THE COMBINED HISTORY of Gre­nada’s three lead­ing steelbands – FLOW Comman­cheros, Coyaba New Dimension and Republic Bank Angel Harps – is more than 120 years. It’s an im­pressive history of not just steelpan in Grenada, but it’s also an important part of our cultural tapestry. It’s a sym­bol of Grenadians – men in the begin­ning, later women and today, lots of children – finding an outlet to express themselves in a musical, cultural way.
Pan has allowed many of our mu­sicians to travel to diverse places around the world to perform; some have made music their career choice, including Harps’ Carl Croney, who once was featured on the popular children’s televi­sion show, Sesame Street. He’s now a Canada-based mu­sic producer.
In Antigua, steel­bands developed with the overt backing and en­couragement of the British colonial rulers. However, the general pattern of development, as in Grenadaand Trinidad, was the struggle of early pioneers pressing relentlessly to gain the backing, endorse­ment and respect of government and corporate officials.
No doubt, steelpan has come a long; testimony of that is Commancheros, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding. Con­gratulations, Cheros! And, Caribupdate Weekly would like to give a special salute to Denis Philip, who was at beginning in 1967 at the startup of Commancheros and still is with the band today. At 81, Phillip is the oldest active steelband member in Grenada.
Now, while steel­bands – the quality of pans, the skill­fulness of players and their range and repertoire of songs – have improved, it is clear that much more could, and needs to be done, with pan and to lift the stan­dard even further.
Cecil Noel is part of the management of Commancheros, and a former musical arranger of the band. He also has served on the executive of the Grenada Steelbands’ Association (GSA).
Noel, at a news con­ference to launch the anniversary celebra­tions of Cheros, com­com­mented on the state of the local steelband movement and on the GSA, saying the association needs to be “revamped’’.
GSA, Noel added, ought to be “a lot of more directional in terms of planning and execution of its activities’’. Noel’s wishes to see the emergence of more steelbands in villag­es across the nation, and emphasizes the importance of a “strong’’ GSA, which should be working in collaboration with the ministry of cul­ture of the Grenada government.
Noel’s suggestions are worthy enough for consideration. But we believe even more radicalized steps must be taken.
There is no way the GSA or any of our other cultural or sporting organiza­tions could propel themselves forwardby utilizing the old model of volunteers, who meet now and again for discussions and the planning of events.
All the groups need to be professional­ized and to find peo­ple with various skill sets to run them.
In a January 12 commentary in this newspaper, journal­ist and former An­gel Harps member, Lincoln DePradine, noted that “there is only so much that an association of vol­unteers, who meet intermittently, can implement in any significant manner to advance their cause’’.
According to DePra­dine, “GSA leaders have a major mar­keting and sales job to do. They must convince the public on the fact that pan is a viable musical career’’. He recommended that the association’s leaders should “de­velop a strategy for selling pan as a good for society, rather than GSA simply or­ganizing pan events or competing at pan­orama’’.
So, 100-plus years of pan history are an amazing feat. But the steelband move­ment must leverage that history and take steelpan to another level.
What a wonderful thing it would be if Commancheros is so economically self-sufficient that it now is able to invest in stocks of its former sponsor, Coca Cola; or Angel Harps in­vesting in Shell, oneits sponsors of old.
In moving for­ward, one of the aims of the GSA, and its affiliate steelbands, should be going about the business of busi­ness. After these many years in the cultural arena, our steelband move­ment should have been so strong and viable that some bands ought to, by now, be investors in corporations like Grenlec; even investors on the Regional Stock Ex­change, the Toron­to Stock Exchange or the New York Stock Exchange.
Article by: CaribUpdate Weekly