Global - Those
steelband people who merit very special mention for the year
are the flag bearers of all the world's steelbands - more
commonly referred to as the 'flag woman' or 'flag man.'
The role of the
Carrier of The Flag is deeply rooted in tradition and
history. It is a special, time-honored position that
requires confidence, grace and skill.
When Steel Talks
takes a special look at those who carried the flag at this
year's 2006 Trinidad & Tobago steelband music panorama, in
video and pictures.
Reply by S. F. Thomas on February 17,
2017 at 9:29am
A good question to ask is what really
does the flag woman do for the art form?
Obviously she waves a flag identifying
the band. On carnival day long ago, she helped to clear the
way as well. But I want to submit in this brief essay that
there is a deeper, even esoteric, meaning to the flag woman
and what she represents.
Note first of all that the flag woman is
invariably, well, a woman. Occasionally there is a man in
the role, but it never seems right. Somehow it goes against
the grain. Why is that?
Note second of all
that the flag woman is always overtly sexual in her dress
and in her moves. Why is that? Obviously her sexuality does
nothing to improve, and even seems sometimes to be a
distraction that detracts from the music.
So what's going on here? I want, very
tentatively, to suggest that there is an esoteric
significance to the flag woman and her role.
At one obvious level, this particular
carnival character comes out of the carnival, which in
itself is a dance of sex hormones. (Lucifer is in his
element with this and God does not approve. But that is
another matter that on a societal level may well demand
exploration given the societal ills that may be traced to
carnival excess, or even carnival per se.)
But at a deeper level, I want to suggest
that a good panorama piece parallels good love-making. (God
certainly has no problem with that as such; Cf. Song of
Solomon.) That may also be why arrangers are almost
invariably men. The flag woman is there to symbolize the
object of the exercise. A good arrangement must seduce with
a good introduction, it must entice with a promise, state a
theme, generate the thrill of expectation, and then fulfill.
That btw was the compelling essence of "Jam meh up" recently
talked about. Smooth is good at that, the pressure/release
structure of his music. Bradley was also good at that. He
knew how to work with the stops to generate a frenzy. The
object, the (flag)woman, responds with delight, -- don't
stop! -- awaiting the fulfillment of the desire expressed.
The piece carries on, raises the tempo, builds almost to a
climax, holds back, releases the pressure. The (flag) woman
desires more, urges a repeat. The piece again builds up a
pressure, releases it again, teases the woman some more. The
woman is urged to a greater desire. And so it carries on.
The pressure having been built, there must be a musical
resolution, either as a resounding climax, or a gentler one
expressing tenderness more than the urgency of a hot
successful panorama piece will have these elements, just as
a satisfying love-making session. Obviously, even if the
skeletal structure remains more or less constant, the
variational possibilities are endless, in terms of how the
dance of hormones may be fleshed out. Therein lies the
essential allure of the art form. The flag woman symbolizes
The man better knows how to play the man's role in the
symbiotic dance, which is why the role of arranger seems
better to be occupied by men.
Can a woman also, as arranger, simulate
the man's role as well as a man? She after all knows what
it's like to be seduced, to be enticed, to yield in that
final climax. But can she let herself go and give herself
over to what the music demands? Or would the natural
demureness of the woman cause her to hold back? I think
that's the challenge for the female arrangers. None has yet
gone all the way to win a Panorama title, so far as I can
The flag woman is a
not so subtle reminder of the woman's role in the symbiotic
dance of sex hormones. It is to symbolize the object of
desire. The arranger and his music symbolize the taking and
Just a thought, for what it's worth.
- Big Sid
P.S. Btw, the female conductor conductor works well. Pat
Bishop was excellent in that role. Jeannine Remy did a
wonderful job with Invaders, playing "Toco Band", at
whatever music festival that was.