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Respect Steel Pan because Respect is Due…

Posted by in INSPIRATION | 10 comments

Respect Steel Pan because Respect is Due…

Salutations Everyone!!

It has absolutely been forever! I’m so sorry! I was blessed with a teaching contract of my dreams, but it was very time consuming, so boy was I swamped! Now the contract is over, so I have a little bit more free time on my hands…

So, today is my dad’s birthday, but this isn’t really a birthday post for my dad… I want to address something that has been bothering me for quite some time, and I’m addressing it on my dad’s birthday because the topic is inspired by my dad, who is the “Pan Man” in my life…

As some of you may know, I was born in Canada, but both of my parents were born and raised in Trinidad. My parents didn’t raise my sister and I as “Canadians with Trinidadian parents,” they raised us as TRINIDADIANS! So if people ask me what I am, I say “I’m Trinidadian!”

As a young child, my parents frequently brought my sister and I to Trinidad…I remember when our flight from Toronto would land in Trinidad, the co-pilot would get on the PA system and say “Touch Down in the land of STEELPAN!!!” and shortly after, they would start playing steel pan over the system, and everyone on the plane would get up and dance and cheer…

My dad is a “pan man” so I grew up hearing steel pan all of the time…At a young age, I began to realize that the “steel drum” was like no other instrument I have ever learned about in school. The steel pan was so unique…

As a youth, anytime a teacher wanted us to do a project on any country of our choice, of course I rushed to choose “Trinidad and Tobago!”  The first place I would look was the Encylopedia; it said:

“The islands are known for steel-band and calypso music…”

And similarly, when I looked up “steel drum” in the Encyclopedia, it said:

Steel drum,  tuned gong made from the unstoppered end and part of the wall of a metal shipping drum. The end surface is hammered concave, and several areas are outlined by acoustically important chiseled grooves. It is heated and tempered, and bosses, or domes, are hammered into the outlined areas. The depth, curvature, and size of each boss determine its pitch. The drums are struck with rubber-tipped hammers.

Steel drums originated in Trinidad, in the West Indies, in the 20th century and are played in ensembles, or steel bands, of about 4 to 100 performers. Drums are commonly made in four sizes from bass to treble, called boom, cellopan, guitar pan, and ping pong.

I couldn’t wait to include the chapter on the steel pan! I was so proud of this instrument!

I marveled at how the steel pan was made…

You have to be blessed nation to have such a beautiful instrument (with such a unique and heavenly sound), produced from such a mundane/unattractive object like the oil drum, originate in your country.

I remember one year, we were home for carnival, and my cousins and I  (who were all under-aged) begged my parents to go to J’Ouvert with them! Finally, they said okay! Boy were we excited! We got our J’Ouvert clothes on, tied up our heads with bandanas, and we couldn’t wait to “jump behind a truck”! Boy were we in for a surprise…We met up with a band… It was Phase II and they were beating Kool and the Gang’s “Cherish” and they beat this song for hours! We wanted to cry! That song felt like a lullaby! No, we did no “jumping” that J’ouvert, it was strictly “chipping”… While we were chipping our youth away with Phase II, the “Chinese Laundry” truck passed us going in the opposite direction, and we begged to go, and my parents’ response was:

“No, you guys asked to come to J’ouvert, this is J’ouvert… J’ouvert is pan…”

 

So from young, I realized that as a Trinidadian, whether I liked it or not, the steel pan was a part of my heritage, and I must respect the pan…

If I were kidnapped, taken on a plane, and got a peak of the airport and saw a display of steel pans, right away, I would know I was in TRINIDAD.

I listen to calypso songs from back in the days, and pan was often the subject matter… There was so much love and respect for the pan back then… Remember Explainer’s song “Lorraine”?

Lorraine, yuh bettah wake up! I need a jet plane, to take me nonstop! I can’t stay in New York City, when there is sunshine and pan in my country…

Lorraine doh cry ah leaving, I can’t miss this jammin’… With all them steel band beatin’ and woman background shakin’!”

The other day, I was going through some of Natasha Wilson‘s older music and she has a song called “Calypso Music is Steel”, where she says things like:

“In this beautiful island, we need to stop frustrating the pan man.  I say the steel pan is the heartbeat of this nation…

Calypso music is steel band music…”

 

Have you ever heard the 2016 Panorama Champions’ (Desperadoes) rendition of 5Star Akil’s “Different Me“?! I dare you to listen to this and not get emotional… This song is nice on its own, but when you hear Desperadoes beat it, you develop a deeper love for the song!

