The Steelbands of TT
ARCHIVE COPY - 2005
In 1998 Pan Trinbago initiated the Pan in the 21st Century (P21C) concert for the Conventional Steelbands; and Pan Down Memory Lane (PDML) concert for the Traditional (pan 'round the 'neck) steelbands. The term 'Single Pan' Steelbands was not in use at that time, but came a little later. The sponsors for the events were the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad & Tobago Limited (TSTT), National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), CL Financial and Petrotrin.
It was the beginning of an
initiative by Pan Trinbago to diversify the activities of the
steelbands. The aim was to give them more events to attend and
ultimately, as Pan Trinbago began to become more focused
on this issue, with apparent encouragement from the sponsors and
their own advisors; to have the steelbands more active throughout
the entire year. It was a bumpy start for Pan Trinbago's
initiative where the Pan in the 21st Century and Pan
Down Memory Lane may be seen as the 'guinea pig' events out
of which, by going through the 'learning process' of where and
how to place these events within the years 'steelbands events
calendar'; the steelbands over the next three years would see the
number of yearly events rise to unprecedented levels in Trinidad
and Tobago by 2001.
The 1998 concerts were initially conceived to fill the week or two gap between the Panorama Preliminaries or Semi-Finals, and the Finals. There were no Panorama Semi-Finals in 1998; so Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane shows were placed in that gap.
The selection process was through the Panorama Zonal Preliminaries where for; the Pan in the 21st Century bands, the top 2 from Tobago + the top 6 from each of the North, East and South & Central Zones respectively; were chosen to present a not less than six (6) minutes or more than eight (8) minutes in length Bomb Tune (a non-calypso tune, in calypso tempo); the Pan Down Memory Lane selection process, and similar Bomb Tune of length (probably about 6 minutes max) is unqualified* here at this time.
For the Pan in the 21st Century; of the 20 bands expected for the concert, the 2 Tobago bands failed to show either because the TT ferry service was in the doldrums at the time and/or they were unprepared; the latter more likely, as the Tobago Zonal Finals were only completed on Tuesday, 10th February, 5 days before the P21C show. The other 18 bands played at the Grand Stand, Queens Park Savannah, Port of Spain, Trinidad, on Sunday, 15th February 1998.
For the Pan Down Memory Lane bands; records show that the bands played the day before, passing the Downtown Stand, corner of South Key and Chacon Street, Port of Spain, Trinidad.
In the middle of 1998, the Pan Trinbago 'think tank' changed the naming of the Traditional (pan 'round the 'neck) steelband category, an awkward term, to the currently used Single Pan Steelband designation. The new designation was first used in the Steelband Music Festival, PAN Is Beautiful IX, that started on the 16th October that year.
In 1999, Carnival fell a week earlier; adding some unforeseen stress to the Panorama events planners, when they again thought about the P21C and PDML events. The Pan Down Memory Lane concert event did not appear in the years Panorama calendar, and probably due to a lack of sponsorship. For the P21C concert however, things were better and the shows sole sponsor was now TSTT.
The 1999 selection process changed for the P21C concert where, with a lack of forethought, it became the top 12 steelbands out of the conventional Panorama Preliminaries that qualified. The last of the Preliminaries, the Tobago Zone, was on the 2nd February; the planned P21C show, 3 days later on Friday the 5th; with the Panorama Semi-Finals 2 days later on Sunday the 7th.
The steelbands really did not want to know about Pan in the 21st Century; unless they had a 'tune in the bag', or spare resources, or a determined captain or arranger, it just did not make sense. What was the sense in using up resources to put together a tune, and a non-competitive one at that, in the middle of a tight Panorama, when you would not know if you would qualify until 3 days before the event. The first set of 'top rankers' that started showing-out in successive days, following the results from the Zonals that started on the 29th January, a week before the P21C show, had a better chance anyway. Knowing their place in the general pecking order, lesser bands did not even try to prepare.
In the end, the 1999 Pan in the 21st Century concert took place in the East together with the Calypso For Pan competition Finals; at the EXPO Site, Trincity, Trinidad. Six steelbands participated; Arima Angel Harps (with an interesting Kachita), Exodus (with the Titanic song My Heart Goes On), Carib Tokyo (with a just bearable I Believe I Can Fly, but played beautifully), Arcadian Nu Tones (with a sickening Al De La), Solo Pan Knights (with another sickening Unchained Melody - Who wants to hear this rubbish?) and Fonclaire (with a credible Now That We Found Love). The quality of the music (comments not to be taken to seriously) varying from acceptable to very poor.
