Wednesday 23 March 2011

Pan Hysteria? A Review of Innovation and Invention

I wrote the article cited below back in May 2002 when I was living abroad. It addressed the nervousness of some nationals in the diaspora to what was reported as the "conquest" of pan by foreigners. In light of my last Facebook note on the design of pan as a factor of optimizing dispersion, which generated heated debate on who did what and when for pan, I thought I would again "go backwards to go forward" with the conversation on pan by looking at existing patents and their utilization.

Nationals of Trinidad and Tobago let out a collective gasp at the Trinidad Expresss newspaper report by Terry Joseph last month entitled "Pan Shocker" detailing the successful patent by two Americans, Maryland-based George Whitmyre and Harvey J. Price of Delaware for the "Production of the Caribbean Steel Pan." Readers were then hurriedly corresponding with newspapers and opining on electronic media talk shows on the temerity of these two Yankees—read: white men— patenting we own t'ing. "The sweat of the Black man's brow has now been owned by these Americans who have the considerable backing of the US government against all challenges," was how one writer approached TanTan, "much like how they try to thief Lord Invader's Rum and Coca Cola."

The patent document, available online at the US Patent Office's website, outlines the applicants' claim for using a hydro-forming process to make a pan that is consistent and efficient to produce, along with modifications to facilitate transportation, storage and tuning. A few things are apparent from a cursory look at the document:

Thursday 10 March 2011

Pan gone backwards to go forward

The steel pan still fascinates me as a industrial musical instrument that has the potential to be as commonplace as the electric guitar or portable electronic keyboard. Portability, short learning curve relative to traditional music learning experience, and ease of manufacture seem to be the factors that make the two aforementioend so popular. Some recent innovations by local entrepreneurs are intersting: The PHI® by UWI-based engineers and the e-Pan™ by Toronto-based Salmon Cupid. Both are controllers for synthesizers as opposed to organic instruments, but innovation like this should be encouraged as the music instrument manufacturing industry in the US alone was worth at least US$2 billion in total domestic demand. Globally, the numbers can rival our budget, and the sky's the limit. Smarter persons than I would be needed to advise and move the process of exploitation further along.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Carnival is Money II, or The Commodification of Fun

Carnival done, or so it seems for the popular mas' bands. And it's not even midnight. Yet my black ass on a computer writing! Now that I am back from liming in Woodbrook and seeing the mas' from the roadside, I am in awe at the level of organization necessary to pull of that moving party called Island People Mas, and for that matter any large modern Carnival band that is in effect an all-inclusive travelling fete, with costumes.

The first part of this note dealt with the power of a promoter to change the focus of the conversation from who win to how come he win while laughing all the way to the bank. In that gayelle on that night, the order of things were upset by theories born of doubt of the success of this music called soca. The simple fact is the artistes named as the top four in each competition are the best performers in soca, period. The score weight placed on vocals versus crowd response matter not, or we would have had a winner from outside this bunch. If you want to successfully export soca as the next big thing from the Caribbean, this is the group you have to go with. And that's the next move for Monro.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Carnival is Money, or The Canonization of William Munro, the ultimate Soca Monarch.

As I write this note in the hours before the madness of j'ouvert, the world wide web and global online commentary spaces are abuzz with analysis of:

I like it. Carnival is war. A war of words and ideas. Fuck that shit about "Carnival is Colour." There is finally a recognition that Carnival is MONEY. Big money, at that. In this global village where concepts like the "earth is flat" and "wikinomics" are fertile, Trinidad Carnival is making a space for itself. Streaming carnival shows online are now just mundane content delivery jobs, and opportunities to monetize everything Carnival are as pervasive as the branded bandana or tee-shirt. Text/SMS voting, while not new locally, is now part of the evolution of the net-generation's movement to make business decisions that count. Artiste branding, whether for white rum or cellphone providers, is de jure for international exposure. Only thing left is the performance vehicle to tip in favour of North American lenses and the Holy Grail of the US market as a given with recognition from peers there.