The Carnival Is Not Over
Who Said So?
President, Renegades Steel Orchestra
An Interview with Dalton Narine
© 2019 - All Rights Reserved.
I believe anyone who did not join in the struggle has no moral authority to question someone who did. (Michael Marcano)
Michael Marcano joined the CIP (Concerned Individuals for Pan) out of a concern for the declining state of affairs of the steel band in its own birthplace. He’s frustrated with the executive of the governing body, and deems the group as self-serving and lacking in vision for taking the movement forward.
“We needed to change out that group for it’s lack of development,” Marcano declares. “I look around the world and see people like Andy Narell working wonders in Switzerland and France.“
It’s obvious Marcano’s keen to making a point.
“Listen to Forward Home on Narell’s CD, ‘oui ma chérie’ , and take in the beautiful sound of his pans. Or, check out Extempo Steelband of Switzerland on You Tube. Are we the only people that can play pan as it’s supposed to be played?
“In Japan, the steel band is ‘this close’ to a National instrument. Small wonder the Panorama Steelband of Japan created waves at the 2015 World Panorama held in Trinidad & Tobago.”
Marcano hints that he hasn't seen such significant development of the movement in T&T over the past two decades.
“Quite the opposite.”
“Consider Ellie Mannette, father of the modern steel drum, along with other tuners such as Bertie Marshall, Rudolph Charles, Lincoln Noel, Allan Gervais, Bertrand Kelman and Inventor pioneer Anthony Williams.
“After all the work our tuners have done to bring the pan to what it has become, we seem hell-bent, not just on stagnation but also on taking the instrument back in time. Marcano harks back to his experience of Pan’s different modes of evolution.
“There was a reason for developing the double tenor, the double second, the double guitar, the triple cellos, four pans, and the 5,6,7 and 9 basses, even the 12 bass.
“Now, we take the retrograde step of going back to single pans, so that we teach our children to play only two and three chords,. (In fact, we don’t teach them, we just show them the notes) and we think we are making sense. Of course, we’re not.”
Marcano no doubt speaks a musical language that is spare in style. “Is anyone taking note of the fact that Universities such as West Virginia, Florida State, Denver and North Texas College of Music, to name a few, offer far better steelband programs than UWI and UTT?
Northern Illinois University School of Music, for example, continues to graduate pan tuners and pan virtuosos at a much faster rate than we can even dream of doing. Then again, it seems as if the only development our young people . . .
Marcano pauses, hesitates.
… the ones on whose shoulder the future rests (including the local graduates) can think about is the players’ remittance hustle at Panorama time. So, I could hardly focus on a measly $500 for players. I never said Pan players should not be paid.
“In fact, I believe they deserve much more than 500 or 1000 dollars, but I also know that will only happen when we take a coherent and business-like approach to the planning and staging of Panorama as well as other steelband shows and programs, and in the managing of our steel bands.”
Marcano adjusts himself, spits out his delivery as if born with the power of speech.
“Panorama began in 1963 and has undergone no significant or sensible upgrade. We speak of it as being the world’s grandest steelband show, yet fail to realize that it is losing its appeal. The medium-band and large-band semi-finals are the only shows today that play to a packed house. All other shows are poorly attended, even those that are free to the public. But that doesn’t seem to concern us. Government is footing the bill.
“So we walk around beating our chest and saying, ‘It is the pan that’s bringing the tourists for Carnival. But where are they on Finals night? Certainly not in the stands.
“Besides, who wants to go to a show that starts at 7 p.m. and concludes at 3 or 4 a.m.”
Marcano pauses, rants about his disregard for Pan’s status quo.
“We can’t even attract a pay-per-view audience with such a schedule.
To begin with, staging a competition with 250 plus bands is ridiculous, yet we keep forming more and more truncated bands every year. And when you look at it, more than half are either unprepared or ill-equipped to participate meaningfully in a show at the magnitude of the task before them.
“For it to be deemed the world’s greatest show, it must be of a certain caliber. Only the best steel orchestras in the land should be on display. A band can’t keep its doors locked for 11 months in the year, invest no time or effort in training young players, then come January, pull out some instruments, hire a bunch of mercenaries – for whom government must pay the bill - and enter Panorama.”
DEFRAUDING THE CULTURE
Marcano, Chairman of ISF as well as the Large Band Caucus, is on a roll.
“This is degrading. It is defrauding the culture, the organizers and patrons.
Marcano is more interested in developing a large-scale business through mergers.
“We’re deluding ourselves, Panorama is a big-band affair,” Marcano warns.
“That is not to say there is no room for the small bands, which are like nurseries that train players for the bigger bands, but they must team up to form big bands if they want to enter the show.
“Panorama is a once a year affair, so what is to stop Siparia Deltones from teaming up with Diatonics, or Hatters with Old Tech; Arima Angel Harps with Nutones or Melodians; Power Stars with Western Stars Philharmonics, or Casablanca with Pandemonium, and Scherzando with Sforzata, to name a few random mergers.
The Renegade leader appears to be driven by political and musical calculations yet hangs on to a moral inspiration fed from the soul.’
To that point, Marcano has seen it happen twice — several bands combining to play one song.
First time, it was under Pat Bishop at the Jean Pierre Complex. Years later, when Jit Samaroo’s arrangement of Pan in A Minor bellowed out at the Queens Park Savannah.”
Now, here’s Marcano’s pitch.
“Panorama is the Superbowl of steel bands. It follows, therefore, that Panorama must have some delineating criterion to distinguish it as the Championships event of steel bands.
The criterion that immediately comes to mind?
Only the finest steel bands must appear, Marcano suggests.
*The competition should be of a single category - between 80 to 120 players.
* In keeping with the maxim, the finest steel bands should perform, beginning with a qualifying round that should take place in the various pan yards. This will determine a band’s eligibility to be a part of a semi-final round of 40 to 45 bands, from which 12 will be selected in order of merit for the Finals.
* Bands appearing in the semi-final and final rounds must be paid a substantial appearance fee upon qualifying in each round, together with an appropriate allocation to cover transport cost, based on their region.
* Appearance fee and transport funding must be separate and apart from prize money.
CARNIVAL MONDAY AND TUESDAY
Smaller bands and single pan bands, if they desire, can receive financial assistance to parade the streets of their communities on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Such a move will ensure their participation in the Carnival festivities as well as serve to bring Pan back on the road in the various towns and villages. This move will also reduce any logistical cost, such as trucking.
Kitchy Boy, will the Carnival come back?
Well, it has never left the steel band in the dark as far as I know. It was just a song in my heart, the Ruso.
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