Yuh Eh Trini To D Bone, ef Yuh doh no pan
Well You Should If You're A Native Of The Caribbean And Especially Trinidad.
If you want to get somewhere you have to know where you want to go and how to get there. Then never, never, never give up. -Norman Vincent Peale
The calypso that immortalized the phrase “Trini to d bone” was right on spot. Being a Trinidadian has very little to do with how you speak and much more about the activities you enjoy that tickle your spirit. Partying, liming, eating a cultural mix of foods with its own special flavor and listening to pan music are the things that a Trini really like. Listening to pan because that’s what most Trinis can do; listen nothing else. Some don’t even make sense when they talk about pan. But here is what every Trini should know...
The steel pan is one of the only instruments in the world today that was actually invented in the 20th century. It duplicates the concept of music by rhythmically striking an instrument to produce different sounds; like a drum. Ironically, the birth of the pan was initiated when the former slave colonist blamed the African drums for inciting dissension. A resolution was passed to burn and ban all drums.
For awhile, Africans switched to beating the bamboo but it did not satisfy their spirit. Later on as metal became an everyday commodity, the creative African spirit manifested an inner rhythm into what is now known as the steel pan. There is a bit of historical pan controversy as to who the actual inventor was but everyone knows that who ever it was they lived in Trinidad.
In his potent poem below, pan poet, Jesse Andrews provides a valuable perspective on the mythical making of the steel pan. As the poet explained, the poem focuses on the attempt to steal a legacy inherent in the African to beat drums. According to him the spirit could not be suppressed. In fact it was reincarnated as the steel pan drum. The following is Mr. Andrew’s poem:
From "Steal Drum" to Steel Drum
De African drum is de African mouth
When de drum talking a spirit jump out
It go in your mind then it go down your spine
De shango spirit make you wriggle and wine
So you wriggle and wine as de drums converse
But de colonial masters dem did fear the worse
Dem say how the drums talking war
So they ban the drums from shore to shore
But de shango spirit never leave de land
It jump in a goat then it went in a man
Then it fly in a fowl and end in a pan
Now de steelpan drum is the Trini mouth
And when de pans playing the spirit dance out
It go in your mind then it go down your spine
De steelpan spirit make you wriggle and wine
You wriggle and wine as de high note ring
Ah hear Forteau say "Pan is a spiritual ting."
So Why Every Trini Child Should Know This?
Ok, let’s say your child is really intellectually and academically smart. Assume that he/she can recall all the Greek battles in Mesopotamia and the adventures of Attila the Hun. They know most significant dates in British and American history, everything about the world wars and even Haitian history. Then someone ask him about the steel pan.
Like me there is a huge possibility that they know very little about it. In fact, if he/she does know anything about the pan it is what has been learned haphazardly and certainly not because they were encouraged to go lime in the pan yard. Only someone involved in pan would encouraging a child to hang out in a pan yard and even then that is questionable.
Even if they know a little pan history and can tell you how it is singularly the only musical instrument that was created in the 20th Century. It would be unlikely that they tell you how the pan is recognized in many reputable foreign universities and in fact there are examinations to document proficiency in pan music. And here is why?
In Trinidad, the steel pan evolved from the grass roots of the population and in its early days was associated with the under privileged class. Pan music was played by individuals who were commonly known as “pan men” another euphemism for what was called “bad john” or in today’s language “gangsters”. Nobody ever answered “pan man” when the question was asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?
It would appear that pan music evolved in spite of its history. In the formative years pan music was only popular during the carnival season. In fact, that was the only time that there was a mixing of the various strata of classes in Trinidad. Pan music was the catalyst that allowed everyone to have a grand ole time then on Ash Wednesday it was back to work as usual. So what happened?
As the quality of the pan music evolved more sophisticated pan musicians raised their talents into other genres of music. It was only when international audiences began to demand more pan music that Trinbagonian started paying attention to the value of the pan. It is now internationally recognized Unfortunately, in Trinidad and Tobago pan music still taken for granted.
Today, the value of children learning pan music is discounted by many parents who are not aware of the intrinsic value of a child learning music. More importantly, they are unaware of the tremendous value of an education that focuses on the only musical instrument invented in the 20th century. A few educators have realized that our children need to experience pan, not just as listeners but as citizens whose history, and in come cases future, will be tied in to the experience they have with the national instrument.
It is unique to every young Trinidad and Tobago citizen and should actually be required learning for every child in school. Times are changing and we now see a few primary schools such as St Joseph Girls School in St Joseph and San Juan Government hiring a pan musician to help their students learn the steel pan as a musical instrument.
This article was written to promote a July-August Vacation Pan Camp in Trinidad and Tobago. Find out more about the pan camp by going here. The Pan Camp. If you are considering sending your child to a day camp for the August vacations make sure to get a Free Summer Camp Special Report.