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Lavantille Pan Fest Report

By Terry Joseph
August 04, 2000

Last Sunday's Laventille Steelband Festival and Emancipation Celebration exceeded the expectations of both its planners and police, by attracting an estimated 12,000 persons to the event, which was incident-free.

"I guess we could honestly call it a roaring success and I would like to put on record my thanks to the public and our sponsors and congratulations to the organising committee and those persons who received community awards," said chairman Julian Cudjoe.

Produced by the board of the Laventille Community Complex, the eight hour event featured nine conventional steel orchestras and six single-pan bands. In addition, the evening showcased a tamboo bamboo aggregation, the Culture Workshop, the Laventille Rhythm Section, presentations by the Malick Junior and Senior Folk Performers, the Marcia Charles Dance Company and an awards ceremony.

A punctual 4 pm start to the proceedings allowed all planned components to be aired sequentially. The festival proceeded smoothly and was able to conclude at 11.50 pm, just shy of the midnight deadline agreed upon with police, who had secured an 800-metre stretch of the Eastern Main Road in Success Village.

Vehicular traffic that would normally have used the area was diverted to the Old St Joseph Road which, for the duration of the event, was turned into a two-way street.

From 4 pm, music was supplied by homegrown DJ Crazy, with an emphasis on selections that reflected the mood of the moment, mixing pan tunes with songs appropriate to the Emancipation celebration.

The Culture Workshop steel ensemble played the national anthem at 4.45 pm, after which a prayer from Babalorisha Reynold Peters blessed the event, before The Young Voices took the stage. In that segment, Dafina Crichlow did Miriam Makeba's "Retreat Song" and the Malick Junior drummers offered a drumology. The junior dancers then did a charming piece called "All in a Day".

The Marcia Charles Dance Company then presented two pieces, their juniors doing The Caribbean Suite, followed by adult performers in The Passage a celebration of the beauty of the African woman.

Greetings to the community followed from Wilford Carrington, vice chairman of the Board of the Laventille Complex and Michael Cooper on behalf of the Festival Committee. A message was read on behalf of Pan Trinbago, whose president Patrick Arnold, was marooned in Tobago by a rescheduling of the inter-island ferry.

Then came the Emancipation commemoration ceremony, in which members of the Malick Folk Performing company, through a series of dramatic vignettes and dance movements, re-enacted the events leading up to the freeing of slaves in 1838. The company's artistic director, Norvan Fullerton, who produced the tableau, assumed the role of chief constable in reading the proclamation that set the slaves free.

They then portrayed several aspects of the camboulay and African entertainment traditions, including mock-stickfighting and the flambeaux procession; moving west to usher in the tamboo bamboo band that heralded the evolutionary sequences leading to pan as we know it today.

In that progression, the tamboo bamboo gave way to the Laventille Rhythm Section, who were followed by a succession of single-pan bands, including Uni Stars, St James Tripolians, Spree Simon Harmonics, Pashphonics, Arima All Stars and the Laventille Serenaders.

The awards ceremony followed. Honours went to Russell Latapy and Candice Scott for sport and Ben Jackson for the arts; all of which were presented by Angostura's Everton Callender. Two lifetime awards were given to Vanita Gretton (for community service) and Roy Augustus, in recognition of his work in founding Pan Trinbago and the organisation of the steelband movement.

The conventional bands were up next. Leading off was Solo Pan Knights, who were followed by InnCogen Pamberi, Trinmar Hatters, Blue Diamonds, BP Renegades, Exodus, Carib Tokyo, PCS Starlift and Courts Laventille Sounds Specialists. In that segment the songs performed included "Bailamos", "Theme from Mission Impossible", "Autumn Leaves", "The Caterpillar" and "Bassman". All bands were paid performance fees, collecting their cheques immediately upon completion of the route. Conventional bands of 35 or more members each received $5,000, while single pan bands were paid $1,500.

At the end of the day, Exodus, who were conscripted at the last minute (after the Witco Desperadoes withdrew on account of an engagement in Barbados), came away with and additional $1,500 cheque for being the best turned out band. Their rendition of Merchant's "Um Ba Yo", which came complete with African drummers and costuming, helped them along to the prize.

Well before the conclusion of last Sunday's festival, members of the committee were inundated with requests for additional steelband activities on the strip. The only complaint lodged with organisers was that bars along the route, overwhelmed by public response, ran out of beverages. Next year's Laventille Steelband Festival will take place at the same venue on Sunday July 28.

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