Sheku Kanneh-Mason, aged 19, was the cellist at the royal wedding Saturday before last. Just about the time he was playing Schubert’s Ave Maria, in a setting of style and civility, two things happened.
The first was my train of thought that we had artistes of high calibre, who could execute the Ave Maria on pan and be as outstanding as Sheku; however, much of the world does not know this.
Likewise, as brilliant as the Kingdom Choir that sang gospel at the wedding was, we have choirs, such as the Lydians and others, who could have done as excellent a job; however, much of the world also does not know of our country’s choral-singing ability.
The second event—while the wedding was in progress—was receipt via What’s App of a video of scenes at a PanTrinbago meeting that were the polar opposite of civility.
I was severely disappointed to see the anger of persons, with whom one interacts around the panyards, exploding to the extent of verbal attack on a lawyer, who had come to serve documents, laced with a false and irrelevant charge that “You is not a Trinidadian.” That’s after some person said to be unknown allegedly threw beer on him.
The confluence of the stylish royal wedding and receipt of the disturbing video hurtfully underlined how many opportunities we have already lost to put our artistes in a position to become breakout stars internationally and the reasons for it.
The lack of an enabling policy to promote and support talent is compounded by constant discord, further undermining the opportunity to diversify the economy and shine internationally.
One ugly manifestation of the discord is the belief that anyone with managerial and other abilities—other than a few of the usual suspects—who seeks to promote pan is masking an intention to “steal” the pan away from those who play and lead it on the ground.
Personal attacks, such as “You is not a Trinidadian” or the claim that a sponsor is not a member of the appropriate tribe, are made, even when it is clear that the persons whose so-called right it is to manage the steelband are involved in mutually destructive warfare.
In the case of Reggae and Bob Marley, two of those persons who put Jamaican music on the world map by reason of their appearance might have been profiled as being “not from Jamaica.” In fact, one of them was white English but that was not treated as a disqualification of his ability to promote the now famous brand of Jamaican music.
I should also mention that the development of our sporting assets is equally blighted. The pattern of destructive habits of internecine warfare, freeness and nepotism runs through and through attempts to manage both performing arts and sporting talents.
I was so moved by the performances of Sheku and the Kingdom Choir that royal wedding Saturday was sweet. Sadly, the sweetness was infused with the bitterness of the display of Pan Trinbago madness coming to me at the same time as I was being reminded of opportunities grievously lost to build brand Trinidad and Tobago entertainment upon the many successes of our steel orchestras and choirs that travel abroad on their own efforts.
I have been involved in supporting privately funded opportunities for artistes abroad and am currently working on an opportunity for the Carib Dance company. This is additional to their scheduled visit to Greece, in respect of which the company is putting on a show at the Little Carib Theatre next weekend, on June 2 and 3.
Meanwhile Phase II, in association with the Hadco Group of Companies, held an all-inclusive jam down in its panyard. This event demonstrated the possibilities for regular multi-artistic pan theatre events, accompanied, as it was, with excellent catering.
The real and immediate opportunity to diversify the economy around our performing arts talents, among which the steelband is unique, has never been and still is not understood.
While partisan political manipulation, retrograde thinking, grabs for power feeding on distrust, prejudice and profiling inhibit investment and entrepreneurial partnerships, the cries remain.
Where pan reach? When will we realise its full potential?