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March 18, 2006 - Volume 1, No. 7

THE LAST PANORAMA,
MASTER CLIVE BRADLEY AND THE STEELBAND LIBRARY


This is an open letter to Mr. Patrick Arnold, who is the current President of Pantrinbago. There are now plans by the government, as was stated by the Minister of Culture, that the government intends to tear down the Grand Stand and build a cultural center in the Queen’s Park Savannah by 2008 or thereabouts and also build the Pantrinbago headquarters. All laudable projects!  As a result, I am requesting that Pantrinbago demand that the government build a steelband library in the new carnival cultural center or at the new Pantrinbago headquarters which they intend to build. So, why doesn’t Trinbago have a steelband library to house the history and artifacts of the national instrument? We can include a steelband library in the plans for the new carnival cultural center or the building of Pantrinbago’s headquarters. But, only Pantrinbago’s input can bring such a library to fruition. No one else has the responsibility to bring this idea to reality but Pantrinbago. Mr. Arnold, please take charge and protect the history and artifacts of our national instrument.

The more Panoramas we have the more things remain the same. The year 2006 will be remembered as a memorable year for the steelband movement since it was the year that the last Panorama was held in the Queen’s Park Savannah. There were many who expected Pantrinbago to grab the opportunity and portray a gala ceremony honoring the late Master Clive Bradley whose death in November 2005 dealt the steelband movement a terrible blow. Instead, many were disappointed and some will say that Pantrinbago failed to do the right thing. Mr. Arnold, you know, Master Bradley brought the steelband movement and Desperadoes Steel Orchestra much honor and fame with his panorama arrangements for steelbands in the big yard at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Master Bradley’s panorama arrangements even moved a European panist from Desperadoes to want to score the master’s music arrangements for a German orchestra. But, Mr. Arnold, the time to honor Master Bradley was at the 2006 panorama simply because it was in the big yard that Master Bradley gave panjumbies and the world his most beautiful arrangements of panorama music. Now that the government is tearing down the Grand Stand to build a carnival cultural center Pantrinbago lost a great opportunity to showcase to the world how they honor our steelband heroes and heroines.

Mr. Arnold, I want you to understand the significance and importance of a steelband library in either of these buildings the government intends to build. If you fail to get it, then Pantrinbago will fall short of realizing the notable goal of gathering all historical artifacts of the steelband movement, especially the panorama, in one place. The world needs to know who our steelband heroes and heroines are so that the record speaks for itself. Every year our national instrument portrays beautiful musical gems at the panorama but those musical gems are not housed in one place for prosperity. We have no statistics on Pantrinbago’s Web site for the panorama steelband finalists beginning in 1963 except for the first three winning bands. What about the other steelband finalists?  Mr. Arnold, let me give you an example of what I am talking about. If you follow basketball, hockey, baseball or cricket you will see on their Web sites statistics for every year the respective team has played. This enables followers of those teams to track the development and history of the team. They can also follow the career of any player by going to the respective web site. Mr. Arnold, Why can’t panjumbies do that on Pantrinbago’s Web site? Why should the steelband movement be any different? Mr. Arnold, if you want steelband music to be profitable you must create the market for it. That begins with Pantrinbago putting on their Web site statistics to create an interest in the steelbands and the arrangers. Pantrinbago’s must bring the steelband movement to the people. Pantrinbago’s Web site should also have pictures of all its past presidents like Sydney Gollop, Nathaniel Crichlow, George Goddard, Junior Pouchet, Arnim Smith and Owen Serrette whose leadership kept the steelband movement alive. Remember your presidency is sitting on the shoulders of those courageous and fearless men. Why doesn’t Pantrinbago have pictures of these pioneers on its Web site? Mr. Arnold, if Pantrinbago needs help please let us know for the world is watching the steelband movement. 

