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Meet Panist Kris Murrell

“The future of Pan in my honest opinion, does not always look very bright; sad to say. There was and is too much bickering among many selfish mindsets and lack, of will to move on or step up in order to push success for the greater, and not just the few.”  ...Kris Murrell

Young, intelligent, talented and focused... In an exclusive with When Steel Talks, University student Kris Murrell of Trinidad and Tobago reflects on the state of Pan, and shares her thoughts and vision on the future of the steelpan art form.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

WST - “How long have you been playing and what is your background in Pan?”

Kris M. - “I began playing steelpan at the age of 13 from junior level with my high school South East in Port-of-Spain, followed by Bp Renegades Youth. At the age of 15 I began playing on stage-side with then-BWIA now CAL Invaders Steel Orchestra from 2001 until 2010. I’ve also played with a few steelbands outside of Trinidad and Tobago as well.

“After enrolling in the Diploma in Music Literacy programme at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) in 2009 and studying under my esteemed lecturers/arrangers (Mr. Seion Gomez, Desmond Waithe and Leon Edwards) I then decided to make music and steelpan a full time path for myself. Currently I’m a 3rd year, studying for my Bachelors in Fine Arts with specialization in Music, Steelpan; at the Academy for the Performing Arts, UTT, NAPA. My main instruments are Double Second and Cello. I am hopeful to continue on with my Masters next year, please God.”


WST - “Is Panorama a curse or a blessing?”

Kris Murrell
Kris Murrell

Kris M. - “I’ve met some amazing people during the panorama season that I consider my pan family now. Unlike in the earlier years of panorama with rebels, war, fighting & rivalry, we can now enjoy the social camaraderie amongst each other’s bands. It generates new innovations and can teach persons a thing or two about humility and musicianship. The junior level of the competition is the best thing about Panorama nowadays. It encourages young and budding arrangers to showcase their abilities and it gives enthusiasts something to look forward to - as well as it is adjudicated by arrangers, who’ve in all fairness been there themselves and can give a sense of fairness in the competition. And Panorama on a whole continues to open markets to lend exposure for the instrument, individual players and steelbands in and around T&T (Trinidad & Tobago) to audiences around the world. Looking on from a business perspective it has made me eager to contribute to the currently stagnant voice of the competition and players in T&T. But, In my opinion, it is both a curse and a blessing.

“Having opened my eyes and ears to a lot of elements within the social and business context of steelpan, I’ve realized that panorama has paved the way for many musicians of the past and present - so I wouldn’t bash its original concept. However, according to the very popular quote by Heraclitus “Change is the only constant in life.” And this is very true.

“The evolution of music, entertainment and performance has come a long way from its ancestors. Whether it’s now positive or negative is debatable but it has changed, regardless.  For example, Single Pan has changed drastically and it is rapidly becoming a negative entity during the carnival season, where it was once a main feature. Nevertheless, nothing is being done about it. It’s as if being so naïve or blinded by “love” that you can’t see the depths to which you’re sinking.

“This division among the multi-sector [small, medium and large] categories has been/is breeding new generations of “hustlers” each year, instead of implementing measures to enhance the steelpan community - especially the impressionable youths who are constantly attracted year after year.

“Moreover, panorama seems to exploit the time and skills of thousands of players around the world each year without any memorabilia to show for it. Its structure hasn’t improved to lend anything positive to the steelpan community. Further to which -  every offspring of the competition has proven to have failed, which is not surprising seeing as the mother competition [Panorama] has not held its own constantly. If we are suppose to be the “Mecca of Pan” then in my opinion the lead competition should be held and respected at Higher Standards and nothing less.”


WST - “Is Trinidad doing enough to recognize its steelpan greats? What is the responsibility of the young people in this regard, if any?”

Kris M. - “No it is Not! Many great steelpan pioneers have come and gone without even a ‘Thanks a lot.’ In addition, some of the great pioneers are only observed momentously after they’ve passed on. Personally, I never get that! Conversely, some move away with little or nothing to show for their outstanding contributions to society, and pass on with the knowledge that they’ve greatly acquired, and it then becomes a mere memory and another piece of history lost. In this technologically advanced world, where’s the museum dedicated to arts and culture; whereby various records can help preserve the contributions and legacies?

