Steelband Panorama 2011

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J'Ouvert in Trinidad

Eric Mannweiler reports on his 2011 steelband panorama experiences

Posted by Eric Mannweiler on March 11, 2011 at 3:29 p.m.

Hello everyone,

Eric I am sorry I haven't posted anything since finals, but between Carnival, enjoying my last day in Trinidad, and leaving, I haven't had time! Even though these are late, I'd like to share my Carnival experiences in this discussion, so thanks for sticking with me!

I played on the road with Starlift for J'Ouvert, Carnival Monday and Tuesday, and what an incredible series of experiences!! I have never seen anything like Carnival in my life! An entire city partying over the course of two days (really three though)... It's something that I think needs to be seen and experienced to really understand! There is much to talk about, so I'll start with J'Ouvert.

Panorama 2011J'Ouvert was nuts! Pure craziness... Walking from my friend's house at 3:15am to find Starlift's pan truck, there were already (still is more likely) people partying in the streets, waiting for their bands to assemble. While we loaded up the pans, people were walking by with a wide range of dress: some in shorts and t-shirts, some in old tattered clothes, some looking like they were... well, more nightly types... Men in dresses, people covered in metallic silver paint, groups of people running up and down the street chanting and randomly screaming... Around 3:30 the bands really started to assemble and by 3:50 the streets were flooded with sound trucks and their hordes of chipping, wining and paint-smearing revelers. 

I have to be honest and talk about the one negative thing I experienced. A few minutes after we started playing down the avenue, there was a huge fight, which ended in a rum bottle being smashed against someone's head and bottles being hurled around, one of which unintentionally hit the trailer and sent pieces into the pans. Nobody in Starlift got hurt, it had nothing to do with us, but it was the first time I was legitimately scared (this fight went on a good while, and happened practically right below my pan...) For potential first-timers playing J'Ouvert in the future, just be aware of your surroundings and go with people you know. There are plenty of police out, and it is telling that this was the only negative thing I saw all of Carnival...

Anyway, after that we proceeded down Park Street heading towards Victoria Square. There was a traditional mas band in front of us with a steelband I couldn't identify. I saw all kinds of characters: huge ornate costumes, moko jumbies, Bookmen, dragons, Dame Lorraine, a couple devils, and a really great bat (with extending wings and everything!) As we were approaching Pan Trinbago's bomb competition, Renegades jumped in front of us, which was cool for the Renegades fan in me. Because we didn't prepare a Bomb tune, we played one of our road tunes just for kicks ("I Feel Like Dancing"). I was excited to see Hugh Borde as one of the judges!


One of the greatest things I saw throughout Carnival, but particularly during J'Ouvert, was the love and respect for pan that people showed. Whenever we approached a DJ truck, they turned off their music so we could be heard, and many of them gave the band a shout-out to the crowd. Without a second thought, the people in the crowd and passing by would jump up, throw their hands in the air, chip, wine, and sing along to the tune. I loved seeing people (particularly young people) look up at the band and react like we were the best music they had heard all morning! It was also cool to see people playing along with random metal objects and cowbells they brought with them. What is even more incredible is they all played in time and sounded really good!

J'Ouvert was like nothing I have ever seen... Sailors, devils, cross dressers, people covered in mud, people covered in paint, all in the streets drinking and having a good time. People of all shapes, sizes, colors- everyone was in the street together, acting out together and enjoying the DJs, rhythm sections and steelbands together. By the end of the morning there was paint all over the roads, people were slowly drinking and dancing back where they came from... I could feel the energy was still there though - the show wasn't over, everyone was just doing a costume change... As a friend drove me back home, we passed through a band of young people that, um... took wining in the street to the next level, shall we say. My friend turned to me and said, "And you know, come Wednesday these people will act like nothing ever happened!" I about died laughing!

Before J'Ouvert I had an hour of sleep. I got home and had about 20 minutes of sleep before I had to head out for Act II: Carnival Monday! I don't want to make this post too unbearably long, so I will stop here and write a separate one for Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Thanks again to everyone who has been reading this post, and I hope you will stick with me for these last posts! Until tomorrow,

Life for Pan

Eric Mannweiler

click to view entries - preface - 1 - 2- 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 -19 - 20- 21 - 22


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