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Reflections from the Land of the Steelpan

My First Pilgrimage to the Mecca of Pan - Entry 4

Posted by Eric Mannweiler on January 20, 2011 at 4:00 p.m.

Hello everyone,

Panorama 2011It was brought to my attention that some of my posts could be viewed negatively, or as criticisms of the people and culture here. Re-reading my updates, I think I need to apologies for writing responses that may have been carelessly worded and driven by over-reacting, in-the-moment emotions. I want to take some time and qualify some of my past remarks, as well as add some new ones!

Though I wrote about feeling some unpleasant vibes in some areas, let me say that there has not been a single person I've met in Trinidad who I have not liked or been accepted by. Looking back, these vibes are no different than vibes people give back in the states. Especially in the panyards, I have felt comfortable, accepted, and welcome.

Eric Though there is not a way to pretty up my comment of "Driving is a scary ordeal..." I think I need to again admit that I over reacted a bit. No matter where you go, there are crazy drivers. I think my mind still has trouble with the right-side steering cars going down the left side of the road...

My discussions with pan people and the talks I've had, particularly with respect to Boogsie's reputation also were voiced with a level of surprise and emotion that could be offensive. I want to say again, I have a huge amount of respect for Boogsie. The man has done some incredible compositions and arrangements, and is one of the greatest pan players to ever live. I was simply taken aback by writing-off of some figures in pan which I have tons of respect for. I meant no disrespect to either Boogsie or the gentleman with whom I was discussing the topic.

Tribute to the steelpan movement

The comment about Jamaican culture should be qualified by saying that in Indiana I constantly am fighting the misconception that all the Caribbean islands are the same, and pan is a Jamaican invention. Reggae and Dancehall are loved all over the globe, and Trinidad is no exception.

I'm really sorry if I behaved like an Ugly American, and want everyone know that I mean no disrespect to the people or culture of Trinidad. This is a beautiful country, with beautiful people, and the most beautiful musical instrument in the world! The research I've done in the past gave me some assumptions about how certain things would be. We all know what happens when you assume things... In any case, if anyone takes offense at something I say here, I'm asking that you please talk to me about it. In the mean time I will be more careful with my words!

I'm still holding out hope that I can visit panyards or SOMETHING to escape where I'm staying before rehearsal. I want to advise future first-time travelers: having people to go places with and well organized transportation is a great idea!

Like I said before, I respect Boogsie, and ESPECIALLY his musical mind. What I was trying to comment on was my surprise at how quickly other figures in pan (many of which are those that I respect most) are written off or slammed in many conversations I have had, while Boogsie is not.

In response to Andy, and many of the others who have given me similar advice, I will be careful to get back to objectivity and will be keeping personal opinions to myself. WST asked me to report on my feelings, surprises, experiences, thoughts, etc. I was perhaps too open with my statements in yesterday's post. I don't want this to turn into a negative thing for anyone...

One last thing for today (I promise): I am amazed at the capabilities of Trini panists in terms of their ear and their TREMENDOUS ability to remember passages. A friend of mine was talking about going into a panyard during the day and learning almost half the piece... I see new players come in, listen to parts, maybe tap it out once or twice, and they have it! This might be old news, and it's not the first time I've noticed it since being down here, but it continually blows me away how man panists have this incredibly gifted ear!

Anyway, I will keep personal opinions to myself, as that's not really the point of this blog. Again, my apologies if I've offended anyone... Tomorrow have some awesome plans, with many "firsts" to report about afterwards!

Life for Pan

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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