“Panorama is both a curse and a blessing. It is a blessing because it has produced great music, great memories, and legendary arrangements and performances. It is a curse because single minded focus on Panorama has helped to diminish the steelbands participation in Trinidad's signature festival, the Carnival, at great detriment to the Carnival itself. ” Glenroy Joseph
WST - You are - LOL- the “de facto” custodian and librarian of WST’s video catalogue of Steelpan/Steelband-related performances and Calypsos. How did you develop this vast knowledge of the genre’s recordings and performances?
Glenroy - “I've always loved the Trinidad culture of calypso, steelpan and Carnival, even from the early days of radio . As a youth, I played mas, "beat" pan, was a member of a combo band and a conventional band, and my interest continued after I left Trinidad in 1968. Back then we didn't have communications like today, so my late mother would send me newspapers, and cassette tapes to keep me up to date. With the advent of the video recorder, she and my sister would send me annual videotapes of the Carnival and Panorama, throughout the eighties and nineties. These videos are the ones I've digitized and posted. Apart from my personal record collection. many of the classic audio records posted are courtesy of my friend Terry, an avid collector of Caribbean culture.”
WST - In the age of the E-book, Smartphone, Nook, iPad, Tabs, Kindle Fire, YouTube and Facebook - are the guardians of, or better yet those empowered to guard Pan history, and to a greater extent the history of calypso - doing what they should be doing, from your perspective? If so, how? And if not, what should they be doing?
Glenroy - “No - Pan and Calypso culture, like jazz, blues and reggae, emerged from the lower rungs of society. Members of T&T society with the resources have never fully embraced the culture with the intention of promoting it as an aspect of Nation hood. So managing the culture is left up to those who may be experts in the art forms, but are limited in their knowledge of business, advertising, promotion and using modern media. Government has been ambivalent about investing in the culture, and it is quite possible that future growth of the steel pan art form may occur not in its birth place, but in the Diaspora.”
WST - If you had the power to change one thing as relates to the dissemination of information on Pan, Calypso and the respective history of each, what would that be?
Glenroy- “WST has been doing a fantastic job of creating a worldwide pan community that shares information and education about the culture. It would be great if the governing bodies of the art forms would recognize this, and other similar efforts , and coordinate their use of modern media i.e. the internet to promote the culture. The power of the internet is still not fully utilized to advance the culture.”
WST - What’s the cultural significance of Panorama music?
Glenroy - “I call Panorama music "Classical music for pan", because that's what it is. This is why someone with a classical background could arrange for a panorama, and why steelbands around the world validate themselves by performing the great arrangements of legends like Jit, Bradley, Boogsie etc. It is not really "wine down" Carnival party music. Yes it has rhythm and tempo, but it really must be listened to, and digested, like good food or fine wine . A Panorama arrangement is complex, and take several hearings (at least by me) to fully grasp what the arranger is trying to do.”
Phase II Pan Groove
WST - What are your thoughts on the present structure of the Panorama competition?
Glenroy - “I have serious reservations as to the competitive nature of Panorama, especially on a final night when the results are more or less a judgment call. Unlike in the old days when everyone knew the tunes being played, the tunes played by the bands are probably unfamiliar to the audience and maybe even to the judges. And these so called "pan tunes" are not simple melodies. Then add the complex nature of the panorama arrangements. With waves of music and emotions coming at the judges on a Panorama night, judging based on preset parameters become almost a mission impossible. No wonder there is so much disappointment when the results are announced.”
WST - Panorama - a curse, blessing, or is it misunderstood?
Glenroy- “Panorama is both a curse and a blessing. It is a blessing because it has produced great music, great memories, and legendary arrangements and performances. It is a curse because single minded focus on Panorama has helped to diminish the steelbands participation in Trinidad's signature festival, the Carnival, at great detriment to the Carnival itself. Without substantial participation of the steelbands in Trinidad's Carnival, the Carnival becomes generic. Not to mention the "dead panyard syndrome" which happens after a band is knocked out of the festival. Trinidad Carnival should be prime time for pan, and the single minded focus on the panorama prevents bands taking full advantage of the festival to generate income from other activities. I've been an advocate of holding a month long Pan festival with Panorama as its centerpiece at some time later in the year. This would give the steelbands two festivals to take advantage of, would keep the panists involved throughout the year, and hopefully generate more income for the steelbands.”
WST - What are your greatest concerns as it relates to the art form?
Trinidad All Stars
Glenroy - “That people misunderstand what it means to be a cultural art form. The art form is culture, not business, and like the opera, symphony orchestras, the ballet, etc, the steelband art form will always need private and public support. The art form has stars, and some artists make a fine living from their talents, but the art forms like the opera , the ballet, the symphony orchestra and pan are not pop culture, and doesn't appeal to everyone. I don't think that there is any successful business model for retailing the art form, since most of the revenue generated is indirect, and goes to stimulating the local economy. Panorama sized steel bands will be economically unsustainable in a pure free market setting, and that aspect of the culture will disappear.”
WST - Pan progress in Trinidad & Tobago - a myth, reality or unfulfilled potential?
Glenroy - “One cannot deny the progress that pan has made from the days of TASPO to today. However, its full potential has yet to be realized. ”
WST - What are two things in Pan that are totally intolerable and must change immediately?
Glenroy - “The fact that we're still talking about "standardization" of pans, and the "total disrespect" for the art form in the land of its creation. ”
WST - What are your three all-time favorite Panorama arrangements?
Glenroy - “I have so many favorites, but the three arrangements that are always featured on my playlists are:
- "Doh back back" by Trinidad All Stars
- "Rebecca" by Desperadoes
- "Birthday Party" by Phase II Pan Groove”
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