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The Ultimate Dis-Respect
Pan at Lincoln Center - Dead Man Walking?

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New York - It appears that the future of Steelpan music at Lincoln Center may be nothing more than “Dead Man Walking.”  In what has to be one of the most glaring acts of total disregard and one of the ugliest insults the instrument has suffered in its 50-plus year history - Abstract Entertainment, Inc. (AEI) along with its partners BET and Lincoln Center pull off  a scallywag move in broad daylight that is both traitorous and deceitful.

Back in the sixties and fifties it was common practice for album covers and promotional material to leave the pictures of Black recording artists off.  It was a racist and shameful practice that was part of an era in the music business that has been put behind us.  Now, fast forward to 2009.  On Friday morning an irate, well-known and respected panman wrote When Steel Talks about an Ad he received promoting the upcoming “PanJazz” to be held at Lincoln Center in New York.  This pan person who is very level-headed and not prone to emotional and un-intellectual outbursts called what he saw “malicious.”  We at When Steel Talks most certainly agree.

Flyer sent out by Abstract Entertainment, Inc.  (date, ticket info have been removed)

One cannot defend the indefensible.  This was a deliberate move.  It clearly was not an oversight.  How on earth do you forget the pan image or pan performer on an Ad for PANjazz?  You do not!  Clearly, AEI, BET and Jazz at Lincoln Center are sending a message.   They are moving on - and they have exploited the steelpan instrument, culture and people to the max from their perspective.  Pan and pan people got them through the door, and established the show as a premier ‘Father’s Day event’ - and now it is time to deep-six the pan.  Who can not help but notice that the “PanJazz” shows have been well patronized and made up almost exclusively of pan fans since the show’s 2004 inception?

It is both ironic and troubling that BET and Lincoln Center would be a part of this travesty.   Long before June became “Caribbean Heritage” month (which we suspect is the real reason the steelpan instrument is being dissed - less or no public promotion of the steelpan, but everything overall “Caribbean”) - it was officially Black Music Month.  Given the trials and tribulations black artists went through in getting to the point where their images and likeness could be associated with their music products - one would think that BET and  Lincoln Center would have had the graciousness - even if for ‘image-only’ sake - to not so clearly have themselves associated with this blatant move.

A few months ago  we thought we had seen the ultimate disrespect and disregard when AIG officials, after receiving billions from the US tax payers in bailout monies, turned around and paid multimillion dollar bonuses to their failed management.  Additionally they were caught vacationing at a high-level resort, while everyday Americans continued to suffer economically.  Along an identical path, chief executives of the automobile industry arrived in DC in their private jets while the industry itself and its workers were in dire straits and practically on fire.  But this incredible and outrageous disregard for the steelpan instrument and pan  community illustrated by AEI, BET and Jazz at Lincoln Center - is on par with the pain and insult inflicted by this action of no image, and no mention of the PAN performers - no promotion of them in this panjazz flyer.

There is a common belief held by event promoters and the like (and so elegantly put by a respected manager in the steelpan movement), that ‘pan people only went to school in August.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every now and then pan folks do get it right.  The blatant disrespect of the steelpan instrument, its supporters and culture - not to mention one of the genuine all-time legends of the movement (Ray Holman) reek of something we can’t print here (we will let your imagination fill in the blanks).  Furthermore, it speaks volumes of the cultural vultures that have too often preyed on the naiveté, vulnerability, supportive and overly-generous nature of the supporters and community related to the steelpan instrument.

Our recommendation is that the steelpan community behave in a manner that demonstrates that you have intelligence and did not ‘only go to school in August.’  To the promoters: that promotional flyer should say Pan-Phony - Pan Fraud or maybe even Pan-Invisible - instead of Pan-Jazz.  BET Entertainment, Lincoln Center: your execs should be flogged and somebody should be fired.  There is no doubt someone’s head should roll on this one.

To the larger music community: the expectation would be that you would step-up in solidarity of this dissing of the aggrieved pan culture - particularly those who are performing on the  show, or have been associated with the instrument at all in the past.  Arturo Tappin, Etienne Charles and others - what say you?

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