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Daly Bread: On the bright side: gleaning hope from the steelband movement

When our politicians fail us, rather than responding on the issues, they commonly pursue attacks on critics and angry dismissals of so-called negativity.

They are however so blinded by their own rhetoric and the flattery of their satellites that they do not know where to look for—let alone properly to invest in—the bright side of Trinbago life, which already delivers positives and can deliver volumes more.

The pomp of office also blinds our rulers to the issues in the real world, while they purport to govern. They join the ‘dignitary’ class, which, as I pointed out two weeks ago, is the other one percent, who commandeer privileges for the use of this class.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and wife, Sharon, at Independence Day celebrations 2019
(via Office of the Prime Minister)

In addition, I referred last week, to the mimicking of colonial pomp. Much of officialdom has also gleefully adopted the lifestyle of celebrity culture while we have more than one brutal murder per day, frequently committed with impunity.

I was delighted, therefore, last Monday, to read Dr Tye Salandy’s indictment of the neo-colonial structure which rules us, in particular, our failure (among other things) ‘in the transition from a colony to an independent republic to transform the internal inequalities and colonial hierarchies.’

Part and parcel of this failure is the persistence of ‘systems of colonial education, the colonial laws, the inequalities of land and resource distribution and the ideology of race, colour, gender and class superiority/inferiority.’

All of the above explains the authoritarian and scornful reactions of our governments. It also explains why its members will dress up for Shaggy but neither seek to put our pan music in its rightful place nor invest in all our performing arts by reference to defined policy and embrace them as a means to diversify the economy.

The resilience and growth of the steelband movement are amazing. August was pan month. I began with the annual Birdsong summer camp graduation musical concert.

I have previously described the Birdsong model of providing musical education, which includes youth at risk. At this year’s concert, they stunned us with a performance of the Fourth Movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony under the baton of Maestro Jesus Acosta. The choice of this piece demonstrated the full orchestral performance capacity of pan combined with other instruments.

It may be useful to share what this camp meant to the parents of the youth who took part by quoting some of their comments.

Photo: Birdsong performs at the 2015 Panorama semifinal. Birdsong puts the emphasis less on competition and more on schooling its members in music and pan.
(Copyright birdsongtt)

“All I can say is wow. This was my daughter’s first camp ever at 13 years old—first musical adventure and from day one she enjoyed every day.

“When she brought the flier from school that her music teacher gave her, I was very skeptical, but she was determined she wanted to do it. This camp has built a confidence in her I have never seen.”

With equal fervor, another parent thanked everyone who by their presence ‘contributed to the development process of our children’. Another specifically thanked two other older members of the group for being ‘her son’s mothers in my absence’.

The annual Ariapita Avenue Pan Parade is another August pan event. It is a joyful occasion, although there are some logistical kinks. As the event has grown, it is pleasing to see that, in addition to the very young pan players, a growing number of younger persons come on the Avenue for the event.

The Birdsong Academy and the Avenue Pan Parade are not Pan Trinbago productions. These events represent self-starting initiatives of the organisers, similar to the Big 5 Concert scheduled for next month. Nevertheless, I am bound to say that the new administration of Pan Trinbago has brought some verve and new thinking into the steelband movement.

Panorama Finals are poised to return to a premier event consisting only of prime bands in prime time and to turn the Medium Band Final into a potential tourism product for Tobago. The fight-back against the Carifesta snubs in the form of the Solidarity Concert at Starlift’s yard and the rousing support given to Pan and Powder were heartening.

Dare we hope that pan administration will really move towards some degree of internal reform? I am looking on the bright side.

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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