The think is, whether we wish to accept it or not, there’s an historical and cultural nexus between the carnival and the steelband, and that’s the lens through which most of the world see the steelband.
The steelband is still seen by many in its traditional role, which is to provide the main musical soundtrack for the Trinidad carnival.
As a matter of fact I’m ambitious where pan in T&T is concerned ; IMHO the steelbands should be the centerpiece and main focal point of the Trinidad carnival.
And the annual panorama competition just isn’t enough.
As far fetched as that may be, the steelbands’ role should be similar to that of the Samba schools of Brazil.
The pan is the national instrument, after all , and before we look elsewhere for progress , as the saying goes, “charity begins at home”.
We have refused to recognize the overall important role that the steelbands played in gaining international recognition for the Trinidad carnival in the past , and like the dog that dropped his bone while grabbing for its reflection in the river, we have placed our energies elsewhere.
The carnival should be prime time for steelbands and should provide the best opportunity for steelbands to create additional income, but in reality few if any steelbands are positioned to do this.
And it’s not simply a matter of returning steelbands to the streets as some suggest.
This would take a reassessment of priorities, imagination, and above all a lot of work.
For example, panyards at carnival time should become more attractive and welcoming as steelband theaters, where food, drinks and band items can be sold, instead of boring practice areas where a single tune is endlessly rehearsed for hours.
In this way band can reconnect with old supporters and create new ones.
More players would have to learn multiple tunes to satisfy audiences at these theaters, and I would even suggest all inclusive street parties on carnival day, with a ticket that would include an identifying band T-shirt, food, drinks and security.
This would also mean putting panorama in its proper context; as an important event but not the sole focus of steelbands at carnival time.
But, like I said, it would take real work, imagination and “thinking outside the box”.
However, the question remains whether Pan people are willing to show that amount effort and initiative, or whether they’re just willing to accept the status quo, wait for government to “do something for pan” , and complain when their panorama checks doesn’t arrive on time.