Two of the United Kingdom’s most respected steel orchestras have been written into history by their participation in the first ever global flag raising ceremony to commemorate steelband month in Trinidad and Tobago titled Flying High.
London’s reigning Panorama champion 2019 Mangrove Steelband and the respected Phase One Steel Orchestra have signed their brands to the innovative project.
Conceptualised by the Steelpan Authority, Flying High is an exhibition of artwork (logos) of steelbands, emblazoned on flags. These banners danced in the wind above the city of Port-of-Spain, on the Brian Lara Promenade between St Vincent and Edward Streets, between August 17 and September 24.
Other participating global steel orchestras were:
USA: Casym Steel Orchestra
Japan: Sonics Tokyo Steel Orchestra
Canada: Afro Pan Steel Orchestra
Trinidad and Tobago: Golden Hands, Royal Pan Illusion; Scrunters Pan Groove; Hill Toppers Steelpan Academy; T&T Defence Force; Courts Sound Specialists of Laventille; Uni Stars Steel Orchestra; and Southern Marines Steelband Foundation.
“Flying High is an illustration of true cultural pride,” says Sean Nero, CEO at Steelpan Authority. “Traditionally, steelband flags go into storage on Ash Wednesday in Trinidad and Tobago. Naturally, this will occur at a different timeline based on the orchestras geographical location, of course.”
He continued, “Here comes the Steelpan Authority with an original concept to illustrate how beautiful pieces of artwork, do not need to stay locked in storage. Originally, this project commemorates observances from Emancipation (the call of our ancestors) - to Independence (the story of self-governance). It is instructive to note that couched in between those two dates is Steelpan Month. But team Steelpan Authority applied for and successfully obtained a 24-day extension. Flying High will run until Republic Day (September 24) a national holiday in Trinidad and Tobago.”
August 2020 marked the 28th anniversary since the steelpan was declared the National Musical Instrument of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
The decision to heighten the profile of the musical instrument was made by the government of the late Patrick Manning on August 30, 1992. In his Independence Day message, the late Prime Minister declared the steelpan would become the national musical instrument of the twin island Republic. To mark the occasion, Chaconia Medals (Gold) were bestowed onto Renegades and Desperadoes Steel Orchestras for excellence in culture.
Owen Serrette, manager of four-time National Panorama champion Harmonites Steel Orchestra – a senior officer in the public service back then–was at the helm of Pan Trinbago.
Out of the new respect bestowed onto the steelpan community, Serrette and his executive conceptualised an observance to be known as Steelpan (Steelband) Week, which morphed into Steelpan (Steelband) Month.
Nero said, “It seems fated, that more than two-and-a-half decades later, steelbands have set a new course, utilising the Flying High platform, where the steelband world comes together without striking a musical note.”
For the team at Steelpan Authority hoisting of these flags to coincide with Steelpan Month represents three pillars:
- Salute the legends who paved the way (too many of them unsung heroes);
- Recognises the tremendous work being done by those in the present space and thirdly;
- Symbolise as a source of strength should those in the future be in need of such, in addition to it being a guiding light in the event any of them lose their way
Focus on Education: Team Steelpanauthority started 2020 with Champions of The Steelpan, a radio education series scheduled for 52 weeks. It is aired during The Morning Show on radio i95.5FM hosted by Tony Lee and Dale Enoch. Mention of this project is made to illustrate that efforts by the Steelpan Authourity should not be considered as a knee jerk reaction to the heritage of Trinidad and Tobago, but rather a true enabler of a wider conversation on and about the steelpan through education.
Honouree: Across the world, there exist royalty. There are dynasties. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the steelpan community has its own. One such house of royalty is the Mannette dynasty.
The Mannette name in the sphere of culture, creativity and innovation has never been in question. You must have heard the name Vernon “Birdie” Mannette of Invaders fames and of course his brother Elliot “Ellie” Mannette.
In recognising the family’s storied legacy, the Steelpan Authority proudly present the heir of the Mannette throne: Mr. Barry Mannette.
Very much like his father Vernon and uncle “Ellie” Barry is a nurturer. Although, he did not formalise a career along the line of steelpan manufacturing, as those who went before, the younger Mannette has firmly ingratiated himself into steelband culture as an educator, earning respect and winning hearts wherever he goes.
So, it is with enormous pride that team Steelpan Authority introduces Mr. Barry Mannette as the inaugural honouree of the Flying High project.