Sunday, December 17, 2017

Don't you go over


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Two Fridays ago, the day of the no-confidence motion moved against the Attorney General in Parliament, I was confronted again by the paradox of there being both a deeply constructive, creative Trinidad and Tobago and an insecure Trinidad and Tobago, pliable to those internal and external trends calculated to push us further into mimicry and self destruction. My confrontation with the paradox continued into Saturday and Sunday.

On Friday, I saw the opening salvoes of the no-confidence motion. In no time at all, allegations of spite and malice started flying between the opposing sides. I then went to the Little Carib Theatre to attend a performance entitled Feel de Vibes, featuring the band Overdrive and its illustrious guest performers. I returned on Saturday evening to see the performance again. By that time the parliamentary debate on the motion, earlier on Saturday morning, had degenerated to race card playing.

The debate has been well reported so readers already know of its low grade, deliberately divisive tone. I can proceed directly therefore to the contrast of the concert.  While the politicians were in Parliament sewing strife in the land, at the Little Carib there was no strife and denigration, only creativity and love.

 Jason Dasent, the leader and keyboardist of Overdrive, was the emcee for much of the evening and the promoter of the show. He is visually challenged but his empathy with his musicians, his guest performers and his audience was total, such that he comfortably presented an analogy of music with Stevie Wonder at its core. That is where Johann Chuckaree entered stage right to play the pan and the PHI (the UWI produced percussive harmonic instrument) together with the keyboards of Jason and Ming and the bass player and to interpret the music of Stevie Wonder.

Johann is a one of our highly skilled youthful pan musicians and "Boogsie" Sharpe is one of his musical progenitors. Note I describe him as a pan musician. I do so to emphasise how completely pan now combines with every other musical instrument, traditional and contemporary, manual and electronic. As a pan elder put it to me, "pan has no musical apartheid". Check Johann this evening at Central Bank Auditorium.

Many of our politicians know nothing of the progress of pan in world music. They think pan is two du dup and three iron. The progress from Bertie to "Boogsie" to Chuckaree is nothing short of astounding. It is a mixture of science and art. As to the fact that Bertie Marshall was an accomplished scientist, see my column Equal to Pythagoras, published on January 16, 2011.

Overdrive's guest artistes also included 3Canal in the first half.  Mungal Patasar and his son made their appearance with "Tall" Kareem in the second half for pan, sitar and tabla to meet and pay mutual musical respect to each other in Beryl Mc Burnie's theatre, even as the snarling and strife in the parliamentary theatre was heading to crescendo.

The tableau on stage represented a near perfect blend of Trinbago youth and experience, every creed and race finding an equal, practical musical place.  There we saw in a relevant context a piece of 3Canal music poetry entitled Borderline delivered in the first half of the concert: "Sometimes there are people in this life who want to fill your heart with strife, centre yourself, don't you go over".

Now to Sunday and Phase II's 40th anniversary concert where there was pan in harmony with choirs, trumpet and saxophone, Leston Paul playing on keyboard an arrangement of Kitchener totally illustrative of how that maestro's music can be interpreted in genres other than calypso.

The Overdrive and Phase II concerts had something else in common besides their demonstration of the capacity of pan to play with a wide range of other instruments and voices. In the absence of a funding policy for the arts, these shows are possible only because of a few enlightened sponsors and family support.

The relatives of the Overdrive crew by blood and by marriage took care of a variety of front office and backstage duties. Phase II, in common with most steel orchestras, has its pan family, poignantly demonstrated when the Lydian singers brought "Boogsie" in their midst and sang for the Lord to bless and keep him.

Our centre, our equilibrium in the madness in here, is our arts. Those making the strife are incorrigible but we must keep balanced so that we can take 3Canal's advice. "What they go do, what they go say when they realise they can't push you across the line?  don't' you go over". I join them in saying at this troubled time, Trinbago please, "don't you go over".

Mind you I nearly went over the line when I saw that Adam Smith Square, which we do not use for pan, was handed over for Oktoberfest. Do we have a pan tent in Munich?