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Resurgence of pan, a most pleasing development

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Tue July 2, 2013

The resurgence of pan, especially among younger Vincentians, is arguably the most pleasing development in Vincy Mas, in recent times.

Just a few years ago, pan was floundering to the extent that there were years when no senior Panorama was held, and the juniors’ competition took place at the compound of the Bishop’s College Kingstown.{{more}}

The Youlou Pan Movement and the Carnival Development Corporation no longer have to fear that the junior pannists will not attract a large enough crowd to justify using the Victoria Park. The attendance at last Sunday’s event is testimony of the popularity of the artform, especially among the youth. Certainly, the crowd in attendance at junior panorama was bigger than that at Miss Carnival, once one of the more popular shows on the Vincy Mas calendar.

The fact that several rural pan sides took part in Sunday’s competition is especially pleasing. Among the competitors were orchestras from Questelles, Troumaca, Lowmans Windward and Adelphi, in addition to the regulars from Kingstown and its suburbs.

It cannot be disputed that much of the credit for this positive development should go to the Pan Against Crime (PAC) programme, which celebrated its 5th anniversary in February.

The PAC, the brain child of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, was implemented following a spate of crimes in the country. The Prime Minister was of the view that the initiative could act as a deterrent to crime. We are not sure how successful the programme has been in deterring crime, or even if its effect on crime can be measured. However, in addition to teaching the youngsters how to play a musical instrument, the programme certainly has given hundreds of young people an outlet for their creative energies and instils in them other positive traits, such as discipline and teamwork.

To date, the initiative has given birth to eleven steel pan orchestras, and has trained over 2,500 persons and counting. The roll-out continues, and this coming Thursday, the PAC will launch a new pan side at the Campden Park Secondary School.

The growth in junior pan has also had a positive effect on the senior movement, which is again very much alive. When the junior pannists attain the age of 19, many transition to membership in the senior pan sides. Interestingly, however, several of the senior pan sides incorporate the more accomplished youngsters into their ranks while they are still juniors.

Many have said because of the large numbers of junior pannists in our midst, the future of pan in St Vincent and the Grenadines is safe. This is not necessarily true and should not be taken for granted, as continued growth of the movement depends not only on the interest and commitment of those involved, but very much on the ability of the bands to sustain themselves financially.

Establishing and maintaining a pan side is a costly undertaking. The instruments are expensive and need proper storage and regular tuning. Transportation of the instruments to and from gigs and keeping the members of the band well turned out for performances also requires a significant investment.

While the PAC initiative has been able to attract sponsorship for most of the new orchestras, none of this is guaranteed and depends very much on the financial health of the sponsors and how much value they perceive they are deriving from the relationship.

We hope that, even in this economic climate, the business sector would continue to support pan and both sides can find ways to make the relationship mutually beneficial and long-lasting.

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