“Blaize” – The steel band movement is alive

The Grenada Steel Band Association (GSA) is on a drive to lift the image of the musical instrument through a series of pan concerts.

During a recent press conference, Executive Member of GSA, Michael “Blaize” Robinson said the association was strong and functioning.

Robinson announced that on October 2nd there will be a “Steel Band Jam and Rhythm Competition” at Spice Basket in Beaulieu, St. George’s as part of activities leading right up to next year’s carnival.

All ten steel bands on the island will be involved in the concert.

According to Robinson, during the first week of November all three steel bands from St. John’s will host a steel band extravaganza.

“The steel band movement is alive, vibrant and moving,” he remarked.

Manager of Republic Bank Angel Harps, which placed second in the 2016 panorama competition, Brian Sylvester disclosed that the band spent over $50,000 to prepare for the competition.

As a second-placed winner, the band will receive a prize of $40,000, which leaves a shortfall of $10,000.
Sylvester said the pannists put out more resources than what they get back and that this is done simply because of their love for the culture.

“A smaller band will spend a little less, a larger band will spend a little more, but on average it works out to be the same,” he added.

GSA is currently on a campaign to attract and recruit more young people to play pan.

Sylvester referred to the pan yard as a safe place to keep young people away from prison.

“We need to take care of our youth – down the road we don’t want to have issues and keep building jails, building correction centres, and (GSA) is the only organisation that has that level of youthful following,” he said.

According to Sylvester, among the 70 players listed with Republic Bank Angel Harps, 50 of them are under the age of 18 years.

He said the band enjoys “taking care of the nation’s future” although they are not being paid for that service.

“It is better to straighten that tree now than to have to pay to straighten them later on,” he added.

Manager of Coyaba New Dimension, David “Peck” Edwards who also addressed the media labelled their involvement in pan music as that of “a labour of love.”

Edwards said when a closer look is taken at the support mechanism involving parents, money cannot pay for that.

“We know from day one whether you win panorama or not, you do not win financially, but we are willing to make that sacrifice. All we ask for is the support, appreciation, respect… and once we are able to get that we think we can work with whatever institution and grow the artform sufficiently enough so that the young people coming up would see a future in this thing,” he remarked.

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