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NAS President Anthony Hinds speaks on NY Steelband Panorama Issues

Open letter to the Caribbean Community from Anthony “Ike” Hinds of Dem Stars Steel Orchestra and National Alliance of Steelbands (NAS)

New York, USA
Dear Members of the Caribbean Community:

For nearly 40 years, on the Saturday before Labor Day nearly a thousand of our family, friends and neighbors, the vast number aged 12 to 21, compete in the Steelband “Panorama” competition.

This competition is the culmination of weeks of work, as bands prepare for “ten minutes of glory” onstage performing an orchestral musical composition in front of thousands of spectators.

This year, amidst all the controversy about sponsorship and control, focus on the steelband musical artform has been lost in a battle of egos and politics. So too, the focus on the extraordinary effort and cost required for a steelband to prepare of the competition. Many hundreds of hours of practice and many thousands of dollars are required. And this year, all of that is endangered amid bluster and posturing of people whose interest is clearly not the music but the control of it.

Ike Hinds, president of NAS
Anthony Hinds, president of National Alliance of Steelbands (NAS)

Facts are facts: the ten bands who competed in last year’s event are still owed a combined $52,000 from unpaid prizes, money sorely need to prepare for this year’s competition. This sum is comprised of $2,000 unpaid appearance fees for each of the ten bands that appeared at Panorama 2011 ($20,000) and a combined $32,000 unpaid balance of prizes due the top three bands.

Facts are facts: as of today the Museum has not received its rental fees nor the insurance documents required to secure the venue. Consequently, there have been no official planning meetings held with the NYPD (New York Police Department) with Labor Day only a month away.

Facts are facts: despite numerous requests, WIADCA (West Indian American Day Carnival Association) has not given evidence of its ability to pay either the prize monies owed for 2011 or the expenses required to stage Panorama 2012.

While there have been many differences of approach amongst the steelbands who participate in Panorama, one thing is certain -- that the music must be respected above all. The bands have always sought a real stake in the planning, operation and finances of the Panorama including and especially a sound system worthy of the effort that the bands undertake.

That doesn’t seem unreasonable, does it?  What is unreasonable is that the battle for control over the music has endangered the music itself. That’s unreasonable, and it’s tragic.

On behalf of all the players in all the bands, I implore all elected officials, sponsors and stakeholders to remember that Panorama should be all about music, not about control or money. Egos and pettiness have already cost us, the bands, the meaningful corporate sponsorship of the steelband in the United States. Everyone, please be honest with yourselves and with us, and let the music prevail.

Anthony Hinds
Dem Stars Steel Orchestra & National Alliance of Steelbands (NSA)


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