Friday, January 19, 2018

Steelbands get ready

As pan competitions draw near...


HARD AT PRACTICE: PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars Steel Orchestra has selected to play “The Reason” sung by Tony Barclay. —Photos: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

Mark Fraser

Musical tones resonated from various panyards in the North as steelbands prepare their Panorama repertoire in time for the Northern Region National Large Conventional category preliminary round of judging which will take place at various panyards and communities on February 8. 

Caribbean Airlines Invaders Steel Orchestra is one such steelband which was abuzz with activity when the Express recently visited panyards. The steelband will play “Jam It”, an Arddin Herbert composition and arrangement with lyrics by Rembunction (Roland Yearwood). Elizabeth Namsoo, manager, marketing and communications, said while exciting times are ahead for the band, there is one dark cloud hanging over its head. The band, located at 147 Tragarete Road, Woodbrook, was deemed a National Heritage Site by the government in October 2007. The band’s efforts to further develop its basic amenities have been crippled, according to Namsoo, as the government and the lease owner still have not settled on the amount to acquire the property. 

“Next year is 75 years that we are here and it is crippling to the organisation that up to now we are still unable to build on the land or to develop it because it still does not belong to us legally.” She added: “We are appealing to the government to see what they can do to finalise the negotiation because the property was given to us in November 2012 and it was declared a National Heritage Site under the last government. To date nothing has been done with regards to negotiation between owner and the government and that is a major problem we are having. The steelband is almost 75 years; we are one of the oldest steelbands in the world and Trinidad and Tobago is the mecca of steelpan; I think it’s a shame that this has not been settled as yet.” 

Because of the land acquisition issue, the band does not fit the criteria for a “special occasion” bar licence. “There is a special occasion bar licence that panyards can get and we had a problem last year because we used a letter from the owner to show that Invaders can run a bar on the property and we were refused because we are not the land owners.  We have to get a letter of ownership and we don’t have that. We are pleading to the new (Port of Spain) Mayor Raymond Tim Kee; we sent a letter to him asking him to assist us in somehow giving us some concessions so we could get this special licence to run the bar.”

Namsoo said the band is looking forward to its presentation in the preliminary round which will take place at the Queen’s Park Oval. The band consists of a strong contingent of youths. “Things are going fairly smooth.  We have a strong complement of youths and many of them are actually playing in the junior competition as well as in national Panorama competition with us. We have a nice flow of players coming to participate. We started the tune [recently] and the panyard has been lively; a lot of people coming to hear us. On February 11 we will be doing our presentation at the Oval as usual on the preliminary night,” Namsoo said. 

Namsoo said the panyard is a safe haven for both players and spectators as there is usually police presence on a nightly basis.  “Usually we have police patrols that will come in once a night. This is a system which has been in place over the last couple of years, so they come and make nightly checks.” 

Liam Teague replaces award-winning composer/arranger Edwin Pouchet as arranger for PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars Steel Orchestra.  The Tragarete Road steelband has selected to play “The Reason” sung by Tony Barclay. The band’s publication relations officer, Sandra Mc David said while the band is happy with its selection and arrangement, Pouchet’s presence at the panyard has left a void. “We are going through a different thing this year because our captain and arranger Edwin Pouchet cannot be with us. He is the one who has taken us through Panorama wins,” McDavid said. 

McDavid, while she did not want to disclose too much information about Pouchet’s condition, said his illness is complicated. “He has asked Liam Teague to do it for him and he agreed to do it. We miss him; we miss his presence in the yard but for him to say that he cannot do it, then it means that he is really unable to and we understand that. We wish him the best, we want him to get better and come back in the yard,” McDavid said. Silver Stars started practising the first Monday in January. McDavid described its repertoire as a different style of music.  

White Oak Starlift Steel Orchestra is also in Panorama preparation mode.  There was a lot of activity at the Mucurapo Road pan complex. The band will play Machel Montano’s “Happiest Man Alive”, arranged by Keith Salcedo.

The band’s captain, Marius Caballero said the turnout of players at the panyard has exceeded the attendance roster of previous years. “From early on we have seen a lot more players coming — more than we have had in a number of years. The vibes in the band is good. We are satisfied with our tune. We stand a good chance. We already have our fans coming in to hear us practise and it’s all good,” Caballero said. 

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