While the national Panorama competitions continue to flourish in Port-of-Spain, steelbands in San Fernando are struggling to find players to launch a big challenge. The present situation is not overnight development, said David Balbosa, co-leader of Hatter's Steel Orchestra, who urged stakeholders to come together to solve the problem since he fears the art form is dying in south Trinidad.
"There has been a decline in players because a trend has taken over the whole movement nationally where people don't want to play pan without getting money for it. They are demanding big sums of money and some band can't afford it. As a result, it is affecting the numbers in the band," Balbosa said.
Balbosa reminisced that "old school" pannists played the instrument for the love of it and were satisfied with what amount of money they got. "If players make demands and the band cannot afford to pay, the players leave," he said.
"We have been affected by it, not as bad as other bands but this trend occurs with the younger players." He said it appears that the love for steelpan is dying and he suggested that the mindset of players need to change in order to save the national instrument. Balbosa noted that despite the small size of his contingent, they are coping well and they are almost completed with their choice of tune for the Panorama competition.
The band will be playing a song entitled Superman by SuperBlue.
It has been over three decades since a steelband from south Trinidad won the national competition. The only large band to represent the South/Central regional in large band category of the competition is Junior Sammy Skiffle Steel Orchestra.
The band is due to play in front of the judges in the preliminary round of the large band category on Monday from 7 pm at their headquarters on Coffee Street, San Fernando. Skiffle's arranger is Ray Holman and this year they are playing The Dream.
Kallamo King Steel Band captain Matthew Roach shared Balbosa's sentiment saying his band managed to only muster 48 members. Roach, who an executive member of Pan Trinbago, said his band is filled with young players with the youngest being 12 years.
"This year we had to team with a band from Siparia (Diatonics) and that is why we have so many members. I keep telling members that after Carnival we have to sit down and deal with this as it is a serious problem. For some reason people are not playing pan in San Fernando, but they are in Port-of-Spain."
Roach noted he does not know whether or not money is the issue but believes people from Port-of-Spain and environs appear to be more conscious of pan. He was of the view people in south have a greater interest in dancehall music. He suggested that the Government and business people start looking to create programmes to encourage young people to play pan especially in south Trinidad.