In the middle of 1999 amid other
weighty matters, the Pan Trinbago 'think tank' again reviewed the
P21C and PDML events; this time in the light of
experience. They should have had the Single Pan bands in mind; as
the Single Pan bands seemed always to get the wrong end of the
stick, but that was not to be.
The year 2000 was very good for TT steelbands and their music. The Carnival season was very late, allowing a lot of preparation; with the next as long a season some 11 years away in 2011; with a further 27 year hop to the next in 2038 (and if you saw 2000), very few will see the one after that. However, it was still not a good year for the Single Pan steelbands as again, the Pan Down Memory Lane event did not appear in the years Panorama calendar; but for the Pan in the 21st Century show, there were further experimental changes in store; and with some determination, TSTT was still holding sponsorship.
Pan in the 21st Century 2000 was changed to a competition; and although the format was originally introduced at a National Junior Steelband Music Festival in 1997 (panland-news), it now also became the first of the large steelband competitions where the Preliminaries were judged in the Panyards. Having sorted out by this definition those who were interested and thus committed to appear, and by the same measure indirectly causing the arrangers to focus a little more on the quality of the music; it was another small step forward towards achieving the true meaning of Pan in the 21st Century. It would take the competition another 5 years before the majority of the music presentations matured to the level equal to the events name.
The Panorama 2000 Semi-Finals and the Pan in the 21st Century 2000 Finals, were planned as a combined show. Out of the panyard Preliminaries, 12 steelbands were to be selected to appear in the Finals of Pan in the 21st Century competition. Because of a triple 11th-place Preliminary tie, 13 steelbands actually qualified to appeared in the P21C Finals. For the Panorama 2000 Semi-Finals themselves; 16 bands were expected; but again because of a triple 17th-place Preliminary tie (The automatic Finals qualifiers from 1999, Desperadoes place excluded from these calculations; as they were not needed to be included in the Semi-Finals) brought 18 steelbands directly into the Panorama 2000 Semi-Finals.
Because many of the Semi-Finalists also qualified for Pan in the 21st Century Finals entry, only 3 additional non-Semi-Finalists were added to the show; WITCo Desperadoes, Silver Stars and Courts Laventille Sound Specialists. This brought 21 steelbands into the combined show. In there appearances at the combined show; 8 Panorama Semi-Finalists together with the 3 additional non-Semi-Finalists, each played one tune only; either their Panorama tune or their P21C tune. The remaining 10 steelbands each played 2 tunes. For the bands that played 2 tunes; the order in which the tunes were played, was the bands decision.
In the event, the Panorama
2000 Semi-Finals and Pan in the 21st Century Finals took
place simultaneously at the Grand Stand, Queens Park Savannah,
Port of Spain, Trinidad on Sunday, 27th February 2000. Exodus
won the Panorama 2000 Semi-Finals, and moved on with 10
other qualifiers to compete with WITCo Desperadoes
in the Panorama 2000 Finals. In 2000 Trinmar Hatters
were the first steelband to win the Pan in the 21st
Century competition; playing Earl Brooks Senior's
arrangement of Young Love (or Devotion); and for the 3rd
year running, no Tobago steelbands were represented in the Pan
in the 21st Century.
Pan in the 21st Century 2001 was a virtual re-run of 2000; except that the length of the Bomb tune was downsized to being not less than four (4) minutes or more than six (6) minutes in length; and for the first time a minimum band size of fifty (50) players specified. The same sponsor; the same rules; panyard judging of the Preliminaries; a 12th place tie bringing 13 steelbands into the Finals; a combined show with the Panorama 2001 Semi-Finals and Pan in the 21st Century Finals taking place simultaneously; the Finals at the Grand Stand, Queens Park Savannah, Port of Spain, Trinidad; this time all the P21C qualifiers were also Panorama Semi-Finals qualifiers, so no additional bands went into the 21 band Semi-Finals, the added band here out of a 20th place Panorama Preliminary tie; no Pan Down Memory Lane event for the SPB's in the years Panorama calendar; and again no Tobago steelbands were represented. Comments of note about the programme indicate that the scheduling and timing of the adjudicators arrival for the Panyard Judging, left something to be desired, and that the lateness of the adjudicators in one particular instance, had caused WITCo Desperadoes to withdraw from the P21C competition.
