Giving a hand up while ‘we panning’

By Gerald V. Paul

Tommy Crichlow, left, and Ken Bhagan, chair of Ontario Steelpan Association.  Gerald V. Paul photo.
Tommy Crichlow, left, and Ken Bhagan, chair of Ontario Steelpan Association.
Gerald V. Paul photo.

“Tommy Crichlow, for your sterling contribution to the Steelband Movement, 2015.”

That inscription is on the award presented by Ken Bhagan, chair of Ontario Steelpan Association (OSA) at the finale of a glorious evening recently as students of Panmasters Steel Orchestra held a fundraiser at Twilight Restaurant.

Tommy and Cristabelle Crichlow will continue the love by giving a hand up at a barbecue on Saturday, June 20, at 2 p.m. in their backyard at 2009 Brimley Rd. E. (off Sheppard Ave) to help raise funds to ship medical supplies to Trinidad and Tobago.

This is a continuation of the love expressed by those who came to show their appreciation and made a contribution at the Panmasters event, including Panman Pat and Friends, Kwesie Hypolite, Robbie Charles, Webb, Earl La Pierre Jr., Dick Lochan, Nativity Steel Angels, Jr. and Sr., Decara, Donna Fouchang, Andy Philips / Mark Mosca and African and Indian dancers, all helmed by the dynamic MC Elton Jones and of course, Panmasters’ full repertoire.

Eyesers will recall it was the initial approach by Tommy and Cristabelle and several prominent individuals at Caribana 2002 to former Toronto consul general for Trinidad and Tobago, Vernetta Calvin-Smith, “to establish what assistance the consulate could offer in the further development of steelpan in Ontario.”

This small group was invited by Tommy because he believed they would be most supportive of his desire to bring all the Toronto steelbands together and working towards mutually agreed upon goals and objectives.

Eventually a unified body was born: The Ontario Steelpan Association, whose mission is “To promote excellence in all facets of steelpan in Canada, by providing open, accountable leadership in all matters related to the recognition, growth and development of the steelpan community, and to do so with absolute respect and trust.”

June 26, 2003, a beautiful summer day, witnessed the launch of OSA with the keynote speaker Dr. David Trotman, professor of Caribbean Studies at York University.

Trotman, who has had a lifelong relationship with Casablanca Steelband in Trinidad, reflected on the early history of the steelpan and the important part it occupies in the social history of Trinidad and Tobago – the triumph of mainly untrained musical talent, creativity and grassroots dedication over the oppression of the privileged class.

As for the finale? Ian Jones presented a plaque with the following inscription: “To Dr. Ellie Mannette, the world’s most renowned steelpan innovator. For the dedication, perseverance, and conviction, that led you to achieve greatness even in the minds of those who were most prejudiced against you when you first entered into the world of steelpan. If music is indeed the speech of angels, you have given to the world instruments of love, peace, and harmony.”

And speaking of giving a hand up, as my colleague Oscar Wailoo has suggested in The Camera about Tommy Chrichlow, it’s about time he receives a doctorate from the University of the West Indies “to provide the ultimate recognition of this multitalented panman.”

Amen, Oscar, and thank you, Tommy!

Gerald V. Paul
Gerald V. Paul