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Caribbean carnivals protesting Trini pan

By Terry Joseph
August 12, 2002

For the second time in as many weeks, special-interest groups in neighbouring West Indian islands have threatened legal action to stop pannists from Trinidad performing at carnivals staged in those territories.

At the recently concluded Barbados Crop Over Festival, St James Tripolians slimly avoided legal action from an indigenous band, after the Trini group was engaged to play on the road with the mas presentation by Baje International.

And last Friday, on the eve of Grenada carnival, home-band Angel Harps went public with protest against a Panorama competitor, on the grounds that Trini pannists had been hired to boost its chances.

Angel Harps representatives said on Grenada television that their band would file legal action against competitor Pan Wizards, if it fielded the 17 members of Trinidad’s InnCogen Pamberi Steel Orchestra that were flown in to play.

Another Grenadian band grumbled on Saturday about a 15-member contingent from Trinidad’s Curepe Scherzando, who were on the island to perform with local group Gren-Lec, but no court action was threatened.

Tripolians manager, Keith Simpson told the Daily Express he was informed of the threat shortly before his band left for Barbados. The 19-member single-pan band was also subjected to stringent application of customs regulations on arrival in Barbados and were eventually forced to post a TT$12,000 bond before its instruments were allowed entry.

“If this were the rule all round I could understand it,” Simpson said, “but Trinidad and Tobago embraces the likes of Rupee and Allison Hinds every time they feel like making some money and without anybody threatening to lock them up.

“It has almost become the standard for fetes and mas bands here to hire a Barbadian soca singer or music band at Carnival time and even throughout the year, we see the names of these performers advertised to work here.

“And it is clearly not a Government principle, because while in Barbados we performed at a function thrown by the island’s Attorney General. What is happening is that we are the only country, it seems, who allow anything in and with no tariff, while the rules quietly change in the rest of the region," Simpson said.

Pamberi’s Nestor Sullivan, who went to Grenada for the island’s carnival, said: “Bands in Trinidad and Tobago welcome foreigners to perform with them at carnival time. You look at a Trini steelband at Panorama and you can identify what is sometimes a significant percentage of foreigners in the line-up.”

Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold said: “The response of Grenadian and Barbadian bands comes as a surprise. It is two years now since we formed Caripan, a regional association aimed at integrating initiatives in member countries and sharing information on common problems affecting the steelband movement.

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