Bukka Rennie

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Don't mess with Panorama

August 11, 2004

There is talk about a proposal from Pan Trinbago, the national association which is supposed to represent and defend the interest of the pan fraternity, that for Panorama 2005 steelbands will be allowed to compete playing any calypso without any limit to the specific year in which the respective calypso was composed and registered and treated as the intellectual property of a said person or persons.

The only limitation is that no steelband is to play a calypso that the said steelband played before in a Panorama competition. So All Stars will be debarred from playing Woman on the Bass, and Desperadoes is debarred from playing Rebecca, but Renegades and Exodus may play any of these two vastly popular pieces of music, of course with their own interpretation and own arrangement.

Bands, it is assumed, will have such wide scope of choice that it will not be surprising to hear pieces of calypso music from the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s.

There is already a competition in place titled Pan Down Memory Lane held outside of the Carnival season in which steelbands are allowed to go back in time without any statutory limitations in regard to the year of composition and rendition, and in fact there was no specification that the choice had to be a calypso or for that matter a local composition.

If such a pandering to nostalgia was already catered for by the Pan Down Memory Lane competition, why does Pan Trinbago still hold the view that there exists a need for such an approach to the 2005 Panorama competition?

The argument one is told is that in 2004, because of the stipulation that the choice of calypso had to be current, of that year, the final show was boring because almost all the finalists played the same piece, War 2004 by De Fosto.

If we are not mistaken it was even worse in 1975, when of the eight finalists only All Stars did not play Kitchener's Spree Simon. In fact, many people declared Spree Simon the test piece of that Panorama.

Now there is no quarrel with the objective of preventing the possibility of boredom in a Carnival-spirited show such as Panorama. In addition, it is felt that at present the calypsoes served up are neither suitable nor appropriate for pan.

But this is all a matter of interpretation. If All Stars could have done wonders with Curry Tabanca, then anything is possible once the will and the talent are available.

Furthermore, a distinct competition and reward for "pan calypsoes" have helped in this regard and must be encouraged for the future.

In other words, the intention is clear and it is one that we can support but the view is that there are other ways in which to achieve this end rather than breaking the important and significant historical nexus between calypso, pan and Carnival of each particular year.

Carnival is our theatre of the streets, as Errol Hill has so poignantly postulated. Carnival is both parody and catharsis at one and the same time as our current lives are exposed to be examined in the raw.

Calypso according to Duke is our current editorial in song, timely in lyrical content and rhythm and relevant to said time and place.

Pan is the specially crafted instrument through which the "editorial" and the "theatre" come together in a most dynamic and explosive mix of movement and art. Everything fits, all the parts go together to make the whole; the three handmaidens of our art cannot and should not be separated in any way.

Elsewhere we warned against the middle-class conspiracy to take pan out of Carnival. This is what we said:

"...For the past two decades they have continually complained to the Carnival authorities that the steelbands only serve to deter their free movement and have persistently advocated that the steelbands be confined to limited areas.

"That view has culminated with the demand this year for a special day for pan on Carnival Sunday. We must, most vehemently, reject any such notion.

"It is not the steelbands that cause congestion but the continued idiocy of confining competition to a stage that brings the colossal nightmare... steelbands should join together to achieve critical mass in order to maintain their 'space' in Carnival, and secondly to deepen and extend their cultural significance together with calypso as the pivot of the theatre of the streets.

"We must not give up any ground. Or in any way bend to the middle-class agenda..."

We are afraid that this new proposal from Pan Trinbago to delink Panorama from current calypso and vice-versa may just inadvertently cause the pan fraternity to fall into the trap and the conspiracy that the middle-class have set. That will most certainly be a travesty.

Enough said! Yuh done know!

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