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SCOBIE WRITES OPEN LETTER

posted 10 Feb 2011, 08:58 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 10 Feb 2011, 09:11 ]
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WORLD STEELPAN FRATERNITY

2011-02-10

On behalf of all conscious Pannists everywhere, I extend a heartfelt thank you, to Bro. Salah Wilson and those Pan Lovers around the world, who signed a petition in support of our struggles with the Minister of
Arts and Multiculturalism to retain the One Thousand dollars as negotiated with the former regime, to which the Panorama players had become accustomed. Regardless of the outcome, I say thanks to all of you.
In Trinbago, the home of the Steel Pan, there is mischief afoot. Please allow me some space to tell my story.

On the night of Feb. 9, 2011, just around 10:45PM the Southern Marines Steel Orchestra was outside their Pan Theatre rehearsing for Panorama 2011, as is the custom and practice for the near sixty years of this Steel Or-chestra in the community of Marabella and with Panorama preliminaries just three days away two Police offi-cers, PC #13246 and WPC #17908 (information given by them) in Police vehicle # PCL 9796, came and in-formed a member of the leadership that the Steelband does not have permission to practice outside the yard, and they should stop playing the instruments immediately.

The members thought this had to be an early all fools trick, so they kept on playing. I came in time to see the driver reentering the vehicle. I indicated to him and the WPC at his side, that, maybe we should talk. He made a sign indicating that he was not hearing and drove off. Within half an hour a member came into the Pan yard to inform me that they were back, with reinforcement. When I came outside, I saw one other officer, making them three in number and they were trying to explain something to a member of our executive.

I intervened by saying goodnight, who is the senior officer in charge here. The new comer identified himself as the one. I invited him to walk into the Pan Palais where it was more appropriate to converse, seeing that the band was rehearsing outside. Inside the Palais, I asked him for his name to which he replied that he was Gar-raway #10886, and we were breaking the law by playing outside of the Pan yard, and we should stop.

I gave him a brief history of the Steel band in the Community of Marabella, and in my sixty odd years in this community where I was born, this is the first time the police had made such a demand. His reply was, we’ve been breaking the law all those years and somebody was afraid to tell us. (I must say at this point, that there was no hostility displayed at any time of our conversation).

He went on to state that anytime we want to rehearse outside of the Pan yard, we must go to the station and make a request. (Southern Marines Steel Orchestra played at the opening ceremony of the said station). I, still in a taken aback mode, said that this is the strangest thing outside of the shooting of pannists in the Pan yard.

Southern Marines always rehearses outside the yard the week leading up to Panorama/Carnival. He went on to talk about the EMA and noise levels, and how somebody made a report, and the fact that he is from Point Fortin, and is nothing personal. There and then, I started to wonder if something was amiss. 

I started to recall the many sleepless nights full of fear and unease over the years that the people of Marabella have had to endure because of noise and chemicals in the atmosphere coming out of the Pointe-A-Pierre refinery.
Only a few weeks ago, the whole Community was startled out of their slumber due to a loud noise coming from the refinery, that started around 11:30PM, and lasted till around 3:30AM. The whole of Marabella was affected. Where was the EMA?

But some young people, in a crime riddled community, coming together to play the National Instrument, in preparation for a National competition within the National Festival, suddenly become the target of the law en-forcers. Somebody please tell us what is really going down? Are we going back to the Good ole, Bad ole days? There seems to be mischief afoot.

Why after all these years of conflict and pain, blood sweat and tears, we still have to be defending our right to enjoy the beat of the DRUM…be it skin or steel? Why today, when the Steel Pan is now established all over the world, and those involved could make a career of it, some one or the other, is working over time, to frus-trate and turn the minds of those involved away from it?

What is this mind game all about? If the early Pioneers did not give up so today we can enjoy the fruits of their struggles to preserve this god given instrument, who says that we in this generation are prepared to give up now.

Pannists awake…somebody is stealing the soul of the nation before our very eyes.



Michael L Joseph {Bro. Scobie}

President
Southern Marines Steelband Foundation
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