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NY pours love on Trini pan legends

April 23, 2001
By Terry Joseph

SOME of the greatest names in pan history gathered at the TT Consulate here on Friday evening, for the start of a three-day show of appreciation for their contributions to the development of the national musical instrument. The greats were invited to New York primarily for last night's Pan Legends Awards,which honoured and inducted the 12 major contributors into the T&T Folk Arts Institute Hall of Fame.

Friday night's function, jointly hosted by TT Permanent Representative to the UN,George Mc Kenzie and TT Consul General to New York, Terrence Walker, went well into the night, with the pan icons greeting each other warmly and comparing colourful chapters of pan history. Seven of the 12 legends were present, namely Clive Bradley, Clifford Alexis, Junior Pouchet, Emmanuel "Cobo Jack" Riley, Earl Rodney, Jit Samaroo and Neville Jules, who functioned as Dean of the group.

Forced to miss the historic event for medical reasons were Curtis Pierre, Herman "Rock" Johnson and Wallace Austin. Ray Holman was only able to join the group from yesterday and Bertie Marshall declined the invitation, due to pressure of work.

In his turn at the podium, TT Folk Arts Institute chairman Les Slater recalled some of the struggles of the steelband movement and obstacles to initiatives by pan pioneers. He lamented what he saw as a low level of appreciation for pan in its homeland and wished for greater involvement by all who could help the instrument move forward.

Delivering the feature address, Walker congratulated Slater and the Institute for conceiving the Awards and putting together tonight's Gala. "I want to publicly congratulate them for this initiative," Walker said. "What they have done by this gesture is more than celebrate greatness.

The Institute has made yet another step along the road to making pan globally popular. And while I am here, let me say that I disagree with the frequently expressed notion that pan is not appreciated at home.

"If you witnessed the thousands attending the highly successful Panyard Vibes concerts in the pre-Carnival period this year, you will understand that it is the way in which pan is presented that helps determine the level of patronage it will enjoy at any event.

"Note also that 7,700 players participated in this year's Panorama competition, many of them young people and so many of that number are young women," Walker said."Those are certainly clear indicators of the popularity of pan at various levels in the society and what makes me so confident of the instrument's future.

"Like the Panyard Vibes example, what we perhaps need is a different approach to thepresentation and marketing of the instrument, to make the leap from an indigenous novelty to a globally marketable commodity," Walker said.

Responding on behalf of the honourees, Jules paid special tribute to the intervention of middle-class pannists who, he said, helped win recognition across the board forthe instrument. Each of the icons present then brought greetings to the Institute and the Consulate, with Slater speaking on behalf of long-time Forsyth Hilanders band-mate, BertieMarshall, Sam Johnson speaking for his ailing brother Herman and this reporter delivering a short acknowledgement from Curtis Pierre.

Among the other notables attending the gathering at the Consulate were pan researcher Dr Pat Meschino, former senior police officer Ranny Babb, Rudy King (who firstbrought pan to the US and had it accepted as a legitimate music form by theAmerican Musicians Union) and legendary mas man Terry Evelyn.

After the extended cocktail function, several participants adjourned to the mas camp of the prize-winning Sesame Flyers mas camp on Church Avenue, to be entertained by US Steelband Association president Keith Marcelle and Flyers'officials.

Yesterday afternoon, the legends attended a symposium titled "Wey Pan Reach" at the Norman Johnson Lecture Hall of Medgar Evers College, moderated by Slater and Dalton Narine. Last night, the scene was scheduled to shift to a private reception at Gerard Carter's residence and tonight, the Gala, which takes place at the Crystal Manor on Flatbush Avenue, brings the curtain down on what Walker described as "one of pan's most celebratory weekends."

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