Friday, July 25, 2014

Steel Pan and Individualism

Over the past few weeks, we got the chance to contact a number of steel pan players around the country. We were making the initial steps to just let people know about the Steel Pan Collective. We felt pretty good especially with all the feedback we received.

One interesting thing that struck us was the high number of individual solo players out there. It was a good reminder for us.

We kind of knew this going in due to our earlier market research. It was really interesting and a little ironic though. Steel pan was created and used in the early days in a group setting. At least for now in the U.S., there are a large number of musicians out there playing on their own.  Most can find other steel pan players if a client is willing to pay for a "band" or "orchestra". But most trek to their gigs on their own.

Maybe it is just an American thing. This country has always recognized and held up individualism as the ideal. Has that trickled into to steel pan playing at least in the U.S. Admittedly though, that calls for a different type of outreach from us at the Steel Pan Collective. How do you convince someone running a solo business to join an association with the word "collective" in the title. It can and will be tricky. Still we do see some merit in it all.

We still steel pan players banning together as a way to raise the exposure of the instrument. That's how the big stuff gets done. It is a bunch of individuals pulling together to make it happen. The cases of individuals doing it alone and building something that lasts are rare. You need help from others to make it all happen. We certainly can attest to that here at the SPC.

Anyway, we are enjoying getting the feedback from everyone. It has been fun and exciting. It definitely keeps us going.

Have a productive and musical weekend and upcoming week.


Skip Waugh
Steel Pan Collective.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Steelband Tales Pt. 5

Here is the continuation of Steelband Tales from the last installment. The Ruth and George Parsons story gets very exciting....

There were no competitions on Monday, but we decided to make the Tuesday night competitions. On Tuesday night around 5:00, we are attempting to leave for the Tuesday night road trip and we had parked the trailer out in the street in front of Harvard Club, and a car was parked right in front of the trailer tongue so we couldn’t back our truck to the trailer.

But that wasn’t the only problem we had, very few of the back-ground  pan players had shown up. Tommy Chrichlow, our fabulous 4 pan player, was not there. And, our young drummer, Jason, was not coming. His mother called to say he had blisters on his hands from Jourvert morning and had homework so he wouldn’t be coming. So here we are. Stanley and others said we are not going. Bunny couldn’t see how we were going to find a route downtown because of the Masquerade bands on the streets. If not for Carole Andrews, our lead tenor, I am sure we wouldn’t have gone out. She kept insisting that we were going out. She was pleading with them. We have come so far, she said, we can’t quit now.  We have to go out because we get money for appearing at the competitions and the band has to have money, she said.

So, three people got on the phone looking for drummers and others started calling players. What about the car in front of the trailer? The truck which was to pull our trailer simply towed the car a good 30 yards ahead and hooked up to the trailer so at 6:00 PM or so we are leaving Harvard Harps’ yard with everyone on the phone trying to hustle up the players and a drummer. Finally we got a couple of background pan players to show.

And here came the Japanese girls, Iuki, Miuki, Wuki, Suzuki and two other names I cannot remember. They were wonderful girls, very talented and extremely pleasant. They had come to Trinidad for Carnival and to play steel pan. They all play in Japan. Miuki plays in the Japanese Natl. Steel Orchestra. Excellent player.  The drummer from Modernaires came and drummed for us and he was great.

Except that in the excitement, no one had screwed down the drums so he had to play with a wobbling drum set with an unstable seat. Boy was he whizzed and after we got back on Tuesday night, he was having a tirade over the conditions under which he played. More bacchanal! But, we competed and made it back to the yard. Got home about 11:00, dead tired. Didn’t sleep well. Pan songs going in my head.

 If I have learned anything through this experience, it is that I have no control and no information, and cannot get any information, because they don’t have any either. So if I want to do this, I just go with the flow. It is good for me. It confronts my logic driven, control issues. No logic prevails. No control either.  
We laid low on Ash Wednesday and tried to get some more sleep and on Thursday morning, Billy, a band member who owns a  boat, shows up at our boat and says, get ready we are going out on his boat..  He has a 47 ft boat similar to ours – a catamaran. He had the Japanese girls, Ronald, Dougie and Mary, us and a couple of his friends and his wife, Judy. We went out to Chachacacari Island, close to Trinidad and had a good lunch, good swim and a good “lime” as the Trinis say. Then later that night, the band had a lime, with catered food. The Japanese girls made some great Hor’dourves and the Rib House catered the meal. The whole band was there and it was a nice ending to a very shaky season! Then on Sunday we had a Cruise on Makaru! Will this season ever end? We took nine band members and our friend, Peter out on the boat. We went to Palm Frawn Bay near Trinidad and had a nice lunch and came back and limed at the dock until 8:00 or so. Soo very tired on Monday and the rest of this week.

All in all it was a very crazy season with Harvard Harps. I think there were several things working. One is that due to two conflicts in the band, we had lost 2 major leaders/workers. Their leadership was missed. All in all it was a tough year and it remains to be seen, just like last year, how they will pick it up and keep going. I say “how” because I am sure they will keep it going! Trinidad is a very last minute society. Planning ahead is not even a goal, much less an objective or activity. Actually they are quite good at pulling off feats at the last minute, in fact, we got very good results from the judges.

In one competition we came in 2nd. Another we were 4th and another 5th. Coming in behind the big winning Panorama bands who have all the young hot shot teenagers on tenor and have a lot of money to pay good players, drummers, etc. So we felt very very good about our results.  It was fantastic. A bunch of old guys and some teenager drummers and a few young Japanese girls playing good music and having a great time.   That’s us!

Steelband Tales Pt. 4

Ruth and George Parsons have certainly had their adventures playing in Panorama. 

This latest installment is the first of a two part story. Hope you enjoy. We certainly did. 

March 5, 2009 
Hey, we survived another carnival in Trinidad and it was crazy and unpredictable and exhausting as usual!
Arrived in Trinidad about midnight New Year’s night. A friend picked us up from the airport whose old car doesn’t have a gas gage so he wasn’t sure how much gas he had. But all the stations were closed so it didn’t matter. Welcome to Trinidad. At least he had cleaned his car out so that our luggage fit. There were fire works on both sides of the highway celebrating the new year and he pretended it was a show set up for us and went down the highway, saying, “They’re here”.  Stayed at a bed and breakfast, arriving after 1:00 AM and Tammy, the owner, had left a key on the patio. We let ourselves in and went to bed. Welcome to Trinidad.
Cleaned and painted the boat, got it in the water, stocked it with food at Pricemart, and rested a few days waiting for our band, Harvard Harps, to begin practice.
Finally we began. New leadership and different players. Last year the band wound up in a big fight after Carnival and the leader quit. A committee took over the leadership and this past December another fight ensued and one of the committee members quit and several others sided with him and quit also. But there were others came back to the band because those two were gone! So we lost some and gained some. We lost our drummer so no drummer for practice, which made the practices very difficult. But we began the 3rd week of January and learned two songs for “the road” or songs we play as the trailer goes down the street on Jourvert morning and on Monday and Tuesday nights for pan competitions. (More of the story)