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An Open Address to Steelpan People Everywhere

by Michael L. Joseph - Pan Trinbago

Michael Joseph - PRO of Pan Trinbago

Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - Today I sit and write with the warrior spirit in me boiling near to overflow. Amongst the Orishas I am known as Ogunbakin, and within the Ashantis I am called Kofi. So I am able to exercise a greater control over my passions. However, I am quite perturbed at the way our Steelpan movement is being manipulated and out-maneuvered into submission and into giving up our cultural heritage, without consultation, or even a proper requiem to soothe the hearts of those who will die of grief, and try to settle the spirit of our disturbed ancestors who will no longer find rest while their children lose their groundings.

Presently, we are faced with a very unsettling situation, where the people in society who have for years, outlawed and vilified the practitioners of our indigenous cultural Art form, the Steelpan, by trying to stifle our freedom of expression and kill our spirit of resistance, are now licking their chops with glee, in anticipation of full control of our cultural product in our national carnival festival. A position that we physically fought to establish, and quite recently went to the civil courts of this land in defense of and to validate, our status under our Democratic Republic constitution both national and organizational. And the learned judge Justice Kokaram ruled that Pan Trinbago is in fact a democratic organization that was given autonomy by an Act of parliament, (Act 5 of 1986) and should be afforded the respect as such.

The irony of this situation is that everything Afrocentric outside of some Christian Churches, must not be owned and control fully by people of African origin. It must be multiculturalized. And we are being multiculturalized smack bang in the middle of Emancipation celebrations, and in the third year of the United Nations declaration of the International Decade of People of African (Origin) descent. Are we thinking at all? Are their anything left in the psyche of the Afrocentric Trinbagonian that he is willing to standup and defend with a passion, on principle? I think not. It is clear that the fire has gone from his under belly. Given the way our young people are killing each other in the streets for no apparent reason, and we would not take a position on it, what could be expected of the people in Pan Trinbago. I remember Lord Melody sang in one of his Calypsos, “They go sell out they mother for ah piece ah paper”. Nothing change since.

The real people in Pan, have given most of their living years to the promoting, defending and the development of the Steelpan movement, and the industry that it has spawned today. When we were hustling and carrying barrels on our backs up and down the different communities experimenting to produce the instruments and create Steel bands, those who want control now, and some of those are willing to hand it over lock, stock and barrel, used to label us rouges and vagabonds who have no ambition and will amount to nothing good. But ancestral spirit inspired us to press on, in a most hostile environment, to a successful production called the Steelpan family of instruments.

As a matter of fact, when most patents were pushing their children to be doctors and lawyers and rocket scientist, some of our children took to the culture, Ask Sat Maraj, he knows this better than most. Today the NCC or National Control Commission, which was a replacement from the CDC, the “Carnival Destruction Committee “ are being used as the vehicle through which our Cultural product, and our contributions to the National Carnival festival celebrations will be hijacked and handed over to people who profess to have more business acumen than us. We are great performers but not good money managers they say. But who are the financial wizards in this society? Look at our country's financial landscape and Stevie Wonder could see that they are using our culture as a political football, forgetting the spirituality of it, which we possess.

All this is happening in an atmosphere where the head of our organization in not adhering to the democratic process of our constitution. His dictatorial attitude, have been creating an atmosphere of conflict with the executives over the nine years of him being at the helm. Ask members of the new visionaries, ask Bryan or the CIP members who he now have following him around with their tongues hanging out the sides of thair mouths believing that if they get into office they would revoke our membership. He is being skillfully manipulated by a senior citizen who sits in his office whole day every day, pushing his nobs to their selfish ends. The executive opinions and positions are mostly ignored once these two men have descending views. Organization protocol and etiquettes are never applied. He is not a team player, and is unable to work with intelligent people. He is totally dependent on this senior citizen who capitalizes big times on his weakness. Together, they remind me of the movie “Frankenstein”, where Bela Lagosi the mad scientist made a monster of dead Frankie, and had him doing all his biddings. He makes the leader believe that the executive are all their to serve him, not the organization. So he comes over as a comical version of the main player in one of the mighty Sparrow classic Calypso“ Get to hell out of here” aka “ Solomon “. He behaves as though Pan Trinbago is his private domain where his actions must not be questioned and he is not answerable to anyone but Bela Lagosi.

Some members of this present executive tried and is still trying to break the strangle hold that these two men have on our organization which has greatly contributed to our present financial predicament. Ask these two men why the Pannist have not been paid to date save for the Single Pan Bands? The Central Executive cannot get a status report on our investment company to date? We are not aware of where our monies are, and what kind of investments are made on behalf members. Only Lagosi and Frankie knows this. And nobody voted for Lagosi. But those pannist agitated over five hundred dollars, are not interested in these relevant issues. Once they get the remittance, everything cool. As the late Lord Melody sang some years ago, “ For ah piece ah paper, they go sell out they mother etc, etc.

The constitution of Pan Trinbago has left no room for a dictatorship. Hence the reason it states clearly that any action taken by the leader, must be ratified by the central executive. But this fellow is hell bent on doing what he wants, although being advised by the court, that he is only one man that is part of an executive. Because of his delinquency the NCC, seeing the chink in our armor, is trying to use that as an excuse for their hostile take over, and he is trying to redeem himself by giving in to there request for full control of our National Panorama Festival. Out brand, our intellectual property that we have created from scratch. No one man have the power to sell or give away Pan Trinbago legacy, unless our members are in a deep sleep.

Had the leader worked with his executive and cut the 2018 carnival budget across the board as was unanimously agreed at our executive meeting, all carnival monies would have been paid months ago with the pannist receiving seven hundred and fifty dollars remittance instead five hundred. But he agrees to one thing today, and by tomorrow with Bella Lagosi advice, he rescind executive decisions to cut your cloth to the design at hand. Giving us the false notion that he already had an agreement in the NCC camp that the short fall will be met, only for the executive to realize is lies and more lies.

The amazing things now, is that this this man have been able to out fox most of his adversaries into supporting him for another term in office. Yes, he is running for office again. A classic case of doing the same thing over and over for the third time in nine years, and expecting a different result. He is even attempting to go into an election without presenting an audited financial statement to the membership. He believe that Steelpan people are a very desperate bunch, and as David Rudder sang “half d country mad”. So he can getaway with anything.

Let me state publicly and clearly that I am not in favor of this great sellout. Only our membership could take that position, coming our of serious deliberations and consultation. Although my Soca and Calypso brothers in the NCC, believe that it is their duty to help kidnap our indigenous arts for a few dollars and the power of office, I wish them all the best. Your rolls are not an original. Through out history, we have had brothers taking those same position against the people claiming to be doing thair jobs, and expect us to understand. Time will tell. Right now we just see you for who you are.

If this obscene attacks continues, the special cultural interest groups may just have to appeal to the United Nation for protection. Amongst the stated objectives of the International Decade for People of African (Origin) Descent are To Promote a greater Knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of People of African ( origin ) descent to the development of societies.

Emancipation awareness to all. Ase! Ase! Ase!


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

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