MALICE IN THE PALACE
Featuring Pan, Panists & Pandemonium:
Is Panorama Driven Apart by Civil War?
by Dalton Narine
© 2019 - All Rights Reserved.
The art, the dance, the Pan
When will they reappear?
A Trojan horse has invaded our annual ritual, just like that.
I had planned on writing a piece about Pan and the instrument's supposed loneliness in the Mas (The Carnival is Over) in time for Panorama Finals week. So I understand the massive outpouring of the nation's bizarre outcry of passion, but I own a different belief regarding my take and experiences.
I'll leave the inner sanctum of Pan Trinbago’s president, Pan’s yardies and the current mind-blowing brouhaha to the Alices in Wonderland and their faux animal characters speaking in caustic tongues of the human language.
For, a few people I know are parroting a sour source that the Panorama gone through. Better to listen to them than turn your head. You, too, have a say.
How does he handle the noise?
“I focus on positive vibes,” says Smooth, speaking in an unemotional and practical manner.
“You see, dissension and protest highlight flaws. You don’t need to be bothered by everything around you. There’s always got to be some grouse.”
Of course, there’s also a grumble that hangs around Pan and panyards. So, the Woman on the Bass iconic arranger sends a message about the dissension that continues to grow between the parties as more back and forth jump out through the media.
“Life is about changing the era. Right now, it is about youths. If you stay by what you know, you won’t get to move with the times. For example, Nadia Batson’s song, So Long, may be more monotone, but we’re moving on.”
Smooth doesn’t play. Watch out for some of his well-constructed chord progressions and melodies that should hold the music together.
As far as progression is concerned, bet on Smooth having the band moving gradually toward a more advanced state.
“Always keep your eyes on the prize,” Smooth reminds. “Even if you make a mistake.”
Smooth is spot on, though, about the dissension that cloaks the Pan movement.
“The money they’re making noise for,” Smooth says, “is a stipend from Government or Pan Trinbago.
“If it’s the wrong thing, humble yourself and put on a show of your own. Live your life in an effort to ensure the cultural art form shines. In any field, you need to over-shine to make your enemies humble. When you’re at your best, the public benefits from quality music. Don’t let anyone take on your target, else you miss the bullseye and won’t score.”
Ah, there you are, Cool Hand Smooth, a chip of the old actor, Paul Newman’s block.
I remember the evening, after wrapping up my exams, I walked out on my Piano teacher, strolled down Duke Street only to bounce up with Mousou, a dear friend and then-member of Desperadoes.
Mousou followed me into Trinidad All Stars’ ‘Pan Theater’ on Charlotte Street.
Bandleader Neville (Cap) Jules took us up the stairs to the much vaunted Garret, an attic that sat above the Maple Leaf Club, where we were baptized in Steel Band lore.
The esteemed players:
Bassists Shurland, Rupert, Winston Gordon;
Tenor panists Rupert, Theobald, Audra Preddie
Cello player Boyie
Second Pan player Roy Gibbs
Grundig founder & player Jules himself
Guitar pan player Joe Bell.
Neville Jules and All Stars resident arranger Leon “Smooth” Edwards relax at the All Stars Pan yard,
Back then, the band had built its reputation on a Bomb factory of elite classical road music, as well as the latest Calypsos on the airwave.
Cap shocked me and my pal when he gathered the players the day after Ash Wednesday. The money wasn’t measly. It bought me a pair of Clarks Jigger boots, and flooded my pockets anytime we played at the Hilton and at the usual Sunday Night fetes.
Great Pan doesn’t die. It titillates, not torments.
When I turn the page on Pan, I show much empathy for panists, tears carrying on as if in a convoluted wet dream, where the general mood seems to be about power as the most important factor behind and in front of the table.
As in the horror of any war, even Pan wars, it all winds up as some kind of anxiety of social and political reconstruction.
Maybe I’m trespassing on grounds that are really not mine or within my sphere. But I very well know the enormity of what transpires in the crucible of a battle, its post-war effects and reconstruction of the mind.
As Yoda says in Star Wars, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
So, tell me. whither goest Pan.
Sarge: “Why’d you shoot that dead enemy soldier.”
