CARIFESTA the 14th edition

Trinidad and Tobago is hosting the Caribbean Festival of Arts, commonly known as CARIFESTA, or 10 days from August 16-25.
CARIFESTA is an international multicultural event organized on a periodic basis by the countries of the Caribbean. The main purpose is to gather artists, musicians, authors, and to exhibit the folkloric and
artistic manifestations of the Caribbean and Latin American region.


This is the 14th edition of this unique Caribbean Festival and to give a flavor of the kind of discussions the festival can set in motion, here’s a letter writer by a steelpan enthusiast. The letter was published in Trinidad Newsday Newspaper:

 Thank you, Carifesta, for having united TT’s pan fraternity in a spectacular way. In this regard, the Government, Pan Trinbago and the national community may wish to do some soul searching and take action.

What better time for Pan Trinbago and all pan lovers to demand of the Minister of Culture that pan – the instrument – be granted the same legal status as the National Steel Orchestra and Pan Trinbago, both of which were established through acts of Parliament.

According to the Heritage Library, “apart from the steel pan being declared the national instrument by prime minister Patrick Manning in his 1992 Independence Day address to the nation, we could not locate any Hansard records of it being established by an act of Parliament.”

What better time for Pan Trinbago to start paying specific attention to two concrete atrocities – or tombstones – that are an insult to pan, pannists and the national community?

I refer to the commercial monument that is Absolut Pan on the green verge outside the Jean Pierre Complex that has etched on its surface vodka bottle shapes that separate the notes on the depicted instrument. And the dilapidated structure off the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway in Tacarigua that was designed to be Pan Trinbago’s headquarters.

What better time for the national community to totally disregard and discredit any technological replication of the sound of pan on synthesisers or on hand-held tablets.

On Independence Day 2015 I heard and saw – on television – a young man rendering the national anthem in Exodus’ panyard (the pans were neatly stacked in the background) on a hand-held tablet that does not qualify to be a musical instrument. What next, tabletorama replacing Panorama?

There is much work to be done. Our music sweet. Nothing must erase from our collective memories the fact that our tiny island gave the world the only percussion instrument invented in the 20th century – and we love it.

John Henry

Petit Valley, Diego Martin