From the Panorama
Semi-Finals on Sunday, 18th February 2001; Neal and Massy
Trinidad All Stars won the Pan in the 21st
Century Finals playing Precious Lord.
From their Panorama Rules 2002 issued on 16th June 2001, and revised in mid November 2001, it was clear that the Pan Trinbago 'think tank' had once again reviewed the Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane events, and decided to place them outside the Carnival calendar for 2002; as there was no mention of these events in the documents. Not operating totally in a vacuum however, over the period they had been in consultation with the steelbands leaders, and had come to the idea that these events would be better placed at 'around Easter'.
Prior to the issue of these Panorama Rules 2002, an important item that they had reviewed, and from lessons learnt from the past P21C shows, was that 'Panyard Judging', despite a few hiccups, had not only been successful, but had become popular with the panyards for many reasons, and not least for the visitors that it had attracted. The visitors and supporters who also liked the idea, would not only come to hear the bands performance for the Preliminaries, but would also be customers for any memorabilia, tapes, CD's and refreshments that the bands may have laid on for their event. This was viewed as of possible economic benefit to the panyards, and should be encouraged. Now with an eye to Panorama, from principals learnt, moving some adjudicators around in a Maxi (mini-bus) was far cheaper than moving bands around on trucks and trailers. 'Panyard Judging' was thus the way ahead.
As usual with Pan Trinbago,
still undecided, they suffered 'the tail wagging the dog' and got
entangled with the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and
stubbornly placed the Pan in the 21st Century together
with the King and Queen of Carnival 2002 Semi-Finals;
the day before the Panorama Finals. Without labouring
the point, this untenable mess was rejected outright by the
steelbands, and Pan in the 21st Century vacated the
Carnival arena for good.
The year 2002 saw, from the lessons learnt with the Pan in the 21st Century competitions, 'Panyard Judging' applied for the first time to the Preliminaries of National Panorama. The Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane events were placed later in the year, freeing up the bands to concentrate on Panorama for the carnival season; and conversely providing a further pan event to keep the steelbands occupied later-on in the year. The P21C rules remained unchanged; but for Pan Down Memory Lane the rules, in keeping with a nostalgic theme, required the Single Pan bands to play for not more than six (6) minutes a non-calypso in calypso tempo.
Following the Preliminaries, in which for the first time, after a 4 year absence, had seen Tobago entrants in the Pan in the 21st Century competition; was the combined Finals; of 12 Single Pan steelbands in the now resurrected Pan Down Memory Lane event, together with 13 Conventional steelbands in the Pan in the 21st Century event; on Saturday, 6th April 2002. TSTT had expanded their sponsorship to now cover both these steelband events.
If a bit lengthy with 25 steelbands to show, and ending after 01:00 am the following morning; the 2002 event had been well patronised and deemed a success. The Single Pan bands had played first, and the bands had collected in a corralled area, with standing ticketed patrons, that was now the empty lot seasonally occupied by the North Stand of the Queens Park Savannah, Port of Spain, Trinidad. The bands had moved from this area, to a stage facing (South) to the Grand Stand, to deliver their performances. Angostura Woodbrook Playboyz were the first of the Single Pan bands to win the revived Pan Down Memory Lane event performing I Cant Stop Loving You; and Excellent Stores Sliver Stars took the Pan in the 21st Century performing Love's Theme.
Little was to change, nor the sponsor, for the format of the shows as they continued to cycle from 2002 over the next few years, other than the rise in popularity of the event itself. The unoddity of Pan Trinbago's indecisiveness, in setting the dates for the events Preliminaries and Finals, however remained. Whereas the Single Pan Pan Down Memory Lane event offered a wide range of music interpretations that more or less matched the nostalgia it was generally set to present; on the other hand the Pan in the 21st Century event was seen to be lacking in truly representing its name.
It was considered by many, and some in Pan Trinbago, that the conventional steelbands, with their 50 or so players, that presented the Pan in the 21st Centry event, had at their disposal; the best possible pan instruments and of widest range; and for their size in players, sufficient range in voice to present a representative balance of sound, that in total would equate to a true and fair representation of this unique facet of Trinidad and Tobago culture, the steelpan orchestra. These orchestras were already presenting their unique cultural musical renditions in the Panorama arena; now here was the arena in which they should be exploring and presenting new and exciting music-forms, as leading edge ambassadors of this cultural art form.
