It’s Showtime at Pan Alive this year

There will be a tribute to the late carnival and OSA volunteer Michael Phillip. Recognition of Trinidad and Tobago 60th independence anniversary

By Lincoln DePradine

Terrence Wilson

President of the Ontario Steelpan Association (OSA), Terrence Wilson, says a “spectacular’’ musical event could be expected from steel orchestras as part of this year’s Toronto Carnival.

Steelbands will perform two songs, including a “bomb tune’’, in a non-competitive event on July 29 at Lamport Stadium on King Street West, Wilson told The Caribbean Camera.

It will not be OSA’s traditional “Pan Alive’’ panorama championship, with judges awarding points to bands to determine a winner, said Wilson

“It will be more in the form of a show. We’re looking to make it very spectacular,’’ he said.

The two-song showcase isn’t new to OSA carnival activities, Wilson explained. It was done for many years; shelved because of time constraints, given the number of competing bands; but reinstated in 2019 – the last pan event before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael Phillips

Pan Trinbago adopted the non-panorama format in February, following the return of carnival in Trinidad after a two-year absence due to the pandemic.

Trinidad hosted a scaled-down 2022 festival it called, a “Taste of Carnival’’.

The pan event was dubbed, “Musical Showdown in De Big Yard’’. Participating steelbands each rendered a panorama-arranged calypso or soca song; as well as a non-calypso/soca song – or “bomb tune’’ – delivered in a variety of genres such as gospel, classical and R&B.

Wilson said OSA members have agreed to revert to the two-song showcase pan program for this year’s carnival. He said the concept, especially with the “bomb tune’’, is expected to highlight the creativity of arrangers.

It would not “restrict the arrangers to any particular format; they could free up and do anything they want to do with a song’’, said Wilson. “All in all, we’re looking forward to the show.’’

OSA, however, is “still in the planning stage’’, which includes trying to secure sponsors and negotiating with carnival organizers at the Festival Management Corporation (FMC), Wilson disclosed.

“We still haven’t received any contracts from them (FMC), but I’m in talks with them,’’ said Wilson. “I sent them a full budget of what it’s costing a band to be part of the festival, which includes being on the road. So, they are reviewing that.’’

FMC funding also would cover the costs of such things as each band’s expense for pan tuning, purchasing new instruments and rental of space for rehearsals.

In addition, OSA has to provide each steeelband taking part in the July 29 show with an appearance fee, and also has to cover transportation costs to the venue of the event.

“Every band – small, big or medium – they all put out a lot,’’ Wilson said.

The 2022 event, he added, will be a tribute to the late carnival and OSA volunteer Michael Phillip, and also a recognition of Trinidad and Tobago on the country’s 60th independence anniversary.

Trinidad and Tobago, affectionately known as the “Land of Calypso and Steelpan’’, gained its independence from Britain on August 31, 1962, with the late Dr Eric Williams as the nation’s first prime minister.

Tobago-born Phillip was an auto mechanic by profession, who became a popular photographer and disc jockey and also served as an OSA director.  He also was a volunteer with Toronto Carnival activities such as Junior Carnival and the King and Queen Parade.

Phillip died last month at 79.

Wilson said OSA was able to receive a federal government grant, under the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative (SBCCI), to open a “virtual office’’.

The focus of the SBCCI is to build the capacity of Black-led grassroot organizations working within Black communities across Canada, helping them to increase their organizational capacity.

The SBCCI grant has enabled OSA to purchase laptop computers, allowing for online meetings of directors of the association and eliminating the need for travelling and booking community spaces for in-person meetings, according to Wilson.

“It’s much more convenient,’’ he said.