DESPERS, THE HILL & THE GREENS, & THE SOUL OF THIS PLACE

Place: North Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah.
Time: Panorama Semis 2016.

Despers were by far the best playing big band on the day. They did the Hill proud in a dark time. It was a finals type performance in sophistication and intensity. Mesmeric on a night when the small and medium size bands on the whole played better than the big bands who were mostly formulaic and dull. The band that for me sounded better than the rest- Angel Harps- did not even make it into the finals. That massive distance between myself and the culture judges and between our culture judges and the artistic truth seems to be widening….

Just some quick notes: The magical sight of Despers in the desolate Grey Friars lot on Frederick Street is a revelation that all Trinbagonians should witness. There is something RIGHT about it. You will feel a shock of recognition, and let me tell you what it is. Despers on Frederick Street represents one of the only representations of the ‘Indigenous’ on our main street in our capital city! And it feels good. Despers’ presence shows up just how much WE are not present in our public spaces and how much foreign content rules our imagination, civic life, and the things we consume. Despers in Grey Friars shows up how much we have alienated our phenomenal Legacy from the main stream of our life and how much we are ‘not about our Father’s business. It also intimates to me a vision of the power of the Creative Sector’s plan for the Grey Friar’s site. It is a vision we will have to battle the current owner who destroyed the Heritage buildings there for. The plans for the Grey Friar’s site is to have 2 buildings mirroring the Church and the Hall that were originally on the property. One building is going to be called ‘The Word’ and the other building ‘The Guild’.

THE WORD- Imagine a building like this on the Grey Friars lot

THE WORD- Imagine a building like this on the Grey Friars lot

‘The Word’ which would be in ‘the Church building’ would be a multi-purpose performance hall and home for the literary and oral arts- the poets and storytelling artists, as well as the choirs of the country- with constant daily performances with an indoor/outdoor restaurant. ‘The Guild’- which would be in the Great Hall-would be a Museum/Workshop/Retail space for the artisans of the country where indigenous artisan traditions are passed on in guilds and workshops. In it will be re-built and displayed artefacts- from the large to the small- everything from 30 ft Ramleela effigies to a 2 ft square Native American headpiece to a 30 ft Queen of the Band costume… Bypassers will be able to walk in and observe the process of the construction of hundreds of the things that make this country unique. They also will be able to experience a constantly changing Gallery/Museum and Retail space fill to overflowing with the best craft products our best artisans have to offer… That site would be the lynchpin of converting indigenous Craft and Industrial Design into an annual multi-million dollar foreign exchange earner.

Back to de Savannah.

Ah yes- The Greens… 2 years ago I wrote this article criticising Pantrinbago on its conception of the Greens:  The article went viral across the world with thousands of likes and comments from far and wide mostly agreeing with my analysis. Pantrinbago’s board got vex with me, walked out on meetings when I was present, refused to attend Sector meetings if I was there, etc etc. In my article I simply warned Pan Trinbago of a simple fact: that if you create an entity for the under 35 demographic in the Panorama whose sole purpose was to saturate them in carnal All-Inclusive behaviour with NO modern multi-media and programmatic ways to initiate them into Pan- that plan will backfire. Why? Because you would have brought an entire demographic to the greatest Festival party in the Carnival and then made Pan irrelevant to them. You would effectively have spiritually excommunicated the under 35 generation from Pan. By making The Greens simply another All Inclusive all it would take was for somebody to programme a ‘better’ All-Inclusive and you would have lost the entire future of Panorama’s next generation.

So said so done.