While Pantrinbago seeks to address the above problems I would like to offer a few memorable moments about our national instrument. In 1962, following the Christmas holidays, the steelband movement was getting ready for their first Panorama to be held in 1963. Trinbago had received their political independence from England on August 31, 1962 so the idea of creating a national festival for the steelbands was a first and important display of independence. Previously, the only national festivals were the music festivals held bi-annually for steelbands to play European classical music. Those music festivals attracted the middle class. But, the new national steelband festival (Panorama) was going to be held every carnival and their choice of music was Trinbago’s classical music, calypso. The stage was set and the calypso of choice for the winning steelband, North Stars, was “Dan is the Man” sung by Sparrow. Kitchener had just returned to Trinidad from his sojourn in England and the steelband that placed third Desperadoes played Kitchener’s calypso “The Road”. Anthony Williams was the arranger of North Stars and Beverly Griffith was the arranger of Desperadoes. The steelband that placed second was Sundowners from the San Fernando area. They played Sparrow’s calypso “Harry and Mama”. And so began the rivalry between two of Trinbago’s greatest calypsonians Sparrow and Kitchener for the steelbands to play their music for panorama and for on carnival days leading to the winner of the Road March. In those days the steelband used to determine the winner of the Road March competition. Mr. Arnold, this is the only information I can give because Pantrinbago doesn’t keep statistics about all the steelband finalists on your web site. Now you see the problem Mr. Arnold.

From the Christmas of 1962 until the last week before panorama night in 1963, there was a big lime on the bridge on Piccadilly Street and in the panyards every Friday and Saturday night where panjumbies would gather analyzing the various tunes and steelbands that were to enter the first panorama competition. City Symphony was seen as a threat with Michigan as their tuner and arranger. The bigger threat was Invaders. After all, Invaders had Cobo Jack, well renowned soloist and the best pan tuner of the day, Ellie Mannette. North Stars was never seen as a threat because it was known as a music festival steelband. Even their calypso renditions were classical in nature. But, panjumbies knew that Anthony Williams was a musical force with whom they had to reckon. All Stars did not enter because they were not a member of the new Steelband Association. There non-membership in the association had already cost them a presence on the first national steelband (TASPO) to tour England in the 1950s. It was not that All Stars felt they were not up to the task of winning the competition. But, Neville Jules had some bad feelings about the idea of a panorama and membership in a steelband association. For some reason, he perceived that the panorama’s competitiveness would threaten the steelbands. And, as he told me, he did not feel that All Stars should join the steelband association which he saw as an organization to control the steelbands who were always fighting on carnival days. All Stars was one of the few steelbands that were never involved in the carnival steelband fights. So it would be another three years before All Stars chose to enter the panorama which they did in 1966. Their tune of choice was Sparrow’s calypso “Patsy”. They won their first Panorama in 1973 with Kitchener’s calypso “Rainorama”. The rest is history. But, Mr. Arnold no can read about that piece of history on Pantrinbago’s Web site because it is not there. Pantrinbago only give statistics of the first three winning steelbands. Pantrinbago should have statistics on all the finalist steelbands.  

In 1963, the first panorama (the nation’s supreme music festival) was held at the big yard in the Queen’s Park Savannah and panjumbies turned out in mass numbers to support their band of choice. Under the leadership of George Goddard, president of the then Steelband Association, the steelband movement was on its way to fame and glory until 1979 when the wheels stopped briefly because the steelbands rebelled after the preliminaries for more prize money. The year of 1979 was the first and only steelband boycott from the panorama. As a result, there was no panorama that year. Indeed a water-shed year in the annals of panorama history. But, there is historical record of the boycott on Pantrinbago’s Web site. All the Panorama music from that year was lost or maybe hidden away by some lucky panist. From 1963 through 1979 the steelbands were small and the music was simple verse and chorus without any strong arrangements. In 1972 and 1974 a new era was born again as panists like Ray Holman and Boogsie started to compose their own panorama music. Then came the 1980s and the calypso music evolved. A new music was on the scene. It was called soca and started by the calypsonian Shorty. But, this soca was a little different from what Shorty created and was led by another singer Tambu from the Charlie’s Roots orchestra. This soca was tied to African American soul music while Shorty tried to combine both African and Indian roots music. That was the beginning of a new era for the steelband movement and the type of music that was becoming available for the panorama competitions. On February 25, 2006 another era came to a close and in 2007 a new one will begin. Is Pantrinbago ready for this new era?   

