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When Steel Talks - Special - Panorama 2005

Back in Time –

What does it mean?

 by AH

As a sometimes player, hearing last year that Pan Trinbago was introducing a new rule in the Panorama that bands could play older selections, I must say that I was intrigued.  Images of playing Woman on the Bass or Sa Sa Yay ran through my mind. 


This new rule at least countered what I believed to be the foolish decision to limit the tune to eight minutes.  Sure, a great deal can be accomplished in eight minutes, but even more can be done with ten. 


I am reminded of how the forces that control sports leagues have contrived to make the games (soccer not withstanding) more palatable to the viewing audience.  A basketball game has been adulterated by TV time outs, making the running game different.  We seem to be trying to make the Panorama more palatable to some audience, but the target market is undefined.


Many of the arrangers who we ourselves here at Panonthenet have interviewed have indicated that it is not particularly burdensome to arrange ten minutes of music.  After all, it wasn’t so long ago that some of the more popular arrangers worked for multiple bands.  If one makes the analogy that a Boogsie Sharpe or a Clive Bradley can be compared to WA Mozart, it should also be remembered that operas contain musical variations on a few themes which last for hours.  If this decision was about putting all the bands on one CD, then PanTrinbago should at least be honest about it. 


Two reasons for the “back in time” rule have been given. One is that the current selection of music is lacking.  The other is to make the Panorama more interesting to the listening audience by playing familiar (better?) music.  It is believed that this will increase attendance of the event.   Let’s tackle the latter first.


While there may be some drop in attendance due to attrition, the faithful still come to see the competition ready to fiercely root for their band.  It must be remembered that people attend the panorama for different reasons.  Those for whom the motivation to attend is backing “my band” are delightfully prejudiced. 


Last year during the aftermath of the WLIB coverage of the Panorama (which, by the way, will be sorely missed), I heard someone call in and say that they were an All-Stars fan, and that All Stars had definitely won.  This fan went on to say that while she didn’t hear all the other bands, but All Stars had to have won.  Of course this was before the results came out.  This fan should be sold season tickets to the North Stand.


Another type of audience member is the person for whom while a particular band or arranger may be a favorite, the music is the dominating factor.  This is the Renegades fan who admits that This Feelin' Nice beat out Pan in 'A' Minor.  Or the person who got chills when they heard High Mas.   For this audience member, the selection is not the big deal; the arrangement is, or to paraphrase a line from a past US election – It’s the Music, Stupid!


But, on to more pressing issues; the assertion that the quality and standard of “music for pan” has declined.  Doesn’t anyone think that this ruling could stifle the creativity of up and coming artists?  Is this some sort of misguided strategy to make current composers artificially compete with Kitchener and Sparrow. 


Music has changed over the past twenty or so years.  This is borne out, not only in our local music.  The influence of other cultures – the globalization, if you will, of music has had both good and bad consequences.  Today’s hip-hop generation takes samples from one generation ago, who sampled the previous generation.  Music is not so much created as regurgitated these days.  It is hard to make every genre comply with strict creativity, but if we lower the bar for the current generation of composers, we will most assuredly get less effort from them.


Based on the reactions to Lookin’ for Horn, High Mas, Trini to de Bone, In My House, and Whop, Cocoyea!, there is still viable music being composed within the genre, much of which is suitable for pan.  What this reeks of more than anything else, then, is an attempt to control all elements of pan by a certain faction, which doesn’t necessarily represent either the players or the arrangers.  One could barely argue that the bands wishes are being adhered to. 


If, however, the method leads to a contrivance both to control and cater to the market forces  (remember, these are the people for whom limiting the potential income of some arrangers by only allowing them to arrange for one band is said to allow the upcoming arrangers to get a chance) then maybe a more consistent agenda is necessary.


Remember, the sport of basketball hasn’t stopped because everything that can be done has already been accomplished by Michael Jordan.  Other players are vying to fill that gap.  So too, one day will the next Kitchener come.  It’s inevitable.  We shouldn’t stop him or her dead in their tracks by implying that all the good calypsos have already been written.   

by AH

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