“Stay in tong!”
I shouted those words on Sunday last, in appreciation of the scintillating performance of Coffee Street, San Fernando band, Skiffle, in Adam Smith Square, Woodbrook, Port of Spain, at the second event put on by the Music in the Districts programme.
This event confirmed that other pan concert promoters have got the memo, which is in order to win increased audiences, concerts must start on time—thereby overcoming a legendary bad reputation in that regard—have no prolonged lulls between bands or artistes, and send us home before the time at which many people become afraid to be on the road.
These concerts also show the irrelevance of strife torn and bankrupt Pan Trinbago—reportedly $40 million in debt and pan players not yet paid—and serve to keep pan in front of the people.
At the moment, it is going very well without Pan Trinbago and the Music District programme must now look at locating performances in other parks across the country where pan concerts have been held.
Meanwhile, I await to see whether some entity will now bite the bullet—which the National Carnival Commission seems too coward to do—and re-organise Panorama, so that we will have prime bands in prime time in 2019. The madness of relegating illustrious bands to 1:00am and later and holding endurance tests, ought not to continue if Panorama is to have any future with visitors or audiences whose entertainment appetites and social habits have changed—mostly as a defence against violent crime.
As long as the categorisation of bands into Large, Medium, Small and Single Pan continues without qualification—such as minimum performance and track record requirements and different voting weight—and Government funding is dished out without supervision, reform will not come from within PanTrinbago.
Returning to the failure to diversify the economy by placing performing and culinary arts at the centre of a re-designed tourism thrust, I noted that Trinidad Express contributor David Jessop—who appears to have Caribbean tourism experience—described the imperative “to find ways to ensure that the Caribbean’s cultural uniqueness is infused into all that is offered to visitors.” This, he wrote, is a key element, able to differentiate the Caribbean from other competitive warm weather destinations.
Regarding culinary arts, recently deceased Anthony Bourdain had a special encounter with Trinidad and Tobago. In the course of his examining our food culture, the detachment of the one percent was starkly exposed. Nevertheless, followers of Bourdain’s programmes will know that well-heeled international tourists have the sampling of local cuisine high on their agenda.
Combine that with unique musical forms and our natural joie de vivre and we are sitting on an untapped gold mine.
A re-designed Panorama and the seasonal buzz in the panyards—which is attendant upon it—has an obvious pride of place if and when we can turn the preceding weeks of Carnival into a first quarter festival harnessing all of the diverse events associated with the Carnival period.
We must make room to bring items such as, stick-fighting, the blue devils experience, dragons, moko-jumbie, Canboulay and related dancing into the mainstream for longer periods, always with local food in attendance.
The week preceding and after Carnival is crammed with events. It is impossible to attend all and many of them would be well received before the climax of the Carnival season. There can be different price points for accommodation, which encourages visitors to come earlier than the now disappointing two-day climax of the Carnival season.
Persons come in on Carnival week and walk about looking for events. There is a significant market for daytime and early evening theatrical productions. In the panyards—at events similar to sponsors’ nights—Panorama practice can be deferred for two hours, once or twice a week, with bands using selections from their repertoires. For this an entrance fee can be charged.
Space constraints require me to defer putting out a question for the experts on the troubling use of microphones and sound systems for pan. I will do so soon and offer context from a chat with one of my pan comperes, Ariel of Skiffle, whose expertise on a double second G pan was formidable.