“Well, he’s playing dead. I saved your life.”
To paraphrase the late James Baldwin, Segregation between Pan and the late Pan Trinbago has ended. The question now is how long and how expensive the funeral will be. Here we are still paying for it.
I’ve known Pan to be stimulating in every way. It has a unique status with its people, and is driven by the ambition to be great all over the world.
Now, through some weird circumstance, Pan seems to have lost its honor and glory, but not so much the splendor of the instrument.
I’m not a moralist, though I think Pan’s moral values are old. Our myths and conventions, too.
Blend visual image with sound and ideas, a form of reciprocal pity where they feel the same way about each other. That’s the old school Pan that Jules blended into my heart.
Time to look each other in the eyes and confess the truth. Reload into a state of virginity that one need not understand but simply be.
Sometimes, leaders create obstacles for themselves, and Pan and Pan Trinbago had become enemies, inciting players’ instincts.
What is good? What is bad?
“When you work hard, with passion, the results will be given to you. Dr. Jit Samaroo taught me what music is all about. I travelled the world, among different cultures. I became humble. I now realize that a young generation wants to be like me. I felt the same about being with Dr. Samaroo, a great joy.”
Duvone brings up Renegades’ Panorama 2018 victory, admires and recalls the support of the youths in the Universities and the elders in the community nicknamed the Harp.
“I want to be part of their lives, both youths and elders. It’s my mission. I’m living testimony to what human beings are supposed to be.”
Small wonder Duvone, who confesses to being a glutton and a gourmand in his past, had found his immediate future in Mexico, where he had gastric surgery, an operation on his stomach during a period of three years.
“I was four hundred and forty pounds and lost 200,” Duvone claims. “Dante Pantin, an arranger, drummer and tenor panist for Renegades, we both changed one another’s lives.”
Dr. Dawn K. Batson
Professor of Music
International Cultural Consultant,
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Dr. Batson’s raw input from the grass roots could be relative to corporate sustainability.
“We need to see some returns for Government and sponsors and players, she hints. “It’s not a sustainable business model at the moment. Some people are striving to create that. To tap into the energy and drive of young people and university graduates.
“At the end of the day, some aren’t paying their light bills. As you go through life, you see a more defined program. You see more things happening and you become jaded. We need to open our minds to people of all ages and walks of life to a different experience.
“Self-sustenance, the ability to continue in a healthy state without outside assistance is not a science of satisfaction but a monetary gain. All the Panoramas should be celebrated for the future. Tuners are growing old, a natural progression.
A lot of work needs to be accomplished, Dr. Batson says.
“It’s a structural issue to me and it needs to be changed. Right now, it’s a thankless job.
“People are passionate on very many levels. The camaraderie you get when you walk into a panyard, the blood, sweat and tears of players. The passion of music produced is like nothing the power and prestige people think they might achieve.
“Financially, we’ve not set up panyards as they should. We must look for other means of revenue, like businesses and transportation.
“Restructuring, though, could be like building a house of cards.
“What you’re selling? No question, music of a high standard; so you need to give patrons a quality product.
“Listen to the experts. It’s not a Trini thing only.”
A Foremost Arranger of Desperadoes
“The absence of something doesn’t convey that something is true. I’m not cognizant of what the situation is at home. The music being played is not what we were playing back in the day. There’s a lot of feedback of dissatisfaction from people. They feel disappointed. They also have a grasp about the youths, the young arrangers. Their efforts are frivolous, because it’s a situation where people aren’t serious themselves, so the progress being made is not progress.
“Soca is akin to rap. Same idioms and structure as the rap. Rap has no melody, just lyrics.”
This is the third in a series by Dalton Narine, leading up to the Panorama Finals
Dalton Narine is a Belmont-born Trinidadian who dabbled in the arts and wrote about Trinidad & Tobago culture. He spent the other half of his career as a filmmaker and TV broadcaster during T&T’s annual Carnival. Narine is an avid collector of calypsos by The Mighty Shadow, a singer, he says, who had a knack for telling stories on himself and his own country that, at last, has embraced him.
contact Dalton Narine at: email@example.com