“[…] Etched on its surface are vodka bottle-shapes that separate the notes on the instrument. The words ‘ABSOLUT PAN’ are boldly depicted at its base.
“It is an insult to our national musical instrument! Will it stand for as long as Columbus’s statue? Shouldn’t voices be raised nationally for the removal of this commercial monument?”
In the following letter to the editor, Henry Harper of Petit Valley calls for the removal of a pan ‘monument’ outside the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain; and more respect for our unofficial national musical instrument:
Pan; a cultural conundrum.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a statue as ‘a carved or cast figure of a person or animal, especially one that is life-size or larger’. Christopher Columbus’s statue, erected in 1881, was meant to eternalise not only his unintended presence in an island that he renamed Trinidad, but also his ‘discovery’ of the New World!
Education has rendered the static status and source of our taught history as provocative and one dimensional—that is European. It is not surprising that, in 2020, a Spanish ambassador would object to the removal of a statue of an Italian in a country in which he has no jurisdiction.
The same dictionary has no definition of what can only be referred to as a ‘commercial monument’ reference being made to the carved figure shaped like a pan—our unofficial national musical instrument—on the greenery adjoining the Jean Pierre Complex.
Etched on its surface are vodka bottle-shapes that separate the notes on the instrument. The words ‘ABSOLUT PAN’ are boldly depicted at its base. It is an insult to our national musical instrument! Will it stand for as long as Columbus’s statue? Shouldn’t voices be raised nationally for the removal of this commercial monument?
Twenty years ago, the Jean Pierre Complex was the home of an international steel band music competition. Panich from Switzerland, Ebony from England, Calypsociation from France and local bands participated in a competitive festival of classical music.
The Complex, the Hasely Crawford Stadium and the Grand Stand in the Queen’s Park Savannah are centres of pan activity. Each venue should be given consideration re the housing of pan memorabilia. The greenery outside the complex can certainly be put to better use.
The history of pan in Trinidad and Tobago is both factual and legendary. It represents an important part of ‘our’ cultural story that is in serious need of official and easily accessible documentation. How else will information about the pan pioneers, the champion bands, pan maestros, pan awardees, the inventors and the patent holders become known both locally and internationally?
Every researcher, student and knowledge seeker must know that Jomo Wahtuse, inventor and recipient of the World Intellectual Property Award Gold Medal in 2012—by way of US Patent No 10,654,087 B2 granted on 19th May 2020—has joined an elite group of pan patent holders in Trinidad and Tobago.
His invention, the Hydroforming Press, will revolutionise how pan is manufactured and open economic diversification opportunities that were previously non-existent.
Unfortunately, pan still remains our unofficial national musical instrument, even though it was so proclaimed by former PM Patrick Manning in his 1992 Independence Day address.
The Heritage Library cannot locate any Hansard records of it being established by an Act of Parliament. Both Wikipedia and the patent document granted to Jomo Wahtuse refer to pan as Trinidad and Tobago’s national musical instrument.
Should voices be raised nationally to have pan officially proclaimed as being our national musical instrument?