Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Panmen’s Plight: Gov’t treatment of steelpan mirrors broader disrespect for local potential

Panmen’s Plight: Gov’t treatment of steelpan mirrors broader disrespect for local potential

“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.

Photo: Exodus steelband at Panorama. (Copyright Discovertnt)
Photo: Exodus steelband at Panorama.
(Copyright TDC via Discovertnt.com)

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!

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona (second from right) shows Pope Francis how to beat iron. (Courtesy whensteeltalks.com)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona (second from right) shows Pope Francis how to beat iron.
(Courtesy whensteeltalks.com)

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.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

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.

Photo: Birdsong performs at the 2015 Panorama semifinal. (Copyright birdsongtt)
Photo: Birdsong performs at the 2015 Panorama semifinal.
(Copyright birdsongtt)

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34 comments

  1. if you not getting audited accounts, why do the government disburse more money. it happens in sporting organizations etc. In the US the government give you $1 million dollars, the following year if you cannot explain how it was spent you are not getting a cent more. Corruption, at its’ max.Successive governments have to take the blame for this fiasco, like so many other corrupt practices. and it continues unabated . This did not happen overnight . where is the oversight? We keep doing the same things over and over and getting the same results. I agree the president has to take full blame. Pass the buck blame the Accounting officers. Sound like Anil Roberts blame the public service . Sweet Sweet Trinidad, o how I luv you bad

    • The Tobago House of Assembly has not had audited accounts for about 10 years and each year they get more money in the budget. This is T&T where anything goes and the populace just wince and take it. We don’t call here lax for nothing.

    • that’s, my point , we the electorate don’t know the power we have, We’re too caught up in race and party poltiics, while politicians clink glasses, rape the treasury and full their pockets, but GOd is alive and he answers all in his own time. we stand for nothing

    • Informative article above. I gave my Caribbean studies students some research to do on various topics, (re the MC Farlane debacle ) to inquire about our history and the steel pan was one of the topics. I did my own research and one of the things that the writer stated that peaked my interest was that it was promoters who found it more economical to get rid of pan in parties and on the road for Carnival, since it was cheaper to pay one DJ as opposed to several pannist. Imagine carnival day DJ,s drowning out pan music or Reggae playing, something is wrong with us, Why can’t we appreciate the divers culture that we are blessed with? Instead we want to be Americanised or be a Jamaican. We simply don’t like our own . I am a proud dougla and love my country and myself

  2. Thanks Jeston Lett. Illuminating.

  3. Ahhh! This crab in barrel land eh. Imbeciles in high places.

  4. Ha! Pan Trinbago no better than Kamla led PP.. I’d leave that right there….

  5. Soon enough PAN MEN AND WOMEN Will rebel! Enough is enough! stop treating performers like dogs! Would there be any show with out the artist? Trinidad is already like a musical desert we barely get to shine during carnival time and now the little that we earn you(government) sticking to pay or even wanna take it away? Fire for that! Stop treating pan man this way or you’ll not have them in the near future! Remember our lovely pans can’t play them selves! And another point do more for pan…..You mean to say after carnival we most bands have to pack up until the next season? We do not push a button and play! it’s pure energy and maximum effort from the little children and groan folks. Do more for pan!

  6. Earl Best

    Hear Stalin one year: “…wrup up inside ah we hand go be the secret of making pan…”

    Hear him another year: “Pan gone, panman stay”

    Maybe the powers-that-be was so busy wining on young gyul that they didn’t hear. Maybe the powers-that-be was so focused on killing a bee that land on Anika Gumbs behind that they didn’t hear. Maybe the powers-that-be was too busy studying how to get enough money to buy Cazabon painting to realise what happening. maybe the powers-that-be content to play mas while pan future jumping up in steelband.

    Sing yuh kaiso, Mikey, boy, sing yuh kaiso yuhself.

    Or get a woman to sing it fuh yuh. And make sure Birdsong doh play it as deh tune of tune next Carnival.

  7. St Augustine TGR lands has sforzata pan and another idiot on Evans st has a panside now because there is a grant to receive and squatting is taking Plc, in a few years squatters has taken oven the land s of TGR the water table is destroyed flooding the legitimate residents loud lewd fetes , do they pay taxes,? Thriving businesses exist. It’s a total eyesore Evans st prime lands with all sorts taking Plc

    Do things professionally and maybe recognition will come, yes the pan is ours but when laws are broken no winners.

  8. You thought I was joking Lasana Liburd. I was hoping they would change from within but with the departure of Serrette, all hope is lost

  9. if TT panman/panwoman is serious about their industry…STEP FORWARD NOW…..you have FB to get things going….

  10. Uhhh, what is Pan Trinbago doing?

  11. While i agree with the overall message, Pan Trinbago as an organization runs on a similar track to TTFA, etc. As an industry, we cant cry foul when many times we are the ones to blame.