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When Are We Going to Show Confidence In Our Own?

by Michael L. Joseph
Public Relations Officer
Pan Trinbago Inc. T.C.



Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - Since 1963, the late great Dr. Eric Eustace Williams, Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago at that time, recognized the Steelpan as the National Instrument of our newly created Independent Nation, in keeping with the established norms of identifying National signs and symbols. Hence the reason the National Steelband was established under the National Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen, led by George ‘Sonny’ Goddard.

The Steelpan fraternity gained new status and recognition and began to evolve as a serious grassroots organization with the greatest potential to manage and curb delinquencies amongst the youths in the communities, promote tourism and attract much needed foreign exchange.

The name of the organization was charged to PANTRINBAGO in 1973, and sponsorship through corporate entities and multinationals was encouraged to fast-track the development process especially in the area of sound, appearance and behaviour. These opportunities were grasped by the fraternity that saw the Steelpan and the Panists invading North America and Europe with a passion, promoting our country and National Instrument with pride.

Panists and Calypsonians were the first ambassadors. That is how our country became known as the land of Steelpan and Calypso, together with Limbo and Mas. The artist did that promotion on his own through self- determination and struggle. Ask any of them before they depart this realm and hear the true story.

After over fifty years of evolution, and managing the development of our Steelbands at home and abroad, there are influential voices out there that make it their duty to cry down the Pan fraternity only because of its grassroots administrators.

Maybe, they are afraid that we may prove to be more competent than they want the world to believe?  In spite of our successes and proven track record, they go out of their way trying to prove that the small man cannot manage big business projects; forgetting that in the days of little or no opportunities, we started Gayap, Sou Sou, the Penny Bank and Whe Whe, and I can go on and on.

Still, today, after over fifty years of struggles with the Steelpan Tuners having to work miracles with whatever materials they could salvage from the dump to make the national instruments of Trinidad and Tobago, these local scientists go about their business, quietly and unrecognized.

Pantrinbago Inc. the World Governing Body for the Steelpan Instrument, incorporated by an Act of Parliament (Act 5 of 1986), is still appealing to successive governments and corporate Trinidad and Tobago to engage in meaningful discussions with a keen interest to develop the Steelpan industry with a global vision for the benefit of country and the artists.

None have responded positively in this regard and the few individuals over the years who have shown any interest were quickly and effectively removed from positions of influence. The powers-that-be have shown that they too believe that Pantrinbago is only good for Panorama and a few other competitions here and there, so our ability to manage multi-million dollars projects always come into question. 

Yet over the years, billions of hard-earned tax payers dollars have been frittered away on all kind of schemes and failed financial investments that only leave a hole in our treasury – a squandering of our children’s patrimony.

Pantrinbago has been managing itself as an organization for over sixty-odd years and has contributed significantly to the development of this country and to Steelband Panoramas and Festivals at home and abroad successfully.

Pantrinbago has had cause to host the world in 2015 to look at the Steelpan: where it’s at presently and set up a framework for regularizing and the globalization of the Steelpan industry, with Trinidad and Tobago, taking its rightful place at the head table.

We concluded this World Conference with most participants signing an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) of great significance, and went on to host the first World Panorama successfully. And some with their personal agendas, still saying we can’t manage? Presently, we are still being owed over three million dollars coming out of this World Conference and Panorama.

Pan Trinbago has been managing for the fraternity, an investment company, set up with finances derived from the seven point five million dollars ( TT$7.5 M) pledged to us by the then-NAR (National Alliance for Reconstruction) government, coming out of the Tesoro settlement. (After holding the money at the Central Bank for a number of years, the organization received no interest on that investment, because we don’t understand money management?)

Presently, we are in the process of structuring a management system for our drum assembly plant situated at the Macoya Industrial Estate, in the Panadigm building. This was made possible when the National Petroleum Company’s drum assembly machinery became obsolete and they were getting rid of them.

Pantrinbago saw an opportunity and requested the old machinery and the company obliged. Having the reputation of being the world’s greatest recyclers, today we are proudly producing quality drums for our tuners to make our national instruments. And this is slowly and surely developing to meet the needs of the local market, with a vision to go global in the not too distant future. 

Such is the resourcefulness of the Steelpan fraternity. Pantrinbago has been applying and appealing to successive governments for a license to operate a heritage lottery, which will take us away from the perceived dependency syndrome, but to no avail. Any reason why? Only because there is a belief in some quarters, that we must remain hewers of wood and drawers of water in the west for ever.

Sad to disappoint: those days are long behind us and we are determined just like our Steelpan pioneers to succeed by every means necessary. Our future generations must control the commanding heights of the Steelpan industry, if it kills us.

Today, we would like the government to join with us and invest in our plans and projects that we have developed over a long period of time in the areas of capacity building and organizational strengthening; invest in our research and development and the expansion of the industry; strengthen our production lines to meet the ever-growing global market that we have created. Invest in our local Pan Theatres with the intention to making places of learning where we develop all the artisan crafts related to the Steelpan industry.

Make these spaces heritage sites and tourist destinations. By doing this, we will be taking many young people on a productive path and away from juvenile delinquency.  Panorama and Pan Concerts are what we do to keep the Steelpan and the Panists functioning and alive, but that is not the heart of the Industry. We have mastered the art of creating something from nothing. Talk to us. For too long, we have been taking lip service and ‘mamaguy’ from politicians who only serve to massage and inflate their expansive egos. The pioneers know this so well. Ask Brother Resistance and he will tell you today,“The people en’t taking that so, the people en’t taking that.”

Talk to them, and work with them if we must progress as a nation. No one person has the solution. We must come together and talk. Let us have a tripartite discussion - Government, big business and Pantrinbago to advance this venture!


Michael L. Joseph
Public Relations Officer
Pan Trinbago Inc. T.C.

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