Once again, Carnival has come and gone in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago but this year a collective agreement on Panorama may overcome the traditional partisan arguments.
An explosion of physical, social and emotional energy is expended on Panorama for several months preceding Carnival each year. Panorama is more than a festival of pan music. It reflects the love and passion for pan by pannists, composers, arrangers, pan tuners and their organizations.
Pan lovers demonstrate strong emotional identifications with their steel bands of choice: “I am a Phase II man, you know!” (or All Stars or Renegades), is a classic statement of a supporter’s personal identity. Fans exhilarate in the victories of their favoured steel bands in the competitions, and are crushed by their defeats.
In this context, Panorama results are often hotly disputed. Yet occasionally, a winning performance is so captivating that supporters of others bands agree with the result, even if reluctantly.
This may be the case in Panorama 2016.
Desperadoes Steelband, popularly known as “Despers”, won the final competition this year, defeating a field of nine of the best performing steel bands in the country. For this first place victory, Desperadoes won a prize of T&T$1 million.
The competition was closely contested with the top six bands separated by a mere five points.
In second place was Supernovas, a newcomer to the large band category, with 284 points, followed by a tie by popular favourites Phase II and Renegades (283).
Defending champions, All Stars (280) came in at an unaccustomed sixth place behind Invaders (281).
The pre-Carnival Panorama competition is widely seen as the annual high point for the steel pan community. However, the involvement of steel bands on the streets of the nation on Carnival days, except for Carnival Monday morning, is very low, compared to other forms of music, such as live soca and electronically produced music.
All Stars steel band represents a rare exception, with full participation on both days and indeed presenting itself as a credible prize-winning costumed band.
There is enormous potential for the full involvement of all community-based steel bands including school steelbands on Carnival days with costumed presentations, if adequate support were provided by the authorities.
It is important that Pan Trinbago, the National Carnival Commission and the Ministry of Culture work together to restore steel pan activity to its integral role in Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.
For this year, though, as thousands of revelers recuperate from the exhaustion of this national cultural festival amid great memories of the experience to sustain them until next year’s event, the usual post-mortems on Carnival will follow on issues such as funding for Carnival events, parade gridlock, organization of activities and competition results.
But it’s equally crucial that these post-mortems include Panorama, that extraordinary cultural spectacle which brings together thousands of steel pan musicians, organized into hundreds of performing steelbands and engaged in an orgy of competition, climaxing in that wonderful final night of contests.
By Lloyd McKell