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Cheers to the pan players!

Published: 
Friday, March 9, 2018

If your sister talks to a steel band man,
Your family wants to break she hand,
Put she out,
Lick out all the teeth in she mouth.
Pass de Outcast!

In this calypso titled “Outcast” these were some of the words the Mighty Sparrow used to describe how society regarded the panmen in the days of yore. Indeed, however, the panman’s history is replete and synonymous with gang violence, riots and depravity. But his persistence and dogged determination has ensured that his art form along with his instrument has taken its place along any other in the world to-day.

His toils and travails accompanied by contests like Panorama and the Music Festivals, at which foreigners once adjudicated some of the most abstract pieces of music, has earned our instrument international acclaim and the title of national Instrument. But what about the pan player? What about the person who produces all that beautiful music? Is he/she truly respected? Or is he/she taken for granted?

I am of the opinion that except for the few who has found international acclaim, like Robert Greenidge, Dane Gulston and Liam Teague (just to name some) the majority of our pan players are taken for granted and discarded or ignored after Panorama.

There is no pan without the pan player. He/she is the only indispensable resource in the pan equation. You may have the best arranger, the best tuner and the best instruments but you must have the pan player.

Let’s examine his plight in the last two–three years. In 2016 pan players revolted and rebelled for two reasons;

• Their promised stipends of $1,000 were delayed until sometime in December 2016; and

• The rumours circulating that the stipend would have been reduced to $500 in 2017.

At a meeting at City Hall on January 10, 2017, although a stipend of $1,000 was promised for Panorama, they only received $500.

Nevertheless, in the face of what transpired over the last two to three years, pan players proceeded to Panorama 2018 and produced one of the best in recent years. In Panorama 2018 more than ever, we witnessed a priceless, indomitable spirit that no amount of money could pay for. A spirit demonstrated by the devotion, discipline and commitment of the pan players. Left to me, I would declare 2018 The Year of the Pan player! Cheers!

GERARD MENDEZ,
Diamond Vale, Diego Martin

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