This is a shred of an account of the work of indigenous scientists. Please stay with it even though it centres on pan and addresses the ill-advised notion that the annual Panorama competition is killing pan.
Mr Winston Peters MP is an accomplished entertainer, known in the calypso world as Gypsy. He is a man who has stood steadfastly for what he believes, facing hostile crowds when he became a politician but continued to participate in the annual Calypso Monarch competition, even though many patrons believed he had joined "the wrong side". I admire him on both counts.
Gypsy is no longer in Opposition. He is a member of the People's Partnership Government and now Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism. Although he is part of a government which has managed in seven months to turn the hope it brought into widespread disappointment by its own blundering hand, I never expected disappointment from Minister Peters in dealing with any of the arts, given his background, which I have briefly mentioned. Whatever the economics, why the tones of hostility and the deprecation of pan players?
Perhaps it is not too late to appeal to him to meet Pan Trinbago with an open mind to sort out the issue of what is the appropriate policy regarding Government's subsidy to the art of pan music, with particular reference both to the immediate issue of Panorama 2011 and the longer-term issue of what the Government expects of Pan Trinbago in the future. As a result of his current approach he has put a hole in the Panorama ship and, while the ship is not sinking, "the oil pressure reading low".
In support of my appeal I will set out reasons why it is not right to assert that Panorama is killing pan. First, it is important to appreciate that the invention of the pan as the instrument of what we grew up calling steelband was a scientific invention and its development required the application of science to the steel drum. Yes, pan is science. In fact more than one domain of science is engaged.
The scientific domains of metallurgy and acoustics are two of those domains. Pythagoras, the ancient Greek philosopher, whose theorem tormented us in school geometry, was studying the harmonic tone of a vibrating string in the sixth century before Christ and observing the tones of different lengths of string.Our pan pioneers, no differently, observed, experimented with and developed the sound and vibrations of an oil drum. That work involved the science of acoustics.
The science of metallurgy is the study of, among other things, the physical properties of metals and alloys, such as the steel of the oil drum. The science is applied to the surface treatment and heat treatment of metals and alloys and to the practical use of them.
What I have described above is precisely what the pan pioneers and subsequent developers did in the course of inventing the musical instrument and what all pan tuners do. It is incontrovertible that Neville Jules (never given a national award), Ellie Mannette, Bertie Marshall, Sonny Roach, "Spree" Simon, Anthony Williams and Rudolph Charles were top-class scientists, inventors or scientific innovators and there is a long list of other innovators and distinguished tuners.
Related to the science of pan is Pan Trinbago's choice of this year, 2011, as the time to celebrate the 75th anniversary of pan, despite the fact that the invention and the playing of it are older. My information is that this year marks 75 years since the shape of the notes and the bowl of the pan was settled, and the invention as we now use it was initially complete. Of course, there were further acoustical and metallurgical developments subsequent to the original invention.
From the science of pan we must move to the arts of composing, arranging and playing but it is not possible to assess the value of Panorama, where the science and those arts are displayed, or whether it is worthy to receive a subsidy, without taking an informed perspective of the instrument that is at the centre of it. Such a perspective must also locate the invention and its use in its societal context.
I will turn to the societal and musical aspects of Panorama in future columns. Meanwhile I protest the arbitrary and eleventh hour cutting of the payment to Panorama players. It is a bit of an ambush least expected after the grandiose promise to double the first prize as though the politicians truly cared.
There has been so much loose talk about our so-called patrimony, referring to the inanimate oil and gas resources that lie beneath the ground and which are extracted by foreign capital and largely by foreign know-how. Why is this Government hostile to the pan movement which represents true patrimony of the venerable scientific origin, which I have briefly described?
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 January 2011 13:30|