It’s Time to Celebrate Pan as the Internationally Identified Agency of Cultural Revolution in the History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago

It’s in the wee hours of the morning as  thirteen groups of tired  steel pan players gather ruefully in small, dim spotlights of illumination around the Queen’s Park Savannah.

Observing these soldiers of a nation’s fortune reflecting in hushed tones about their performances and the points they had earned in the  the Trinidad and Tobago National Panorama Finals, it is difficult to fathom the sheer enormity of the noble mission unconsciously undertaken by this humble cadre of citizens for their country. 

“And the Winners are : bp Renegades!”

While the outburst of jubilation is focused on a band which has emerged victorious in this competition some 11 times in the 60-year history of the Steel Pan, it would be fair to say that every  band – big, small, winners or losers –  is a champion.

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For these are the chosen people who have come through the crucible of social change, with the scars on their backs to show for the tremendous personal sacrifice paid in jail time and with their lives in their effort to find themselves in this little island in the ovef-heating sun, and play a key role in the positive evolution of Sweet T+T as one of the world’s cultural hub as expressed in the Steel Pan, Calypso, Culture amd Carnival.

These unappreciated pioneers are products of the days about which the Mighty Sparrow sang:

Calypsonians really ketch hell

For a Long Time

To associate yuhself with dem

Was a big crime

If yuh sister talk to

A Steel Bandman 

She Family want to break she hand

Put she out

Lick out every teeth in she mouth fast

You Outcast! 

Pan silences gunshots in Enterprise as Panorama 2023 begins - Trinidad and  Tobago Newsday

Which is why, for the 2023 Panorama Finals, one of the Trinidad and Tobago Television show anchors was lustily applauded for arranging a link-up with the legendary Mighty Sparrow who is confined to a wheelchair in the USA but was available to speak in a strong voice about his song Witch Doctor which was played by Angostura Starlift.

It’s  in the same context that Lord Blakie spoke about violence among Panmen in Port of Spain:

And when the two band clash, mamma

If yuh see cutlash

Never me again

To jump in a steelband in Port of Spain

Nowadays, the breaking news about the Steel Pan is  that Mia Gormandy, like a number of Pannists, has graduated with Honors from a respected University in the USA, and is doing yeoman service as a Lecturer and  Arranger in some part of the world.

No wonder David Rudder can reflect with nostalgia about the late  Rudolph Charles who was a foundation stone for Desperadoes Steel Band in its roughest years when he sang:

Where the man with hammer gone

Tell me, Tell me where  he gone

Well the dragon don’t walk the trail no more

Well the dragon don’t walk the trail no more

Desperadoes 2016 Victory Celebration: ”Nobody Badder Than We” :

That trail of glory is now being walked by luminaries like Liam Teague,

Lenn Boogsie Sharpe, Aardin Herbert and the late Anthony Williams: who was reputed to be able to hear one man hitting the wrong note in a band of about 100 players from a distance of about 100 yards across the main road with lots of traffic passing.

Len “Boogsie” Sharpe named 2020 UWI Honorary Graduate

So what does it say for these masters of genius, these keepers of the secret notes pounded out from discarded steel drums from the oil industry which is the country’s staple income provider but surely not the people’s form of sustenance?

The answer is to found deep in the resilience, the guts and throbbing bloodline of a people who shall continue to reign and rise above all obstacles in their quest  for excellence of a divine nature in keeping with their greatest possibilities as 

One Race from the same place

Who take the same trip

One the same ship (Mighty Stalin)

And that is why, as the same bard sang:

We can make it if we try!

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