Daly Bread: ‘The silence of the panyards’; needing Boy Boy to rescue our ‘desolate Carnival Land’

No pelau is cooking for a semi-final Panorama Sunday, in which we should be revelling today. No coolers and food baskets readied for the Savannah. The magic drums are silent.  

My soul’s feeling like it get planasse!

The silence in the panyards sent me back to a brilliant Phase II composition in praise of the pan entitled, The Magic Drum. As is customary, Boogsie Sharpe and his collaborators composed their own piece for Panorama. In that year, 2009, Machel Montano, did the vocals: ‘ping pong, ping pong, ping pong had them wining down…’

Photo: The Phase II steelband performs at the 2020 Panorama semifinals.

Boy Boy was part of the lyrics: ‘play d pan, play d pan for we Boy Boy’. A child’s dream of making music on his magic drum was also published in storybook form by Machel, which related a time when the whole town was looking forward to the Peace Parade, but The Factory on which the parade depended for electricity shut down the day before.

The old Magic Man inspired Boy Boy to rescue the parade and Boy Boy went into town with his magic drum and saved the parade. As he played it, an assortment of persons joined him bringing whatever they could in order to make sound.  

For example: ‘Pa-tang, pang, pa-tang, Mr Rand’s tyre iron rang’.

We need Boy Boy as badly now because, as in the storybook, Carnival Land became ‘a dark, silent scary place and the people were full of despair because there would be no music for the Peace Parade this year’.

Actually the need is greater given the dismissive disrespect of the National Carnival Commission and the last minute vaps reactions.

Photo: Boy Boy and The Magic Drum…

Before returning to the joy of The Magic Drum, let me join in the acclaim for our sister in performing arts, Singing Sandra, who died last week. She lived and died, carrying—no matter what—the dignity she extolled in song.

All music has evocative power, that is bringing strong images, memories or feelings to heart and mind. I have a close Phase II fan and follower as a pardner.  I brought up The Magic Drum with him as a prelude to writing this column.

Once I mentioned that I might be writing about that Panorama tune, the hard times voice with its flatter pitch, which permeates most recent conversations with him, rose and went into excitement overdrive.

“Chief, Martin, that was tune. I could give you the rundown of what cause us to run second in Panorama that year, but boy; I could remember the colour of the costumes the pan players wore.  

“I had a friend from DC and she was with me in the band. She had not come for Carnival a long time and was in awe…”  

Photo: Massy Trinidad All Stars at the 2017 Panorama competition.

He then stopped the reminisce abruptly and I gathered that the rest of that evening is best left to private memories.

The dark mornings is a next jumbie. It is hard get up on these mornings, see the half-light and not be transported to a cool but pulsating Jouvert centre of the mind, waiting on the first steelband to come along Ariapita Avenue. 

It would then carry chipping feet to Phillips Street corner to meet All Stars, en route to dropping its musical bomb at Victoria Square, to peel off from the band at the top of Richmond Street and return to the musical bomb scene to soak in the musical waves created by Despers and many others.

The Jouvert tradition does not involve the vast sums of taxpayers money carelessly thrown into the annual Panorama. Year after year, the grant for Panorama was wrongly and unaccountably treated as though Pan Trinbago was free to spend it as it pleased.  

The consequence was, when the time came to pay the legitimate prize money and players’ stipend, there was cry of ‘shortfall’—because they bus’ the Panorama grant on ‘administrative’ expenses.

Photo: Pan Elders Steel Orchestra.
(Copyright steelbandauthority.com)

Responsible opinion within cultural circles has long recognised that we ought not to return to free-for-all expenditure in the guise of Panorama. Three years ago an experienced group recommended a restructuring and redistribution of the Panorama grant.  

Will good advice be heeded when we resume?

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