community of Marabella, and in my sixty odd years in this community where I was born, this is the first time the police had made such a demand.

His reply was, we’ve been breaking the law all those years and somebody was afraid to tell us. (I must say at this point, that there was no hostility displayed at any time of our conversation).He went on to state that anytime we want to rehearse outside of the Pan yard, we must go to the station and make a request. (Southern Marines Steel Orchestra played at the opening ceremony of the said station). I, still in a taken aback mode, said that this is the strangest thing outside of the shooting of pannists in the Pan yard.Southern Marines always rehearses outside the yard the week leading up to Panorama/Carnival.

 

He went on to talk about the EMA and noise levels, and how somebody made a report, and the fact that he is from Point Fortin, and is nothing personal. There and then, I started to wonder if something was amiss. I started to recall the many sleepless nights full of fear and unease over the years that the people of Marabella have had to endure because of noise and chemicals in the atmosphere coming out of the Pointe-A-Pierre refinery.Only a few weeks ago, the whole Community was startled out of their slumber due to a loud noise coming from the refinery, that started around 11:30PM, and lasted till around 3:30AM.

 

The whole of Marabella was affected. Where was the EMA?But some young people, in a crime riddled community, coming together to play the National Instrument, in preparation for a National competition within the National Festival, suddenly become the target of the law en-forcers. Somebody please tell us what is really going down? Are we going back to the Good ole, Bad ole days?

 

There seems to be mischief afoot.Why after all these years of conflict and pain, blood sweat and tears, we still have to be defending our right to enjoy the beat of the DRUM…be it skin or steel? Why today, when the Steel Pan is now established all over the world, and those involved could make a career of it, some one or the other, is working over time, to frus-trate and turn the minds of those involved away from it?What is this mind game all about? If the early Pioneers did not give up so today we can enjoy the fruits of their struggles to preserve this god given instrument, who says that we in this generation are prepared to give up now.Pannists awake…somebody is stealing the soul of the nation before our very eyes.

 

Michael L Joseph {Bro. Scobie}

President

Southern Marines Steelband Foundation

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Comment by Sherwin Campbell on February 15, 2011 at 10:52pm
We in New York go through the same thing and to a degree we understand, because our culture, as colourful and enjoyable as it is to most,  is still foreign to the powers that be in the US, but Marabella ?. What are these people really saying, do they want the youth, who represent a very large percentage of the bands  to think about nothing but crime?. They are just trying to frustrate the young folks into abandoning something positive with the hopes that they turn to something negative. The Pioneers did not break under the relentless pressure from the colonial "massa" and neither should you. Stay strong my brothers and sisters. The people always have the final say.
Comment by clyde skinner on February 14, 2011 at 5:48pm
I qm appalled to hear that this kind of behavior is prevalent today this is the time to show support for our national treasure we have something that is unique and very special tell these close minded people to back off and show some pride in our national heritage
Comment by Mercer Ramdoo on February 12, 2011 at 11:39am
I dont agree with the name calling. To refer to the Minister as "jackass" and 'monster" and whatever names you choose to use is not right. I wish you would be more civil in your discourse. It is quite evident that somebody, somewhere is trying to kill the artform. I certainly hope it is not about 'race' or the PP gov't. Recently in St. James at the funeral of Smokey (Smokey & Bunty), the police were out in full armour to prevent patrons from paying respects (drums & steel) to the deceased. Wish I could put my finger on it but something's wrong in the State. Same thing happened during the Summit at the amphitheatre in St. James. Riot-geared squads came to stop a peaceful meeting (Drummit2summit). So it's not gov't bias. If it's peaceful, the police shows up in force, if someone's dying there s no police or police vehicle. Go figure!!!  
Comment by Jeff Medina on February 12, 2011 at 1:37am
Hey If they follow the Official Laws of the Land then everybody who play Mas on Monday and Tuesday would have to go to jail on Ash Wednesday for indecent exposure so Why terrorize the Steel Orchestras. Your only hope is to stick together every Panside have to look out for every other Panside you mess with one you mess with all.
Comment by Yvonne on February 11, 2011 at 8:48pm
thats pure nonsense, they trying to kill love of the steel pan, we have to stand firm!
Comment by Catt on February 11, 2011 at 5:09pm

 

 

absolutely RIDICULOUS.  people could take a chill pill for ONE SHORT PERIOD OF TIME during the year, and not be hard-asses about "literal" interpretation of "rules" -- that's what everyone else does during Carnival season. 

