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Full TnT Panorama
Coverage 2005

When Steel Talks - Special - Panorama 2005

Let The Music Play

 by Khalick J. Hewitt

Khalick J. Hewitt, President & Founder
International Steelpan & Calypso Society
January 18, 2005

Dear Panjumbies:


The controversy about PanTrinbago’s decision to permit the steelbands to play calypsos from yesteryear in this year’s Panorama is much ado about nothing. I congratulate PanTrinbago for their decision. They don’t get a lot of things right but they got this one right. Yet, it is a decision whose time has come. Over the years since the 1990s the caliber of music played by the steelbands in the Panorama left much to be desired. That is because the Soca composers are not writing music with the steelband in mind. Unlike the late Kitchener or Defosto and some other calypsonians, who composed music with the steelband in mind, the music being composed today has a different audience in mind. The era of calypsonians producing panmusic for the steelband is dead. The Soca audiences want energy and a hook line. They are not concerned with lyrics, except the hook line. So, the Soca composers are composing for their audience. That is the story of supply and demand. We have to beg the radio stations for air time to play more calypsos. The airwaves are responsible for leading the Nation in its cultural habits. What people hear on the radio or see on the TV shapes their cultural tastes. During the 1960s the radio and TV stations catered to a different Eurocentric culture. Today it is catering to a mostly different American culture. So, the music reflects what is being heard and seen on radio and TV. It is now time for the steelbands to compose their own music for their instruments. PanTrinbago has opened the door for panists to compose their own music for the steelbands. The permission to play calypsos from yesteryear is the beginning of that realization. Panists should take hold of this opportunity and meet the challenge. Ray Holman and Len Boogsie Sharpe led the way. There should be no more excuses.


Let us be real. The Carnival has outgrown the steelband. If the steelband wants to retain their place in the carnival it must adapt. Remember tamboo bamboo, limbo and pan on the road with pan pushers? Each generation shapes its music and cultural expressions as is guided by the media. In societies where there is strong political control (Totalitarian) of the culture, tastes last much longer. In democracies, taste changes with the supply and demand of the market place. The young audiences are demanding loud music, no lyrics and tempo. It is their demands that the Soca composers are following. The steelbands must compose their own music.  It is useless to cry every year that there is no good music for the pan. Steelbands must meet the challenges of the new Carnival. 


Let me suggest that the next change for PanTrinbago is to remove of the canopy/galvanize covering and the fancy frills from the steelbands during the Panorama. Why should viewers have to put up with these distractions covering the steelbands during the Panorama? We are living in a visual age and we want to see the panists displaying their talents on the steelpan. The canopies and those galvanize coverings are a distraction. Try looking at a panorama video or DVD and you will see what I mean. The steelbands look like a small shanty town village with all the contraptions covering their steel orchestras. They don’t cover the steel orchestras for the Music festival. Why for the Panorama?  If it is good for the Classics it should be good for the Panorama too. Give the panists their ’10 minutes’ of fame. Also, the steelbands must remember that the world is looking at them during the Panorama. Therefore, they should have their pans clean and shinning. Too often I will see a steelband with dirty pans and oh the colors of some of the pans. Please use colors that will take to the camera for visual consumption. There are some colors that do not look good on TV. Today, the panists must market his/her self and their steel orchestra to the world. Viewers on the internet see the Panorama instantly. We now have a world audience. I can’t wait to hear those yesteryear calypsos. Play on Panists!


 Khalick J. Hewitt

See you at the rendezvous of victory.

Khalick J. Hewitt, President & Founder

International Steelpan & Calypso Society
Contact Khalick J. Hewitt at

January 18, 2005   

by KH

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