Visit Gives Rise to Idea of Grenada/Trinidad Mini Pan Competition

Featured Article - by Lincoln Depradine
June 6th, 2011
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Lincoln Depradine, a communications and marketing professional, is author of “White Frock & Coals Dust: The Story Of A Community Called The Wharf.’’ It’s available at bookstores and online at

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It was an experiment that worked and now there is consideration to organising a mini Trinidad/Grenada steelbands' competition.

Minister of State for Culture, Senator Arley Gill, and Grenada Carnival Committee (GCC) chairman, Colin Dowe, have both promised to try and make the competition a reality.

One Trinidad steelband captain, Junia Regrello of TCL Skiffle Bunch, has responded to the idea of a competition at next year's Grenada carnival by asking, "Why not?''

Left - Right are Steven Greenidge of LIME
Commancheroes; Cedel Hinds; Junia Regrello;
Andy Chichester of Republic Bank Angel Harps;
and a pannist from TCL Skiffle Bunch

A 25-member Skiffle Bunch contingent recently visited Grenada to participate in pre-Spicemas activities.

As part of the visit – arranged by the GCC and the Grenada Steelbands' Association, with support from the National Lottery Authority, George F. Huggins Grenada Ltd., and L.L. Ramdhanny & Co. Ltd. – Skiffle Bunch was involved in a pan jamboree on the Carenage on Friday, June 3.

The event, advertised as a "pan war'' and a clash of Trinidad pannists "matching their skills against Grenada's finest pan players,'' included the participation of Republic Bank Angel Harps, LIME Commancheroes and Coyaba New Dimensions.

Skiffle Bunch also joined local steelbands, including Grand Roy Pan Angels, and a host of calypsonians and masqueraders on Saturday for the official launch of Spicemas 2011 at the National Stadium.

The visit also provided teaching and learning moments for the Trinidadians, who met with Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Tillman Thomas; and were treated to a fun day on Hog Island on Sunday.

Cello player Kenia Calliste, on her first visit to Grenada, where her grandfather was born, found "a lot of similarities,'' between Trinidad and Grenada.

"It was really amazing also that people here know so much about pan in Trinidad. People in Grenada really keep up to date on the pan movement,'' said Calliste, daughter of Leroy Calliste, whose calypso sobriquet is Black Stalin.

Her steelband's captain, who observed Grenadian pannists on show and conducted two workshops in St. George's, delivered a mixed report on the pan sides he heard and on the techniques of players.

Regrello, a pannist for almost 45 years, described Grenada as having a strong "pan fraternity.''

He said the steelbands are good but pointed to what he called "some inconsistency in tonal quality.''

Regrello, a one-time Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Culture in the government of former Prime Minister Patrick Manning, also suggested that Grenadian steel orchestras "need to have a more varied repertoire, and the arrangers can probably do a little more work.''

Younger inexperienced Grenadian pannists, Regrello added, "were using inappropriate sticks; the grip on the sticks was poor and they were not hitting the notes the way they should. There is technique in everything you do.''

Skiffle Bunch was formed in 1976 as a pan-round-the-neck band. It has evolved into a large conventional orchestra, placing 14th in the 2011 national panorama competition.

Its sponsor, TCL Group, describes itself as the "leading producer and marketer of cement and ready-mix products in the Caribbean.''

Regrello, in his workshop session, promoted a steelpan innovation called the "G Pan.''

He complimented former Prime Minister Manning for investing in the development of the G Pan, which was patented last year. All royalties go to the government of Trinidad & Tobago.

The G Pans, said Regrello, are available in all configurations except the G Tenor Basses.

TCL Skiffle Bunch performing on the Carenage

"The University of the West Indies is responsible for the project and there are the G Six-Basses; the G Cello; the G Second; and the G Tenors. That is the configuration that exists right now,'' he said.

The G Pans are harmonized pans that have more range and volume than instruments currently used by most steelbands in Trinidad, Grenada and other countries.

According to Regrello, 60 G Pans can provide the same acoustic range and volume as 120 regular pans used by conventional steelbands.

He referred to the G Pans as a "work in progress,'' but said they should be ready to be mass produced by year-end.

However, Regrello said a compliment of the G Pan has been given to each steelband in T&T. The G Pans, he explained, "are used to augment the bands' performance for big occasions like panorama, when they want to get the volume. But it is not permanent in the bands right now as the way it should be.''

The cost of a four-piece G Pan is TT$30,000. Regrello admitted that cost could be a prohibitive factor in getting wide acceptance and use of the G Pan.

In addition, he conceded that the use of the G Pan is likely to meet resistance from tuners who will receive less work with fewer pans to tune, if bands adopt a complete G Pan instrument set.

Regrello criticized the criteria that have evolved for judging pan arranging at Trinidad's panorama. He labeled the arranging as "too structured,'' saying it makes the competition "boring.''

"There should be freedom for arrangers to do what they want to do,'' Regrello said.

He is optimistic that a new generation of pan and calypso arrangers, as well as steelband tuners, is emerging from among students enrolled in a music studies program at UWI.

Cedel Hinds, a double tenor player with Skiffle Bunch, is one of the UWI music students.

He reported that the program is working well with students from various Caribbean countries. However, there is none from Grenada.

Regrello, who expressed interest in greater players' exchanges between Grenada and T&T, said the bar for steelpan music must be raised.

"This is the biggest industry,'' he said. "We have to raise the bar; take it to another level.''

Regrello is looking to pannists like his son, Joshua, to elevate pan and improve the economic viability of the steelpan music industry.

13 Year old Joshua Regrello

Joshua, 13, played in his first panorama when he was just seven. "I was kind of shocked when I went on stage because they had the lights on me and I really didn't know what to do. But after a while I got accustomed to it,'' recalled Joshua of his first panorama.

The young tenor player promises to "stick to playing pan because it kinds of cools me and I enjoy it at a lot.''

A Naparima College student, Joshua has toured not only Grenada, Jamaica and Cuba, but also has performed with Skiffle Bunch in Washington for the President of the United States and members of the Senate.

The Skiffle Bunch Grenada visit, together with the idea of a cash incentive in a possible mini competition, could very well motivate other Trinidadian steelbands to come calling in 2012. The simple concept could be three T&T bands against the reigning top three steel orchestras of Grenada.

However, the focus of local bands is now on utilising the next two months to prepare for the judging of pan at Spicemas 2011. Pannists will be participating in a Bomb Tune Competition; Pan Yard Judging; and the Panorama championship on Saturday, August 6, at the National Stadium, St. George's