 

 

Steel pan is such a beautiful and unique instrument… Steel pan is a spiritual instrument… It has the ability to get into your soul and force you to vibe with it… When I hear steel pan, I get lost in the musical notes…I often get chills and tears come to my eyes when I hear steel pan…

No other instrument does that to me…

So as I reflect upon all of these things, I ask myself:

“What happened? Where has the respect for the pan gone?”

When I hear things like “Pan is dying in we country…” I honestly struggle to understand why…

Some people seem to think that it is okay to gradually remove the pan from our culture… Steel pan is NOT only for Panorama…Like, how can you NOT have pan on the road for carnival? Why aren’t steel bands the most predominate genre of band on the road for Carnival in TnT?  Do you understand how bizarre that is? Carnival did not start out with DJ bands, and skimpy costumes: it started out with sailor mas and STEEL PAN…

My father gets on pan social sites like “Pan on the Net” and expresses his discontent with the lack of respect for the pan from his fellow Trinidadians. He speaks his mind until he is “blue in the face,” not because he’s a bully, not because he wants to be annoying, it’s because he is getting older, and he is seeing his own people kill a very important part of his heritage…

If pan is lost, then a very part of my father’s essence will be lost… And I can only imagine how frightening that is for him…

So now, I want to switch hats for a moment… I want to talk to Trinidadians as a “non-native,” I want to talk to you as a foreigner… I want to talk to you on behalf of the people on the outside, looking into your country…

I want to remind you that for most of us, what makes you different from other Caribbean islands, is your national instrument, the steel pan…

Trinidad and Tobago, if you take pan out of your culture, what sets you apart from any other Caribbean island (in a positive way)?

Your carnival? Not at all, when I see pictures of carnival circulating on the internet these days, sometimes I’m not sure if it’s carnival in Brazil or carnival in Trinidad…

Soca? Nope, so many other islands have begun to master the production of soca…Even Africans are putting out their own form of Soca!

Your food? Nope, most of the dishes that we eat in Trinidad and Tobago are made in other islands as well.

Beautiful landscape/scenery? Nope, there is so much beauty to be found in the other islands as well.

Trinidad and Tobago, I warn you, if you take steel pan out of your culture, you lose a large part of your uniqueness…If you take steel pan out of your culture, you rob Trinidad and Tobago of its own distinctive identity…

Trinidad and Tobago,

We should NOT be known as the land of “killings and violence”…

We should NOT be known as the land of “AIDS”…

We should NOT be known as the  land of “Carnival with almost-naked people”…

Trinidad and Tobago, we should still be known as

THE LAND OF STEEL PAN…

Trinidadians, do you want history to be re-written? Twenty years from now, when your offspring look up “steel pan” in the Encylopedia, do you want it to say things like: “Steel pan originated in the West Indies, but now it is centered in countries like Sweden, Switzerland and Japan…”?

If not, fight for Pan…Don’t just stand there and let pan disappear… Stand up for pan… Let your voices be heard… Fight the fight…

Trinidad and Tobago’s identity depends on this fight…

Like I mentioned before Natasha Wilson once said:

“Steel pan is the heartbeat of this nation…”

So,

If we take steel pan out of this nation…We will kill this nation…

We Trinidadians are currently known as some of the happiest people alive, who knows, maybe it’s because of the pan in we blood!

People, respect the the steel pan, because respect is due…

Okay, so I’m done ranting and venting (for now)…

But I would now like to take this time to wish my father a very happy birthday!

 

Happy Birthday “Pan Man Cec!”

May the Lord Bless you with Many More Years!

And May You Live Long Enough to See the Respect for Steel Pan Restored in Your Country!

Daddy Beating Pan

My Dad (Cecil Hinkson) Beating Pan with Starlift (1971)…

LE Blog Signature

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Wonderful article Sabi. I wish it can be read by everyone in and outside Trinidad and Tobago. See how you can get it in the newspapers in TnT, Montreal, NY, Toronto, etc.

    • Great article which should be published in the Trinbago newspapers and New York. Canada and England and wherever there is a steelband too

  2. Wonderful piece written by a true Trinidadian. I am sharing this as widely. As I could. I am overwhelmed by it depth of feeling …

    • Thank you so much! I’m so touched that it moved you like that! Thank you so much for your support!

  3. A powerful commentary by someone who has come to know and appreciate the essence of the steelpan…an instrument born out of the soul of a nation that has yet to come to terms with the beauty of its creation… well done Sabi. let’s talk

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read it. I would love to “talk”. Email me: ladyendigee@gmail.com :-)

  4. I absolutely loved the article very well done, Congratulations to the writer and Happy Birthday to Cecil.

  5. Wow, I am touched. And respect is due to you to for this beautiful article!

  6. Excellent article ….

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read it! Please share it so we can raise awareness to this issue, because I believe that it is important for us to make our nation aware of this…
      Thank you so much!

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