LETTER TO THE EDITOR - GERARD MENDEZ
CHEERS TO OUR PANIST.
“If your sister talks to a steelband 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 pannist? 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 a few) the majority of our pannists are taken for granted and discarded or ignored after panorama. In fact, I must commend and congratulate the dedication and devotion of pannists like Martin Cain, Dane Gulston and Cary Codrington and all the others who have ensured its viability and continuity by involving their families in this unique art form all year-round. There is no pan without the pannist. He / She is the only indispensable resourse in the Pan equation. You may have the best Arranger, the best Tuner and the best Instruments but you must have the pannist.
Lets examine his plight in the last two –three years. In 2016 pannist revolted and rebelled for two reasons;
1. Their promised stipends of $1,000.00 were delayed until sometime in December 2016 and
2. The rumours that the stipend would have been reduced to $500.00 in 2017.
At a meeting at City Hall on January 10th 2017, although a stipend of $1,000.00was promised for Panorama, they only received $500.00.
In 2018, the rules governing Panorama has made no mention of a stipend for the pannist. Let’s wait and see.
Nevertheless In the face of what transpired over the last two to three years, pannists 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 pannist. A spirit which should be justly compensated not exploited or betrayed.
I commend and congratulate all panists who, against all odds, participated in Panorama 2018. Your contribution continues to soar whilst we hear of the negatives used to describe calypso and mass (costumes).
Left to me – I would declare 2018 THE YEAR OF THE PANNIST
Gerard Mendez (CHAIRMAN - NORTHERN REGION PAN TRINBAGO)