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PAN IN DANGER: TIME FOR A NATIONAL POLICY ON PAN! by Michael "Brother Scobie" Joseph

posted 1 Sep 2016, 20:17 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 1 Sep 2016, 20:22 ]
Birdsong Steelpan Academy, epitomizes the phrase, 'a king has no honor In his own land'. Pantrinbago must take heed, because a blow to one is a blow to all. I tried looking at the unpleasant predicament of Birdsong with unbiased eyes and an open mind knowing full well that this was a private arrangement between the band and an independent land owner. 

In spite of that situation, a number of relevant issues keep clouding my thoughts. One is an article in the Guardian Newspapers 30/08/16, page A6. The line Minister of the CDA, was making reference to the Chaguaramas development where the Five Islands Water and Fun Park and the Chaguaramas Safari Adventure were in the process of some infrastructural development in an area, where according to law, it should not be.

But, based on the amount of money spent, there was no way, they claimed that they could tell the amusement park people to break down their structure. That, to them, made no sense. This says clearly, one law for the rich, and another for the broke. When yuh big yuh bad!

Birdsong Steelpan Academy has been a beacon in their community for over twenty eight years (28), and the result of their thrust into youth development is unparalleled. Their activities exemplify the statement of the late professor Lloyd Best, "School in Pan."

Notwithstanding the fact that most Steelbands across Trinidad and Tobago are involved in like projects, Birdsong Steelpan Academy took it to a supreme level; I guess given its UWI origins. They have been producing highly qualified students in music literacy and academics that this Twin Islands nation can be proud of.


We are truly blessed as a nation to have so much talent and even be the producers of the only musical instrument invented in the twentieth century, which we proclaimed to be our National Instrument, and which the world is embracing. Today, the Steelpan flies our national colours high all over the world. For this, we should be very proud.

We as a people should see it as a national disgrace, when days before we celebrated our fifty fourth (54th) year of Independence from colonialism, an iconic Steelband like Birdsong could be literally kicked out onto the streets. What message are we sending to these foreign landlords who have no care, knowledge or understanding of our alien culture?

While I write I am in Brooklyn, New York, where most Steelbands are nomadic, moving from place to place, suffering from lack of rehearsal space. Should the landlords now say to them, you are an outcast in your homeland, what the heck you want me to do for you out here?

Birdsong's track record and the fact that Steelpan is our National Instrument should warrant government protection. Where is the love and appreciation for what is ours? As a matter of fact, what is the national policy on our national instrument? I should not be asking that question, because the skeletal remains of what should be the headquarters of the Steelpan fraternity in Trincity says volumes on policy.

Birdsong's predicament at this time of national celebration is as good an occasion as any for the government to sit down with Pantrinbago and develop clear guidelines and policies to protect the National Instrument of Trinidad and Tobago; starting from pre –school; letting our youths grow up understanding and appreciating all our national symbols, emblems, birds, anthem and all other images of national importance.

What has become of the Steelpan land regularization program and the Steelbands infrastructure upgrade program initiated by the previous regime? Are we to believe that once there is a change of regime, all programs started by the previous administration automatically ceases? Where is the developmental continuity? This type of political gerrymandering must be abolished if we are to move forward as one nation. Politicians must not be allowed to squander taxpayers’ dollars in such a scandalous manner. Laws must be passed to protect us from this type of abuse.

To the membership of Birdsong Steelpan Academy and its community, I do hope that this unpleasant impasse is resolved swiftly and favourably, so you can continue your great work. And, may this be the very last time the Steelpan fraternity is faced with such a dilemma in this our native land.

I take this opportunity to wish the people of our Twin Islands nation, a bright and prosperous fifty fourth birthday, as we strive to develop national pride on the road to securing Nationhood.

May God bless our nation!
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