Mr. Arnold, let me share with you some beautiful memories of the first panorama held in the big yard. In 1963, my steelband City Syncopators entered the first panorama competition as did all the other steelbands. On panorama day into the night I saw on the barber-green bands like City Symphony, Kintups, Casablanca, Sundowners, North Stars, Desperadoes, Starland, City Kids, Sunland, Renegades, Power Stars, Silver Stars, Sputniks, Starlift, Invaders, Cavaliers, Sun Valley, Antillean All Stars, San Juan All Stars, and Southern Symphony as they all were pushed by pan-pushers to the grand stand to make history. Mr. Arnold, I got this info because I was there but not from Pantrinbago. Do you see the problem Mr. Arnold? Some of those steelbands no longer exist. Interestingly, the first winner of the Panorama in 1963 was a steelband from the West and the last Panorama winner in 2006 is also from the West. Synco was not a band with any reputation like Invaders, North Stars or All Stars. They did not have a tuner like Ellie Mannette or a soloist like Eammanuel ‘Jack’ Riley (Invaders) (although they had Kelvin Hart) or a bassman like Shoreland or Guns (All Stars) or an innovator like Anthony Williams (North Stars) but they had heart. Also, Synco had a reputation for playing the largest sailor mas, USS Detroit. But, they all entered our magnificent national music festival, few with sponsors and many without. On panorama night in the cool breeze of 1963 North Stars won the competition. The north stand was ecstatic and from that night the north stand became a symbol of resistance for panjumbies who would venture to the big yard for every panorama after that. That is why Rudolph Charles, when he was captain of Desperadoes, told the band to always face the north stand. Mr. Arnold, would we have a north stand for panjumbies in the new carnival center?

Mr. Arnold, many of the steelbands who entered that first Panorama in 1963 are not around today. But, many of the panists and panjumbies are still around to tell the story. Mr. Arnold now is the best time to put those stories in our library seeing that the government decided to build a cultural carnival center for activities at the grand stand in the Queen’s Park Savannah, including the Panorama and a headquarters for Pantrinbago. We are hoping that the steelband is not left out in this new carnival cultural center. Does Pantrinbago have any plans for its new headquarters to house a steelband library to tell the story of the steelband movement? Who will tell the steelband story when we are gone, Mr. Arnold. Our past traditions tell us that there will always be a griot to tell the village stories. We continued that oral tradition in the steelband movement. But, today we have another technology that can greatly assist us to tell our story. It is called the computer. It was invented for the steelpan. Now that Pantrinbago claims to be the world’s governing body for the steelband and Trinbago see itself as the Mecca of the steelband to the international community they have to use the internet and begin to record the history and artifacts of the steelband movement for prosperity. As a result Mr. Arnold, it is incumbent on us to use Pantrinbago’s web site to educate the world about the steelband movement. We are now in the 21st century in the computer age which permits Pantrinbago to use the internet for the benefit of the steelband movement. If you need writers, then please Mr. Arnold, say so. If you read the many pan sites you will see many capable panjumbies doing their best to tell the story. But, I am afraid Pantrinbago is not doing enough.

Mr. Arnold, let me first say that I know you are trying to do what you perceive as your best for the steelband movement. Today, the first prize for the Panorama is $400, 000.00. There is more money for the other steelband programs that Pantrinbago puts on like Pan in the 21st century, Pan down memory lane, Pan Jazz and Champs in Concert. All of this was achieved under your leadership. The steelbands seem to be pleased because when panists are not pleased we hear from them. No word from Boogsie this year. But, why can’t we have a national steelband library? Is it a difficult task to maintain the Panorama and a steelband library together? What plans do you have to place a steelband library in the new Pantrinbago’s headquarters? Mr. Arnold, why isn’t our national music and its artifacts housed in one place in a national steelband library?

