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Skiffle Bunch goes for pan gold
Posted By: Clide
Date: Friday, 10 February 2006, at 6:08 a.m.
By Nicole St John
Skiffle Bunch plans to change the colours of Panorama this year. The band, which is located on Coffee Street, San Fernando, has chosen Destra Garcia’s Colours as its tune of choice for this year’s Panorama. By all accounts they have already began painting their way to victory.
The tune was arranged by Liam Teague, arranger with the band for the past three years.
The first part of competition began for Skiffle Bunch on Monday, at the panyard, where the players moved the audience with their interpretation of the tune.
But captain of the band Junia Regrello is not entirely convinced that panyard judging always works in the best interest of the bands.
While he admits it gives the steelbands an opportunity to showcase themselves and encourages enterprise, he believes it also gives an unfair advantage to some bands.
“The bands with the acoustics have the advantage,” he said during a recent interview at the panyard, “so there is a question in the validity of fair play.”
With the band since its inception, Regrello’s name is now synonymous with Skiffle Bunch, a fact he says is both good and bad.
“Well, it puts me in a super position and puts a lot of pressure on the person who will come after me.” Regrello said.
Regrello has given 32 years of his life to the band and, even now, would give up almost anything for Skiffle Bunch, he said. He plays the middle pan and can follow the score sheet though he has no formal training in reading music.
“I have always been involved in all aspects of the culture and in 1993, I had to make a hard decision whether to work with the band or stay with mas...I suppose you can see which one I chose.
“At times it was at the cost of my relationship with my children. There were times I could have spent with my son that I spent with the band.”
For Regrello, managing and captaincy should be one and the same since he sees the captain as the person who creates a vision for the band.
“The steelband fraternity is very complex but where there is a manager and captain in one band, you seldom see the captain making decisions for the band in meetings.
“In fact, all the so-called positions in steelband are glorified positions...”
This year, Skiffle Bunch has made a conscious decision not to bring out a mas band in order to better concentrate on improvements within the band.
“I don’t think there’s any panman who likes mas more than I do, but Panorama takes so much out of the band that we can’t concentrate on mas now. I want to do whatever necessary to make the band consistent in Panorama.”
As for the $20 fee being charged by Pan Trinbago for players outside of the band’s registered financial players, Regrello wondered whether Pan Trinbago had properly considered the implications of this.
“It can backfire,” he said. “If you register a player for one year, you owe him for that year and he, in turn, is supposed to remain with your band for one year.”
And Regrello questions the loyalty of players who move from one band to the next indiscriminately.
“Where is their loyalty? I think Pan Trinbago should find a way to address that, it cannot be healthy.”
However, he also admitted that the question of remuneration might be the deciding factor for the panman, a fact he said was unfortunate.
A community-based band, Skiffle Bunch is active all year. However, the band does not have any real interaction with families since the panyard is set in the heart of a business area.
As a result, players must be sourced outside the immediate vicinity.
“Rural areas have an enormous limitation because of the ethnic imbalance (in rural areas), as opposed to the East/West corridor. The fact is, the African population makes up the majority of the players and unless the East Indian population decides to get into pan, the rural bands have a challenge in getting players.”
This is one of the band’s greatest challenges.
Skiffle Bunch began as a single-pan (pan-round-the-neck) band and won six Panorama titles, six Best Village competitions, three music festivals and a National Award—Humming Bird silver—in this category.
In 1993, the band was converted to a conventional steelband and made it to National Panorama finals on seven consecutive occasions.
The band won the Panorama South Zone twice and was once the World Steelband Music Festival Champions.
Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) has sponsored the band for the past 25 years, making Skiffle Bunch one of three bands with such a long relationship with a sponsor. Being a sponsored band, most of the financial aspects of things are looked after by the sponsor.
The property on which the band is housed is also owned by the band.
“We sought this,” Regrello said, “and I am glad we had the vision to recognise the value of the property.
“Now we want to focus on the structure of the panyard and the sound coming from the pans.”
Regrello believes panmen have moved beyond hooliganism. He also sees many of the existing problems within his organisation as a reflection of what is taking place on a wider scale.
To date, Skiffle Bunch has two international gigs for after Carnival and will consider other proposals as they come.
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