PAN is still relevant

Two weeks ago, the Catholic Pharisees in Grenada were in a tizzy over plans to have the Ordination Ceremony for the new Bishop at Spice Basket and not the built and dedicated Cathedral in St. George’s. For a moment, they failed to remember that Peter’s offer to build a tent for the Lord was refused. They also forgot that human flesh cannot contain or limit the Lord and that His Glory is everywhere and in everything!

So the time is now that the Pan Association understands that pan was not made for the glory of Panorama. Pan is for the enjoyment of the people wherever it is played. Who says that the place of glory for pan music is a wooden stage at the stadium?

A few nights ago, my Millennium Gift, who plays with New Dimensions, awoke me from sleep to deliver the bad news! Panorama postponed! I had left the band practising in the precincts of the stadium after nine o’clock that night, having spent hours listening to the band do its final preparations.

I had walked over to the stadium carpark where Rainbow City All Stars was having a go at it!

I could tell that patronage was going to be poor, as usual, but could not have envisaged that the stage would not have been ready!

As far as I understand it, ‘Spicemas’ is one cultural event containing a variety of shows. My understanding also is that the SMC exists for the purpose of planning and executing the Carnival, all of it! To say that money was given to the Pan Association to build the stage is to trigger the basic principle that the SMC has a duty to hire competent contractors to get its work done. Other legal arguments attend the matter, but are not for this article to treat with.

The authorities have announced that an investigation will follow promptly. That is encouraging, but they have to ensure that competent people are appointed for the purpose. More broadly, they must also realise that the management of culture must be in the hands of our best sons and daughters. In this cause, neither the ‘Greenery’ nor the ‘Bleached-face’ matters. It is our culture that speaks for us and defines who we are as a civilisation. The current arrangements are inadequate and lacking. Let’s leave that there, for the time being.

In the meantime, the Pan Association has to clear its head. Do like Specky. No longer a boy singing “Two Bull Cow”! Now he sings ‘Uncle still relevant’! He has moved on to more success. Bigly!

Pan is still relevant to Carnival, but Panorama is dead! Relevance is established on two grounds; firstly, to who and; secondly, to what? Pan music is appreciated by people beyond its cultural/heritage value, as a source of musical entertainment. Breaking out the “who” factor, one finds that, on account of demographic and generational shifts, the main consumers of the Carnival product are young people (locals and visitors). Their primary interest in Carnival is not really the cultural/heritage value, but the fete/ party value.

Significantly, Carnival has become a huge fete and young people do not sit down to fete. Do not expect them to go sit in the stadium and listen to pan being played. They want to jam with pan music! So we have effortlessly established the “who” and the “what”.

Hopefully, the Pan Association will find the strength to do an honest reality check of itself and the prevailing situation. If, notwithstanding the high quality of the music, only a few hundred diehards pay to attend Panorama, something is speaking that needs to be listened to. The leadership of the Pan Association must reckon with the relationship between the pan and the people. If the people are saying we want pan, but not Panorama, and that noise has been consistently clear, it has to be listened to.

A proper and sensible response is needed. Pan was not made for Panorama. Glory is not nailed to the stadium fence. Glory for pan players can be had other that at Panorama!

So here we go with a suggestion. ‘Pan-tastic Thursday’! Have Queen Show on Saturday evening at Spice Basket, followed by the big fetes. On the Thursday, roll out the pan sides from Port Highway to the end of the Carenage. There could also be a big stage opposite the GTA’s Offices. Yuh go see the effect! People from here and everywhere will jam with the pan music and be fully entertained. If you are as old as I am and ‘cayn take de jammin’ then go around the pan yards in the days ahead and listen to the bands rehearse.

So what is the way forward? A well-built stage ready and tested two weeks before carnival and an empty stadium on the night, or ‘Pan-tastic Thursday’!

Pan music is an uplifting product. Talented pan musicians must lift their minds and understand the times. Do we please ourselves in keen competition, but with a handful of patrons, or do we shift gears and uphold the value of pan music in its natural relationship with the people?

William Joseph

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