From the inception of the show, to the shows completion in 2003; less than a handful of the Pan in the 21st Century steelbands had exercised their ability to meet the challenge. Although generally performed at a high standard; many of the renditions were of tired tunes, verse and chorus repeats, under orchestrated, and/or close to Panorama sounding. The directions the bands were taking was muddled. There were mainly three reasons for this; there was not as yet a clear directive within the rules for the bands to interpret; the management and arrangers of the bands had not seriously addressed themselves to the implicit message of the shows title and had been beguiled by the simplistic interpretation of the meaning of a 'Bomb' tune; and they had not recognised that they were supposed to be performing, in a sense, 'outside of their cultural coccoon'. A chance event that took place near the end of 2003 was the step that was to stimulate the change in focus of the bands direction.
Coincidently including both Single Pan and Conventional steelbands, and based on a format similar to the tried P21C and PDML events themselves; The Republic Day Pan Jam Competition 2003 began its Preliminaries as an 'On de Road' regional event; early in September. It was during the South & Central regions start of the event, at the judging point outside Skinner Park at the bottom of Cipero Street, San Fernando, that the incident occurred.
Patrick Arnold, the President of Pan Trinbago, was with the adjudicators and in a temper. The band that was supposed to start the show was late. He heard that they were still 'up the road', and playing 'Hip-Hop'. The band, which had started in a timely manor at the crest of the hill, had been hampered in their downward progress by un-policed traffic; the policed road closure being out-of-sync with the Pan Trinbago schedule; Arnold was unaware of this. The band eventually arrived, playing 'Hip-Hop', and with a respectable following of youth. Now ready to perform their competition piece in front of the adjudicators; Arnold in a sharp curt speech, admonished the band for being late and disrespectful to the competition. Somewhat 'dissed', Petrotrin Hatters then adequately presented Dr Jeannine 'J9' Remy's interpretation of My Band, and moved on down the street. After the completion of the nights events, a subdued Arnold had however remained specifically impressed with the musical structure of My Band, and the odd association of 'Hip-Hop' 'On de Road'. He would later take this impression to the 'think tank' when reviewing the rules for Pan in the 21st Century 2004.
For 2004, the rules for Pan Down Memory Lane remained essentially unchanged; but those for the Pan in the 21st Century competition carried consequential change. The changes for P21C were directed at two areas specific to the music presentations of the show and were emphatic:
In the Preliminaries of the Pan in the 21st Century 2004 competition, some of the major steelbands became early casualties by misinterpreting these rules, and failed to aspire to the Finals. Critics of Pan Trinbago were noted to voice that ...rules governing the selection of choice, and indeed rhythm of performance, are vague to a number of arrangers... whereas others commented about the bands that were playing ...retro, calypso or classical pieces... instead of following the form of selections indicated in the rules. Whatever the criticism, it was becoming clear to the steelbands and the pan public at large, that Pan Trinbago was serious about the directions they expected the bands to take, and that the rules were beginning to bite. The competition had again risen a step in the quality of presentations.
For the 2005 season, Pan Trinbago issued a set of rules similar to 2004 to both competition categories; but added an amendment page on 17th March 2005 to the Pan in the 21st Century rules to; a) move Rhythmic Development from a category, to now be a sub-category of Arrangement; b) clarify the definitions of the adjudication criteria; in which each item now carried an expanded explanation (not present in the 2004 rules) of the respective term. These changes, shown below, represent the most complex points-scoring for the steelband ever used in Trinidad and Tobago to date; it is even more comprehensive than the present Panorama 2005 points-scoring system.
Pan Trinbago having done all they could; it was now up to the steelbands to show their abilities. The result was that in 2005 the majority of performances rose another step in standard and that, Pan in the 21st Century had indeed begun to arrive.
For the future, the nostalgia of the Single Pan bands in Pan Down Memory Lane will probably be the hallmark of that category. It may be better perhaps if they could hold a separate show of their own. Their efforts are worthy of this; it would remove them from under the shadow of the big bands, and perhaps a few more of these more mobile ensembles could then be added, to show their diversity in their Finals. It would also relax and shorten the timeframe of the shows; a feature that taxes the conventional bands in particular, where a long wait without practice stresses the later-placed of the P21C performers.
