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Steelband + calypso + mas = Carnival
For several reasons, not necessarily the right ones, steelband, calypso, mas and Carnival have become separate entities, within the multicultural rainbow society that is T&T. As anticipated, the new administration is promising to put a positive spin on everything that is not working, and have reopened the Big Yard in a show of support and caring for culture, the band leaders and the mas players. They are also seeking to illustrate that they are capable of achieving the formidable objective of exporting the Carnival product, and diversifying and fueling the economy by earning billions of foreign exchange dollars. Hopefully in their attempt at rebranding and repackaging Trinidad Carnival as the greatest show on earth, they would pay particular attention to managing and developing the product as a trinity, and meeting the international standards of exporting the product and attracting tourism, using a no brainer formula, steelband + calypso + mas = Carnival. The Brazilian Carnival model, as nudist as it is, utilises its indigenous samba drums and folk songs, (steelband and calypso), and floats and effigies, (mas), which has created a far more superior and marketable product than ours.
Is Panorama killing pan?
Let us examine the steelband component which was epitomised previously as “dead” in a Boogsie Sharpe spat against the world governing body’s leadership, and quite recently the hallmark event Panorama was identified as the cause of death in the When Steel Talks headliner: Minister knocks Panorama—It has killed pan—Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Winston Peters, says Panorama, the annual national steelband competition, has “killed” the steelpan and its scope needs to be broadened. I will continue to opine that, winning Panorama, its static judging and championship format, and the attempts at commercialising Carnival, is indeed killing the steelpan, but it is far from dead. Panorama should not be about 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Inject a Grammy Awards flavour with several other categories, and opportunities for winning, for instance, best new arranger and best tuner.
I totally agree that the scope of pan and panorama needs to be broadened, but in keeping with the perceptible death of steelpan, that “killer” statement, the after thought that pan will surely be an integral part of the Peoples Band, when coupled with the scorn and disrespect of the San Fernando steelbands, somehow adds value to the burial of Pan and not the broadening of its scope. Steelband and mas was happening and could happen again. Proof, Silver Stars a big time mas playing steelband won the band of the year title in the 60’s, and in that said era, George Bailey, the Cecil B De Mille of Carnival, progressed from “bringing ah section in Invaders steelband,” to dominating the band of the year title for several years. We cannot end the list of mas and masmen initially driven by the steelpan. For example, in the fancy sailor and sea bees category, the Demfortunates of Belmont was steelband, and Cito Valasquez, the reputed king of the wirebenders, his presentations were of a steelband. Not to forget She by Renegades, Desperadoes’ The Frozen North,and the huge perennial sailor presentations by Trinidad All Stars.
Solving the pan theorem
My argument, therefore, is that steelband needs a people’s band sort of boost, instead of the Tuesday mas segment of Carnival. A huge percentage of steelbands, apart from becoming stagnated because of the myopic competitiveness of Panorama, do not come on the road and play mas, and those who do so have their presentations tainted by uncostumed revellers. Use the people’s band concept/monies, to pay for costumes for these revellers, and pay the panists for playing on the road. They would not be all inclusive, so the vendors will sell their goods, because there would be 50-plus steelbands with at least 15,000 hungry and thirsty people on the road Monday and Tuesday. The crucifixion of pan must be aborted so that this new culture of arts and multiculturalism can fly. Please incorporate the steelpan into your initial plans to bring back Carnival to the Savannah, and sell it to the world. It may also be a good idea to piggy back on the Brooklyn J’Ouvert model, by allocating a time and a route exclusively for steelbands in the Carnival calendar, people’s band monies can sponsor that event as well. In other words, since the big stage is the solution for calypso and mas, if the steelband becomes a minus in the formula, we will certainly need Pythagoras to arrive at QED.
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