Today has been officially declared World Steelpan Day (DMS) in the city of Port of Spain.
Port of Spain Deputy Mayor Hillan Morean made the designation on behalf of the capital’s mayor, Joel Martinez, during the shooting of the WSD celebration on August 3 at Mille Fleurs, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain
The showcase, titled Just The Two of US—Celebrating 60 years of Independence, will be broadcast on the Trinidad and Tobago World Steelpan Thrust Facebook page starting at 7 tonight. It features veteran pan/arranger Leon “Smooth” Edwards, Akua Leith & The NSSO, Mark Loquan and Selwyn Tarradath. There is also a Tobago segment with a Moriah wedding.
Dr. Kim Johnson is this year’s featured speaker.
World Steelpan Day co-founder Bertel Gittens said the mayor’s statement takes Thrust’s vision for the annual Aug. 11 celebration one step closer to creating a day recognized globally by to the national instrument in the middle of Pan Trinbago Steelband month.
“World Steelpan Day is not about jumping around. It’s serious business. It calls for a day of global celebration and recognition as we share the steelpan, our national musical instrument of T&T, with all nations of the world.
“We celebrate the icons and we want to know a lot more about them because they are not documented.
“We know what they represent, what they are, how they live their lives, so we try to remove all the remaining icons and find out more,” an impassioned Gittens told the Express via WhatsApp yesterday.
A commitment to the national instrument
Gittens said the idea for WSD was born at the inaugural Trinidad and Tobago World Steelpan Thrust in 2019 between him and fellow board members, music entrepreneur Simeon Sandiford and Steelpan Tuners Guild of Trinidad and Tobago Lenny Lera.
The World Steelpan Thrust is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating and supporting opportunities for the sustainable development of the pan in the areas of manufacturing, education, entertainment, therapy and other related services.
The day was marked with a hybrid part-virtual, part-live event at the Pan Trinbago car park in 2020, with Martin Daly, SC, giving the direction of the function.
In 2021, the celebration adopted the Inner Pan-Demic moniker and featured an entirely virtual event with University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor Brian Copeland delivering the presentation.
“Everyone came out and immediately supported, from the president of Pan Trinbago to veteran pan players, it was overwhelming,” Gittens recalled.
Their taping on August 3 was attended by Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Randall Mitchell, Pan Trinbago President Beverly Ramsey-Moore, Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organization President Ainsley King and the president of the National Carnival Commission, Winston “Gypsy” Peters.
Gittens said the celebration in the middle of Steelpan Month, between Emancipation and Independence Day, is “just the right time to honor an instrument that plays a pivotal role in our annual celebrations.”
“This year we moved to Mille Fleurs. We had a formal program. With the proclamation of the mayor of Port of Spain, we hope to take advantage of this and turn the day into something that people will come to. Our intention is to make it a tourism product where people can come to Steelpan Month and really enjoy a World Steelpan Day in Port of Spain,” said Gittens.
The Caribbean diaspora is already talking about World Steelpan Day, he said.
“Everything that comes out of Trinidad has a global audience, and Panorama is no different. Seeing that we took the lead by coming out of Trinidad, the T&T diaspora looks to us for entertainment because they miss home.
“Once we continue what we do in relation to the celebration of the icons, it will grow. Everyone says one, and it will grow. All the people who come to T&T to play pan, now we have created another platform that they could see. We have exciting times ahead,” Gittens concluded.