Pan Man's Cry!


Smiling and waving politicians who parade up and down Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway, declare themselves honorary West Indians for the day on Labor Day-) especially as it's close to election time!) and enjoy the photo opportunities afforded - generally did not return the urgent calls this week from New York pan players who are being thrown out on the streets with no notice.

Noticeably absent from the gathering at the soon-to-be-former Metro Steel Orchestra pan yard on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn were any 'officials' who purport to support West Indian culture, but who are like vultures when the Labor Day festivities roll around and benefit from the event's huge financial and political windfalls - such as the organization which has for more than thirty years organized Panorama in Brooklyn - even though their three-time champion steel orchestra - CASYM  is among the unfortunates whose instruments and equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were thrown out on the sidewalks on Wednesday 9 October.   Metro Steel Orchestra has already been given a deadline early this week to finally vacate the premises or all instruments and equipment will be destroyed in the scheduled demolition.

Never a dull moment just about describes the experiences of New York pan players in general, but some of those occurrences are just a doggone crying shame.  To the rest of the world - the thought of going from being an integral part of a multi-million dollar generating event - the West Indian Carnival on Labor Day - to literally being homeless and tossed out on the streets within weeks after the event, is incomprehensible.

Unrest such as this is unfortunately not the exception, but rather the norm.  For years, many of New York's steel orchestras have been literally on the run - from their practice sites being burnt out; to City agencies 'walling up' (blocking/sealing) buildings with the instruments inside; to seizing and destroying the instruments because pan players could not find quickly enough, or raise funds for rental of, another pan site before eviction notices were carried out.

The 'stars' of New York Panorama - pan men and pan women face again the same indignities that have assailed year in and year out -having their practice sites' (pan yards) fences torn down, and their instruments and stands being unceremoniously thrown out onto sidewalks and roadways.  Such is the scene yet again - this time at Metro's Pan yard on Nostrand Avenue, just after Cortelyou Road.  New York pan players easily number ten thousand and are from all walks of life - the ordinary man in the street, school children, vice-presidents of companies, professors, other business men and women, nurses, doctors, youths, teachers... the list goes on.  This however never changes the 'horrors' that the New York pan fraternity goes through.

As recently as three weeks ago Metro's leader Anthony 'Big Tony' Joseph had counted his band among the fortunate few which had a 'home' for at least a couple of years.  His yard was also winter storage for racks from about six other bands like CASYM, Pan Rebels, Utopia Pan Soul and Moods.  That peace of mind ended abruptly when the owner(s) of the property ripped down the fence and some of the bands' equipment was thrown out on the sidewalk.  Big Tony said this happened literally overnight, and added that as a commercial property - the owner(s) did not need to give them any notice.  The yard "was wanted for a more lucrative business venture", he was told.

On this damp and chilly October 13 Sunday afternoon, a few members of the bands came together in the soon-to-be-demolished pan site where equipment could be seen and accessed by any member of the public.  Vandalism and theft have already set in.  As recently as July and August, the pan yard had hosted many steel band launchings, and was the site of sweet steel band music to many who visited the yard night after night. 

Having already been in contact with the City Council and others, Dem Stars Steel Orchestra's President Anthony 'Ike' Hinds and Big Tony said that there were possibilities of the equipment being stored temporarily in the Park's facilities of Prospect Park, but that the more likely option appeared to be a lot (area of land) located in the East New York area on Livonia and Amboy Avenues.  The latter arrangement is being facilitated by the office of Senator JOHN SAMPSON (Democrat, Brooklyn) who represents the 19th Senatorial District.  This initiative reportedly will be followed through by Assemblyman Charles Barron's office.

There is still the issue of physically moving everything, and of course mobilizing the manpower and actual transportation.  Additionally the actual pan instruments of the majority of New York steel orchestras 'beg a lodging' in miscellaneous basements and the like, of sympathizers  around the city - with no storage area being worry free.

Other steel orchestras also need to vacate their yards immediately such as Pantonic Steel Orchestra who were on Albemarle Road for about three years and New York Nutones who are on Snyder Avenue.   Band members and management alike have been running around literally begging for places to rent and/or store their pans and racks. 

Incidentally, NY Nutones' 2002 Panorama selection was called PAN MAN'S CRY.   It was written and arranged by band leaders Lyndon Spencer and Collins Jackman.

The entire New York pan community is being urged to come out starting at 4:00 PM on Wednesday 16 October to the Metro Pan site on Nostrand Avenue between Cortelyou and Clarendon Roads -for what will be an exercise extending into the evening hours - both to manually assist in the monumental task of moving the equipment of the six steel orchestras, and also in a show of unity and support.   Contact Anthony 'Ike' Hinds at 718-257-0756 or 718-756-4656 or Anthony 'Big Tony' Joseph at 718-723-9458 for more details.




By CP - Basement Press Release Writer







Date: 10.13.02



















Happier times at the Metro Pan yard/practice site.
ABOVE:  Steel orchestras such as Dem Stars, Utopia Pan Soul, Women In Steel and CASYM participated in the Band Launchings for the 2002 New York Panorama season


BELOW:  Metro Steel Orchestra as they were recorded during their Panorama rehearsal in their pan yard on 28 August 2002.











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