It’s not an “Afro” thing , it’s a “Trini” thing !

The steelpan and its culture belongs to Trinidadians, all Trinidadians, and of course Tobagonians.
We cannot on one hand refer to the instrument as our national instrument , and yet have it claimed by or even identified with one ethnic group that makes up less than forty percent of the nation’s population.

It is therefore extremely disturbing to me to see arguments made to support or sometimes even disparage the art-form purely based on racial identity.
This is extremely unproductive, and the worse sort of identity politics.
The major problems affecting the steelbands of Trinidad today are not problems of ethnicity or skin color, though historically class and race have been impediments to progress.
They are the struggles of an art-form that emerged from the poorest, least educated segments of our society, that is still trying to find itself, and it’s not easy.

And a large part of the blame lies in the fact that we’ve not yet fully learnt how to adequately and efficiently manage our affairs.
But in spite of all this, we have managed to make our mark, where the artform is recognized, studied and appreciated, and the instruments played all over this planet.

As Trinidadians, we can be extremely proud of our creation, the steelpan.
But as Trinis, we all share in responsibility for its growth and survival, and therefore in the blame for its current stagnation , and all the blame (or credit) cannot go to one ethnic group.
True, it came out of the urban areas of T&T, at a time when the majority of the Indian population were rural.
And , one cannot deny its African roots ( like most modern music- rock and roll , jazz , r&b, etc.)
Also , we know that Indian leaders have disparaged steelbands, and discouraged their youths from participation ( like middle class parents, back in the day).

I remember, though that the few non-Africans that lived in the neighborhoods were just as involved in the local steelband and its culture as anyone else, resulting in a number of significant contributors to the art-form.
And in my experience the panyards of T&T have always welcomed anyone who wanted to join, and learn to play, even in the badjohn days.
The steelband is the most significant part of Trinidad’s culture, with the most potential for contribution to the nation’s tourist economy.
But it will take the involvement of all aspects of society, including the business sector.

Because the steelband is not an “Afro” thing.
It’s a “Trini” thing.

2 thoughts on “It’s not an “Afro” thing , it’s a “Trini” thing !

  1. The participation of the East Indians in steelband movements has been in diminished quantities to say the least..In early days steelbands could have fielded a mere handful of East Indians players. This artform has always been.dominated by Afro Trinis, then why is there a attempt to marginalize a claim when it is made the Afro trinis.


    1. While I do appreciate your point, I believe that for the art form to reach its full potential in Trinidad it must be embraced by, and identified with all Trinidadians regardless of class or ethnicity, and crediting it only to one group does nothing to promote its growth or development since other groups though
      Its origins and African roots are undeniable and are historical facts, but such emphasis can exclude many, and limit the necessary financial and political support from other groups.


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