“They don’t want the people who made the sacrifice to control the commanding heights of our industry. They claim we can’t handle money. We don’t know how to do business. They say we don’t possess administrative skills.
“But when we look at all the other businesses, especially those fortunate to receive bailouts, the only thing that they have more than we have are good friends in high places and opportunities. They say we must only play the Pan, and allow the industry to be controlled by others.”
The following Letter to the Editor on the lack of government investment and concessions for steelpan development was penned by Pan Trinbago’s Public Relations Officer, Michael L Joseph:
I’m looking for a calypso singer, because I believe I have a winner. If in calypso staying true to form and speaking truth is the norm, there is no way they can say this calypso is not the best calypso of the day.
You see, my calypso is about Steel band, and how they mistreating the pan man and woman, and the organisation representing them. The days when pan was an outcast, it seems like those days we are yet to pass.
Look at the deals being made with foreigners. They get free land, cheap labour, and pay no tax for decades. But the Steelpan, created right here in our land, successive governments can’t see or comprehend its power and the reason to extend to us the same concessions, so we could do the things that are necessary to fast track the Steelpan industry.
They don’t want the people who made the sacrifice to control the commanding heights of our industry. They claim we can’t handle money. We don’t know how to do business. They say we don’t possess administrative skills.
But when we look at all the other businesses, especially those fortunate to receive bailouts, the only thing that they have more than we have are good friends in high places and opportunities. They say we must only play the Pan, and allow the industry to be controlled by others.
It is we who established and influenced all the markets for Steelpan across the globe. We have created a major industry that could bring benefits to the country, but are being starved of funding by people who do things for form and fashion, and not for substance. We have been managing our own affairs for decades.
Every regime has played games with the Steelpan fraternity because they all believe that their plans are the best for Pan. The people living the Pan are the people with the plan who are asking for the same concessions as extended to the foreigner man. We are the world’s first commercial recyclers who created from discarded oil drums a family of instruments and gave it to the world. No politicians did that!
Successive governments can’t find reasons for serious investment in our Steelpan industry. The world is now taking our inventions and loving it with a passion, while at home we are looking for light to see how Pan can help the economy, by creating sustainable employment that could help to curb juvenile delinquency.
A whole set of failed carpetbaggers, with no track record of visible success in anything, are tripping over one another, trying to tell the Steelpan fraternity how to do the things they have been doing for years. We never asked them for directions. We asked for concessions, as is extended to foreigners.
Is this too much to ask for in light of the grounds we have already broken?
The commanding heights of our industry are not a Panorama show, a music festival, or some concerts in the communities. We do this as our social responsibility and this should be supported by the powers that be. The commanding height is in our Steel drum factory running effectively, and creating a production line that can supply the markets we have created across the globe. We should be exporting Steelpan instruments, tuners, arrangers, pannists—you name it—to the world.
We need seed money, yet bailouts have been extended to Clico and a lot of other failed establishments. There seems to be a plan to vilify the Steelpan fraternity, to take over and privatise the industry so that we would remain servants the rest of our lives. We are prepared to resist what seems to be a hostile takeover with our last breath.
For over 60 years we have been evolving. Give credit where credit is due, we have been doing much better than plenty of you. Today, we are appealing to our government to show some confidence in the abilities of its people. Any concessions you could extend to foreigners, you could do the same and better for your own people here at home.
Partner with the people to make their culture profitable. They have made all the sacrifice from in the morning. Let us revisit all the projects we started with past regimes; take them off the shelves so they can benefit our country the way they should. We all are aware that this is a billion-dollar industry that could really help the economy.
The Steelpan fraternity would like to cease being victims of adversarial politics. Panorama 2016 has us still in the red and we believe that Carnival could and should be able to sustain itself financially.
The pannists up to now have not collected the minimal performance subsistence and 2017 subsidies for the interest groups are as short as the Savanna grass. How is it possible that all service providers benefit more—financially—than the performers?
Maybe one of these years we should allow the visitors to come to sweet TnT for Carnival, to enjoy the presentation of the service providers.
We are not in the business of conflict and strife; our interest is music and entertainment and the best for our members. Let us sit down together to carve out a future for culture in our economy, especially our national instrument.