Upon arrival at the Green Market in Santa Cruz, two Saturdays ago, I bumped into a professional couple—each highly placed where they work. One of them asked me to write some more about the pan and the peace dividend.
The week before what I am about to describe, I met Vicky Assevero, founder and promoter of the Green Market, in Phase II panyard on the occasion of the 70th birthday pan concert of the renowned Boogsie Sharpe. Vicky invited us to come for the Market’s eleventh anniversary on Saturday 4th November.
It turned out that the Market would be closing for reasons succinctly and sensitively explained in Vicky’s interview with Pat Ganase, published in the Trinidad Newsday of 1 November, after spectacular success as a social development project.
Planned and unplanned building thrusts have slowly engulfed Santa Cruz and its greenery in the course of pressure to find new places to live. The Market has become a casualty of those thrusts.
Over the years of the Green Market, there were occasional cultural performances as fresh and as authentic as the green valley surroundings were then. The closing day was characteristic of what Vicky called in the Newsday interview “the bringing of cultural and musical history together”.
The meeting, referenced in the opening paragraph above, began the serendipity of a Saturday morning serenade to the potential of enlightened social development.
As I moved further into the Market from the conversation at the entrance, I saw the North Coast Pan Serenaders on site. This little band caught my attention because of its composition of pre-teen and teenage youth.
Right there and then, their presence and performance were a manifestation of what can and should be done for youth development and the potential of pan music to deliver a continuing peace dividend—generation after generation. My instincts about the manifestation proved right when I sought out their history.
The band is located a little way into Rincon Road, Las Cuevas, on the North Coast of Trinidad, which is the location that gives the band its name. The current captain is Irita, a natural leader who is still a student at St Francois Girls in Port of Spain.
The band is nurtured and managed by Hugo Forde, an elder, well known in pan circles. He told me of the links between pan in the area and Irita’s grandfather.
In those early days, in the absence of a road to Las Cuevas at that time, when a pan was obtained from outside it had to be brought into the area by boat. That is a telling cameo of the survival fibre of pan movements.
The band receives an annual grant for unsponsored bands but it cannot survive on that. I do not know whether the band receives appearance fees, but transport costs would eat a chunk of those funds.
Individual members have the skills necessary and get gigs with mightier bands like Phase II but those would only provide a modest, one-off, seasonal payment.
From a social development perspective there is a much bigger picture. North Coast Pan Serenaders are typical of a community institution keeping youngsters productively occupied and kept away from the clutches of gangs.
Children flock to the band. Its location is merely a few miles away from Blanchisseuse, where school is available to the children within the unequal, and for many children, catastrophically demotivating education system, but an area which has dangerous hot spot activities.
The discipline and creative energies of North Coast Pan Serenaders can readily be turned into a co-operative in the agricultural community out of which they come. With the nearby waterfall, there are obvious synergies with eco-tourism.
An appropriate communal socio-economic framework—other than partisan political dependency and segregation by grammar school education passes—is urgently required. As frequently recommended, the panyard has the capacity to be a major platform for such wider social developments that can be deployed throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
Last week, I read more of the usual utterances about “the social responsibility of businesses contributing to the betterment of society”.
When will those socially responsible businesses be actually setting about support for development of the peace and betterment contained in the panyard? Rincon is ready.