 

 there's no logical reason that could back up this action - it's just people being miserable, trying to put a foot on the steelband.   

 

Comment by Cindy Cummings on February 11, 2011 at 4:16pm
"...and how somebody made a report."  Even though the steelpan is the national instrument of Trinidad, there will always be people who do not like it.  There was a time when the steelbands had to stop practicing at a certain hour during Carnival season.  I do not know if the same rule applies today.  As a former Wood Brooke dweller, and a  follower of Invaders, we had our share of challenges with the nice neighbours.  They were not all thrilled with the steelpan and  Carnival.  Keeping your band going is most important right now.  Let the fur fly.  Stay within the confines of the law, and REMEMBER that you are bigger than anything they can throw your way.  Keep the faith and the peace.  Have fun.   ***Cindy***
Comment by Jeff Medina on February 11, 2011 at 2:19pm
The first question we need to ask is this- Is the steelpan the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago?There can only be 2 answers .If the answer is yes.Then there should be LAWS protecting the instrument ,the players ,the manufactuers ,arrangers the whole infrastructer.Especially during those 2 months before Carnival and Panorama It should be illegal to harrass and terrorize anyone or anything associated with Steelpan. If you have a problem during that time take notes and we will address it after Carnival...People have to understand that every Steel Orch.is dealing with a whole lot of stress emotional-Financial and physical during the runup to Panorama -Leave them alone! Pan Players are not doing this for the Money (which is chump change right now)It is a burning instinct that comes from deep within and the joy of making it to the finals and winning cannot be bought or sold.Every Island in the Caribbean would jump at the chance to claim Pan as their National Instrument but they can't because it belongs to Trinidad and Tobago so why are we treating Pan with disrespect?It's part of our Culture and also our Heritage everyone of us has an obligation to cherish and protect the Instrument.Also the Police is like the Military nobody does anything without Orders from their Higher ups.So we have to go to the source.Basically it's all about Respect just like Aretha Franklin sang.
Comment by Hollis Marcelle on February 11, 2011 at 1:26pm
As an ex-PAN player my heart goes out to Southern Marines Steel Orchestra, please refer the matter to Pantrinbago Executive, so that this would not occur ever again
Comment by Anson on February 11, 2011 at 1:07pm
I am saddened by this. On New Years day with the many fireworks causing havoc we realize that the Law is not the problem but its selective enforcement for evil. This is what saddens me. Justice calls for unbiased and motive free enforcement. But clearly there is an adjenda here. This is where something pure is perverted. Mind you, if it is illegal to noise pollute it is illegal but the enforcement should be so across the board and not at select times and with those who you have a adjenda against. In that case the law is being upheld with respect of persons and therefore seen as corrupt. Enough with the head hunting let us move to enforcing the law fairly and I believe all will be more willing to accept the purity of motive behind enforcement. This is the heart of the matter which is so wonderfully expressed here today through this Pan site and which I am glad to say reflects the very nature of the unregenerated man. As to my brother expressing this for us all to be witnesses I believe this to also be fair. I believe my brother expressed this not to oppose the law but to point to the nature and motive behind the enforcement. Sadly the way in which things were done and the motive behind them were very discopuraging instead of encouraging to the panmen ofthe band who simply were seeking to work towards a honorable end. Whosoever sought to reported them did not consider this but wanted the full effect of the law brought down upon them without considering that there were other ways to approach them and so work out the situation. Sadly this is the age and world we live in today. The little good that is done is sought to be snuffed out because of bitterness jealousy or covetuousness or hate. I pray that the brethren of this bands and bands all over will not be discouraged but encouraged to continue playing that which will encourage the people and the nation and the world, continue to inspire against the flood of the adversary for the Spirit shall put up a standard against

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