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A SteelPan Player’s Perspective 2005 World Steelband Music Festival (WSMF)

 

Courts New Dimension from Grenada at WSMF in Madison Square Garden

New York - Of course, you’ll have to take my word for it, because despite a lovely show put on by Pan Trinbago (The World Steelband Music Festival 2005) there are no officially recorded renditions of the show. There isn’t even one complete source of recordings in the yards. Doesn’t anyone value the historical aspect of pan at all? This again calls the question of how pan can properly be marketed, and who is in fact the market.

First, the show. Despite the touting of a World Steelband Music Festival, there still may have been some disappointment on the part of anyone who had previously been to Festival. The disconnect between the preliminaries and the finals made many wonder about the process of inclusion into the finals. This coupled with the fact that the general vibe of a festival was missing (no music on the radios, no real visiting of the yards to hear rehearsals) made many comment that this wasn’t really Festival.
 

CASYM from New York at WSMF in Madison Square Garden

All this doesn’t mean that we should belittle the achievement of Pan Trinbago. In a short time a show was put together which allowed those who attended have six hours of pure pan enjoyment. While there were questions of logistics rife in the air up to two days before the event – pans in customs, bands not here yet, etc., the show came off with only the hiccup of the first band change. Since the responsibility for this lies squarely with the team at MSG, who ultimately did catch on, we hardly have room to complain.

As to the music, from a tango in the A minor as put forth by the Courts New Dimension from Grenada, to the dramatic Echoes Symphony as played by Skifflebunch, to the extremely creative “From Kumasi to La Trinidad” by the Courts Sound Specialists of Lavantille the audience was thoroughly riveted. Dem Boys from Tobago kept the audience going with renditions of Lovely Day, Woman is Boss, Sa Sa Yea, and other songs. Musically, the show surpassed the expectations of many who went, and some who stayed home expecting disaster.
 

 

Skiffle Bunch from Trinidad at WSMF in Madison Square Garden

But what of the market for pan? Who exactly is the target audience? What do the players get out of it? Should the promoters take into consideration the feelings of the players as distinguished from those of the band leaders?

I, for one was pleased to see that a large segment of the audience were not only pan aficionados, but in fact players. This at least proved, if not once and for all, at least for this event, that pan can sustain itself within our own community. We are always hearing that only Europeans and the Japanese appreciate pan these days, but this proved, happily, to be not wholly accurate. Who is the audience? The answer seems to be evolving, but people of Caribbean extract are not to be written off just yet.
 

Sound Specialists of Lavantille from Trinidad at WSMF in Madison Square Garden

One can only imagine that the individual player becomes the lowest form of life in a band setting. The player gets very little remuneration for the tiring hours of practice, so has to instead think of furthering his personal achievements. Maybe that entails playing different instruments or learning the tune in a shorter span of time. Players have to content themselves with the bragging rights. Sometimes, in fact, there isn’t even a recording of the performance which can be easily obtained from the promoter. Pans get abused, left behind, not tuned until the last minute; the life of a player can be stressful in particular- in particular when coupled with the fact that any disorganization quickly becomes a distraction from the music.

Do promoters such as Pan Trinbago and WIADCA have to take the players feelings into consideration? In a perfect world, yes. While I am not suggesting that players be pampered to the point of becoming divas, there is a certain logic to making the talent happy. We could all look forward to the day when the player can comfortably be transported to the venue, and be allowed to decompress before getting to the stage. One can only imagine that the quality of music would be improved. As a parting gift – a recording of the performance would be nice too (OK, that was Eden before Eve and the serpent got to it), as well as some acknowledgement of the sacrifice – dare I say appreciation.

I have awoken from my reverie to get back on track about the Festival. Having pulled this off, Pan Trinbago can now look forward, both literally and figuratively and ponder the future of the instrument in other ways. Let’s hope the opportunity is not lost.

- AH -

2005 World Steelband Music Festival - In New York

 

 

 

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