Merle Albino-de Coteau
WST - Are we finally starting to see the groundwork spear-headed by such women pioneers as yourself, at last start to take root, bear fruits?
Merle - “It has taken a while but finally we have started to see it bear fruit.”
WST - To be specific, this year there are a few women in the steelband arranging arena for panorama; they include, but may not be limited to: Michelle Huggins-Watts, Shenelle Abraham, Vanessa Headley, Jeannine Remy, Avis Bruce, Keisha Codrington - your immediate thoughts?
Merle - “Congratulations and all the best wishes to them. The fact that they have been selected shows that they have the ability and competence for the job at hand. I look forward to hearing their works.”
WST - Where are Pan people exactly in terms of progress?
Merle - “Some people have done more than others, having had more exposure to develop their potential and talent. The perception of “Pan people” has certainly changed considerably from what it was in the 1950s. Generally, the orchestras are more organised.”
WST - Is panorama a curse or a necessary exercise and the glue that holds everything together?
Merle - “It is a necessary exercise as competition is always healthy for development.”
WST - As a judge you have traveled to many places for competitions. What is the most striking thing you have seen? What are the similarities, and what are the differences?
Merle - “All over the world Pan people are very passionate about their instruments and their bands – players and supporters alike! Similarities: The joy with which players execute their selections and accompany their favourite arrangers especially to assist in the performance of their music. Differences: Perhaps because they are in awe of the instrument, because it is still new to them, foreign Pan people tend to pay much more respect to the Pan.”
WST - What are you most proud of as it relates to Pan?
Merle - “That Trinidad has given Pan to the world.”
WST - What has most disappointed you in Pan?
Merle - “That it is not taught properly, even in some schools, that is to say it should be treated as any standard instrument of the orchestra and not given the kind of treatment as in a “panyard”. And if I may add a second, the proper maintenance of the instrument, in general, leaves a lot to be desired.”
WST - What are two things that are totally intolerable and must change immediately?
Merle - “Firstly, sometimes describing oneself as a Panist can be met with disgust and even discrimination. The question which follows is “What else do you do?” Secondly, the area from which you have come also sometimes brings discrimination.”
WST - What are your expectations and vision for the future of Pan?
Merle - “More Trinbagonians should be recognized internationally for the work that they are doing in the Pan Fraternity, thereby putting Trinidad and Tobago on the world stage.”
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