I warned them it would happen within 5 years. It took 2. With Julius Caesar’s ‘Bacchanal Road’ we have now witnessed the end of the Panorama. Thousands of youths abandoned The Greens for this party held at the stadium in its first year. It will only grow. Soon The Greens will be abandoned by youths and sponsors and most of the treasured under 35 demographic for ‘Bacchanal Road’ and a slew of other competitors which are sure to arise. And Pan Trinbago did it to themselves! I hate to say ‘I told you so!’ But Dread, I did…

The self-sabotage of The Greens is a glaring example of how much Bad Design can destroy a community, its Spirit, and its future. The Greens in itself is not an evil- its Bad Design however was satanic. The Greens for its first years had a poor sound system piping in from the main stage with minimal screens and reminders of the reason why you were there: PAN. To experience over 40 bands, no, 40 armies representing 40 communities sweating out their Art and Dedication in sweet music to a Nation. The Greens should have been designed as an initiation chamber for the under 35s. Every inch of the Greens should have been an immersion in Pan History and Pan Trivia from the moment you approached and entered and at every turn. Pan has such an incredible exciting history that, properly curated, you could have hooked an entire generation into the Magic of the instrument and the movement- as well as in the communal Magic of the Panorama.

Opportunity lost.

Now Pantrinbago has to engage the battle of its life to win back a demographic it helped gift wrap into the hand of its competitors… If they fail, the great Festival called Panorama now has an expiry date…

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Posted on January 26, 2016, in President's Blog and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. “Win back a demographic..?” Did Pan Trinbago ever have it? Young women and young men fill the places in pan sides—for years—with older guys bringing up the rear beating iron or, in small bands, doo-dups. That’s been visually the case for long. The friends, families, colleagues, pardners, of the young pan players never come to jump with the band; the expectation of their doing is dated. The Greens was the closest “the demographic” would associate with pan. It’s short-sighted bad mind, and bad talking their nearness to the sacred North Stand Panorama, that eventually drove them away. Pan Trinbago had the right instinct to encourage the “nearness of you”. The bad mind and bad talk, here and abroad, won the day, and lost “the demographic”.

  2. Lenny, my friends and I have been storming Panorama since we were 15! Youths were indispensable to the Rama. Everybody whio is now 45 in the Rama have been going since their teens. In the Rama had everybody- from kids with their parents on the tracks, to villagers from communities of all ages – from 4 years old to 84. And everybody had their place and section- on the tracks, in the pits, in roads surrounding, in Grand Stand and in North Stand- segregated with the white and red Northerners to the West all the way to the black working class to the East. Middle class and working class. We were there for fete- and for music. The Magic of Pan! Kitchener’s music and great arrangement had us hypnotised. Youths were always part of Panorama. But the working class communities that pan comes from have been systematically alienated from Panorama over the years, first from the North Stand, then the pit, then the track… Working class youth were the first to go. The roots classes are hardly present at Panorama at all in their numbers except as players. The absence is especially so for the young roots classes. A lot of work has to be done to reattach Panorama to its communities as a Ritual, especially the young. The Greens corralled the last vestiges of the middle class and working class youths left in the Rama and then suckled them on All Inclusive juice. Now the first exodus has come with the middle-class youths. Soon all will follow. You cannot ignore demographics, you have to face it head on. No one would have ever believed that PSA or the Public Service fetes would have collapsed as well- but within 5 years of the first threat many were extinct. This is what is facing the panorama right now!

    • The mental or nervous energy that you still generate shows in a foredoomed effort to turn back the hands of the clock. Pan and Panorama evolved into their own, self-regarding, self-cherishing and self-worship, championing a statist, guilt-tripping, demand for endless taxpayer support. In days, before yours, when I too stormed Panorama, pan was essential to Carnival. Steelbands played the road marches, determined which songs would become road marches. Now playing pan songs that hardly anyone recognises as late as Semi-finals Sunday, or old-time calypsoes, steelband has made itself irrelevant to Carnival. What you call the “roots” people mostly walked away from pan, as they have also been distancing themselves from mas. Beyond wringing hands and tearing hair, and scaring politicians, do something to change that.

  3. lol nervous energy… I actually very cool. Probably TOO cool! And what I actually want to see is the thing evolve. Inclusively. Musically. Cathartically. With Integrity. And I write to alert people- especially the powers-that-be that actually we can chose which way we go. And moreso to alert them that we have infact been choosing- and these are the dire consequences. It is alerting people as to their responsibility and the repercussions of action, and inaction. There are things that myself and others are doing that may bear fruit yet, but at the moment there is $200+ million of public money and hundreds million of corporate money pushing the carnival culture in a particular direction allied with certain global cultural forces, so the resistance has its hands full…,

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