Mr. Arnold, what became of all the Panorama music from the early Panoramas that was recorded and maybe still is housed at the Radio Trinidad library?  Most importantly, what about statistics about the Panorama competitions from 1963 to 2006? We need to know the names of all the panorama arrangers for all the panorama years. You can put those statistics in our new Pantrinbago Steelbnand Library. Why isn’t Pantrinbago web site carrying the steelband statistics from 1963 through 2006 documenting all the steelbands that have entered the Panorama from its inception to 2006? Surely, one should be able to go to Pantrinbago web site and find out the names of the steelbands that entered 1968 or 1976 panorama. One should be able to find out not only the steelbands but also the arrangers for each steelband. Mr. Arnold you know how we like to argue over who is the best arranger. Our steelband traditions demand that we have a central place to house this information and that place should be Pantrinbago’s web site. Yes, Pantrinbago publishes the first three steelbands for every Panorama. But, that is not enough for our national instrument. Pantrinbago can do more and publish information for every steelband finalist. Personally, I would like to see all the statistics of the panorama for every steelbands (1963-2006) on Pantrinbago’s website. Why should we expect less for our national instrument?

Mr. Arnold, you know how panjumbies like to compare steelband statistics. You know too well our tradition of liming and talking whole day about which steelband beat which and what year. And, because there was no place of authority to get correct statistics sometime fights used to break out over statistics. But, we pass that stage. Now we live in a technology advanced and globalised world where the computer reigns supreme. Why can’t Pantrinbago have a virtual steelband library where the world can go to for information regarding the national instrument? If you need help dear Mr. President why don’t Pantrinbago send out an international call for help from panjumbies who have skills to offer to make the steelband library a reality? There are steelband chat rooms all over the web where panjumbies discuss the steelband movement. But, Pantrinbago, as the world’s only governing body for the steelband movement, must have all the information about our national instrument on its web site. An example is since the death of Master Clive Bradley I have been trying to get the names of all the steelbands for whom he arranged. Mr. Arnold I can’t find such information on Pantrinbago’s web site. Why Mr. Arnold?  Does Pantrinbago need help to do this? If so, let the panjumbies know what Pantrinbago’s needs. We want you to succeed. I want Pantrinbago to be the supreme site where anyone can go and get all the information about any steelband.  

Surely, Mr. Arnold you remember how Pantrinbago was able to put the 2005 music festival together in a three month period when plans for hold the festival in London fell through. I congratulate you for that because no one expected Pantrinbago to pull it off in so short a time period. Mr. Arnold, you will not live forever so you must build for the future when your time to leave Pantrinbago arrives. We are now in the 21st century and the way of doing some things must change. The latest dispute with Desperadoes and Master Bradley’s family about putting master Bradley’s arrangements on a CD should give you cause to intervene and assist the steelband. Mr. Arnold, you have to bring the steelband movement into the 21st century. The old ways of doing things are hurting the movement. Otherwise, the steelband movement will become an albatross on the necks of panists and steelbands as it remains static. I often say that the internet was created for the steelband movement because it is so easy now to store information. Everyday there are pan sites opening that try to explain our instrument and I applaud them for trying because everyone loves the pan. But, Mr. Arnold it is Pantrinbago’s job as the sole governing body and representative for the steelbands to be miles ahead of others when it comes to providing information about our national instrument.

Lastly, Mr. Arnold, in 1991 Mr. George Goddard (past president of the then Steelband Association) published a book called “Forty Years in the Steelbands” where he outlined his experiences as president of the Association. I read the book and found it to be very useful history about the steelband movement. Mr. Arnold, why doesn’t Pantrinbago sell or promote this book (the only one published by a Steelband president) or mention it on its web site? Please Mr. Arnold, speak up wherever you are.

Stay Blogged.

P.S. If readers don’t understand any of the carnival or steelband terms used here, please go to the Port of Pan ABC at pan-jumbie-com. Otherwise you may contact this writer. Thanks.

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