“The young persons of our twin island in my opinion, need to collaborate in order to project a modulated voice instead of being strangled by the constant battle between old and new. In other words “Bridge the Gap.” I know it is easier said than done but preparation, passion and persistence are always a good way to start. Many have amazing ideas for preservation of organizational structure, History (both physical and educational) through audio/video, photographs; materials, research and namesakes just to name a few. Beginning with the three ‘Ps’ mentioned above, I believe any initiative can be pushed forward in order that a successful common goal can be achieved.”


WST - “As someone who is deeply and genuinely involved in all aspects of the instrument - what is the future of Pan Trinidad and Tobago?”

Kris M. - “The future of Pan in my honest opinion, does not always look very bright; sad to say. There was and is too much bickering among many selfish mindsets and lack, of will to move on or step up in order to push success for the greater, and not just the few.”


WST - “What are your thoughts on the upcoming international Panorama in 2014?”

Kris M. - “As with any other steelpan venture I will give my support in hopes of a successful show, but as a wise person once said “The past is always in front of us” - and seeing as we have so many flaws in our own systems and “organized” events, I can’t fathom the haste for such an event that will be displayed on the world’s stage. Despite mixed thoughts, I do wish it well in the hopes that precise and explicitly detailed planning is put in place, to ensure a glowingly marketed event.”


WST -“What has changed about “Panorama” in the last few years?”

Kris M. - “The most drastic change in panorama for my part is the introduction of “the greens” for the semi-final leg of the competition. “the ‘Greens’” has developed speedily into a party central, and is more and more taking away the focus of what is headlining on the day: STEELPAN. Which goes to show the direction the “competition” is heading in if this is allowed to continue; commercialization and profiteering of Panorama, the national instrument, players/steelbands.

“Another thing that has changed is the genres. It has been varying most within the last decade particularly with less calypsos being used; likewise, more arrangers have developed in the field of composition which has influenced their respective styles of arrangements and how it’s explored. Yet on the other hand, ‘own-compositions’ have been taking away the ‘edge’ of what used to be part of the competition; analyzing multiple arrangements of the same song, having the edge of which arrangement is better than whose is near lost.

“With societal change comes the ripple effect on the preparations for panorama; for example, those extra late-night practices which only happen later on in the season with some steelbands. loyalty of players is to one band; playing is more about the “hustle” to make money amongst many players AND arrangers. Besides those mentioned, it’s not just about music anymore, it’s about entertaining. Entertaining an audience that paid money to hear music and be captivated by the performance. Whether they understand the analysis behind an arrangement is not in question at this point, but whether they can leave with cheerful spirits and good memories, so that they return another year with pleasure.”


WST - “If you had the power to change something on the Panorama scene what would that be?”

Kris M. - “I would change the organizational structure of Panorama. The goals are unclear and I believe a better structure for the competition can be effective and provide a higher quality production through departmentalization e.g. customer service; likewise improve the decision-making process amongst the organizers and band performances, as well as implement a PR Marketing team with learned strategies.”


WST - “Who is your favorite arranger and why?”

Kris M. - “I honestly can’t say I have just ‘a’ favorite arranger. I like various elements from many arrangers because each brings a different character to music that makes them unique and their music special.”


WST - “What are your three favorite panorama arrangements?”

Kris M. - “I have many arrangements that I really like thus three is such a small number when there are so many to choose from. Nevertheless, most recently “Gold” by Buccooneers, “In My House” by Desperadoes and “This One Is For You, Bradley” by Phase II. (I must make good mention of “Iron Man” and “Pan in “A” Minor” by Renegades.)”


WST - “As it relates to the steelpan industry, where do you see yourself ten years from now?”

Kris M. - “Ten years from now, I envision myself and my colleagues journeying on the road of steelpan rejuvenation. I believe, and always will, that any art form’s future lies within the youth of the day. The elders pave the way in hopes that the youths can continue it; therefore, I would like to be a part of an organization which ensures youths have a forum to voice & enhance their creativity, as well as pursue steelpan music, particularly within Trinidad and Tobago. In addition, travel the world to see how best I can be of help to contribute to and/or improve through awareness, the development of programs to make certain continued growth of the instrument I love. :D ”


 


Their Story, Their Voice, Their Life, Their Dreams - click for more stories

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