As for the conventional steelbands Pan in the 21st Century, this show still has some way to go along the road to maturity. This will mainly involve the acuity of their arrangers. When we hear the arrangers imaginations take hold, and start to explore compositions of their own, in rivers of as yet to be charted music forms, only then, will Pan in the 21st Century have risen to arrive in the form started by the 'think tank' of Pan Trinbago, striving for an answer to George Goddard's enduring challenge, as iconised by the sensitive Dr Roy Thomas, as to Where Pan Reach?
The 2003 Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane Finals were held on Saturday, 26th April 2003 at the Grand Stand, QPS, PoS, Trinidad. bpTT Renegades won the P21C event; and the year saw the first tie in the PDML Finals between La Horquetta Pan Groove and Laventille Pashphonics.
The 2004 Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane Finals were held on Saturday, 17th April 2004 at the Grand Stand, QPS, PoS, Trinidad. The year saw the first tie in the P21C Finals between Katzenjammers and Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars; with Trinidad All Stars making their second win in that event. La Horquetta Pan Groove made their second win in the PDML event.
The 2005 Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane Finals were held on Saturday, 16th April 2005 at the Grand Stand, QPS, PoS, Trinidad. WITCo Desperadoes won the P21C event; and the year saw La Horquetta Pan Groove made the first hat-trick by again winning the PDML event. An interesting note for 2005, is that in the South of Trinidad, the Culture Crazy radio station WACK 90.1 FM who had been airing pan events throughout the year, found that they had a number-1 hit with Clive Bradleys Pan in the 21st Century interpretation of Ordinary People as played by WITCo Desperadoes.
In 2005 the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad & Tobago Limited, in association with Pan Trinbago, issued a colourful 'folded letter-sized sheet' flier to promote the Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane events; and to get some mileage for themselves as sponsors for the event. They were astute enough to acknowledge early contributors to the events, the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), CL Financial, Petrotrin and others who had helped overall with the shows production and promotion. The flier was titled Treasure the Pan; and its 'logo', was of a 'pearly pan' cleverly illustrated as set inside the shell of an opened 'oyster' (which is actually a clam shell in the picture). The 'logo' also appeared on the National TV stations as a background to the events promotional material. It is curious to note that while the 'logo' was very much admired by the pan public at large, and the small flier itself becoming a sought after memento of the event, that many of the pan people did not recognised the analogy of the 'pearl', but were simply mainly admireous of the 'pretty little pan in the shell'. The 'logo' is shown below.
Following the Finals, a simplified Treasure the Pan flier turned up again, this time as a 'letter-sized sheet' with the results printed on the back.
It is however the original folded flier that is of interest here; as it was through reading the sponsors notes, some of which are shown below, that it became apparent that TSTT were having difficulties in collecting information about the past Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane events. Apart from being understandably slightly biased in promoting Pan in the 21st Century as the main event, and having good data on this event; the Single Pan bands Pan Down Memory Lane data was markedly absent. Another indicator of the problem was in their listing of PAST WINNERS, that they had missed the first winner of 2000, and the winner of 2001; and not being clear on the events starting as a 'concert' and eventually changing to a 'competition'.
It has been mainly to address the vacuum in information implied by this flier, that this An interim history of the Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane events has been written. It would have been easy to 'knock' TSTT for their lack of research, but this would have shown a lack of understanding to the present state (in early 2005) of the shortfall in the availability of information from any public 'pan database'. Pan Trinbago itself, is only 'just beginning' to mature to the idea of accurate information gathering. Even one of the authors, who uses Pan Trinbago as a principal source for information for the task of providing some reasonable pan coverage on the internet, has found Pan Trinbago, although quite helpful, to be still somewhat 'unprofessional' in this regard. TSTT should on one hand be pressed, to be more diligent in presenting their pan information; yet on the other hand, thanked for what has otherwise been substantial support to the pan fraternity.
The original TSTT PAST WINNERS list has been updated here, and is shown below, to include both the past and the present at a glance status or the Pan in the 21st Century and Pan Down Memory Lane events.
Note: Extract from TSTT - Treasure the Pan 'folded letter-sized sheet' flier (~ 11 April 2005)
Notes: * (or so far indicated) - A matter of further research for these pages.
|p21c+pdml_history2005.htm :: Internet Publication by Dr J 'J9' Remy (pre-print extracts) & JG de Barry - 16th July 2005
|© 2005: email@example.com - 20050716 - 1m20071228 - 2m20140615
Historic Update: 11 July 2011; Last Update: 16 July 2014 18:25:00 TT
Processed by: Jeremy G de Barry