Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 25th 2015 Contents WESLEY GIBBINGS
It s brunch on Ariapita Avenue six days before Panora-
ma Finals. The electricity is out and everyone s late. It s
a warm but breezy morning and Tobago surf is still in
Emily Lemmerman s shock of curly, red hair as she hur-
riedly rounds the bend.
It s been a relatively brief but intense pan season for
the 38-year-old Texan who runs Barracuda Steel Drums---
a pan-tuning and building company in Austin---and who
is also the first and, so far---only female professional pan
tuner engaged in the annual Panorama competition.
A weekend in Black Rock, Tobago, working with medi-
um-band finalists Katzenjammers must now give way to
long, intense days with large band finalists Skiffle in San
Fernando. There are bloodshot eyes across the table.
In between, it s back to Tobago for a session with
Katzenjammers. "It s anyone s game on Saturday!" says
Emily "Bacchanal" Lemmerman s Facebook status mid-
week; fresh off the ferry in Port-of-Spain.
Though still conflicted about the impact of competition
on the development of pan music---to the point of choosing
her words carefully and wondering whether she should
be quoted on this---she concedes that while judging is "a
tricky thing because it s subjective ... a competition does
inspire a lot of energy towards excellence. It does elevate
the standard for all the bands."
"But it s a shame there is only one winner."
This season Lemmerman has tuned for the two Panora-
ma finalists in the medium and large categories together
with Tokyo and Harvard Harps, who didn t make it, while
troubleshooting for a few others.
She speaks with reverence of the initial doubts of
panyard "elders" about a tuner who breaks the traditional
mould. Here is a young, white, female, foreign exponent
of one of the more difficult arts associated with pan music.
"I understand why there was some doubt," she says.
US-based pan pioneer, Ellie Mannette, is responsible
for all of this.
Lemmerman once had her eyes set on a career as a
timpanist in a symphony orchestra but during her music
studies was introduced to the steelpan as a percussion
instrument. It was love at first sound.
Later encounters with Mannette, the decorated pan
musician and innovator, helped settle the question between
an interest in the taut skin and copper shell of the timpani
and a deep affection for the finely-tuned steel drums
from two small islands some considerable distance away.
In 2000, it was off to Trinidad for the first time with
her mentor, Mannette, and other music students to witness
the marvel of the annual competition among the ranks
of the Invaders Steel Orchestra. When the legendary Port-
of-Spain band didn t make it to the finals in 2009, she
switched to Silver Stars who won that year.
Lemmerman is confident about the future of pan in
T&T and believes it is among the things that make the
country unique and distinguishable in the international
community. As a "young" instrument, and unlike other
longstanding traditional instruments, she believes the pan
will continue to carry the country s name with it for a
long time to come.
"I think it s a long way away from losing its own cultural
attachment to the Caribbean," she says.
Lemmerman also does not share the fear that young
people might be losing interest in playing the instrument.
"From a foreign perspective, it seems like there are plenty
wonderful platforms (for the pan)," she says, citing the
Pan in School programme and the hundreds of youth
turning out for the Junior Panorama competition and as
members of the senior bands.
"It s hard for me to look around Trinidad and not see
that pan is well supported," Lemmerman says. "It s a sig-
nificant part of the population that participates."
She does not enter the "Greens" discussion easily, but
when she does there is both bemusement and bewilder-
ment: "Everybody complains about it," she says of the
Pan Trinbago managed side-event to the Panorama Semi-
Finals, considered by many to be a disruptive to the pro-
ceedings on the competition stage.
"No one likes this," Lemmerman says. "I don t under-
stand its relationship with Panorama. It does not appear
to support the event."
For her part, though, she keeps her ears trained on the
instruments as they make their way to the Savannah
Though she has played and tuned for pan competitions
and concerts throughout the Caribbean, United States,
Canada, London and Europe, Panorama at the Savannah
remains a unique and special jewel in her professional
"I think pan is a long way from being separated from
its own heritage which is so very clearly right here."
She does not sound like she is giving up on this any
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
The US TV broadcast of this year's
Oscars ceremony on Sunday scored the
event's lowest ratings in six years,
averaging 36.6 million.
They were down by 16 per cent on
last year's ratings.
First-time host Neil Patrick Harris
received lukewarm reviews, while some
have blamed the drop on a lack of
nominations for films with mass appeal.
Last year 43.7 million tuned in when
Ellen DeGeneres was at the helm.
DeGeneres had powered the show to
a ten-year ratings high. Critics were
unimpressed by Harris's performance
during the three-and-a-half hour
awards show, which saw him stripping
to his pants for a Birdman and
Whiplash inspired sketch---something
the LA Times review called
Sunday's TV broadcast was the
Academy Awards' lowest-rated show
since 2009, which attracted 36.3 million
viewers when Hugh Jackman hosted
and Slumdog Millionaire was the big
Oscars audience reaches six-year-low
---pan tuner Emily Lemmerman
t's hard for me
to look around
Trinidad and not
see that pan is well
supported. It's a
significant part of
the population that
Emily Lemmerman, the 38-year-old
Texan who runs Barracuda Steel
Drums, is also the first and, so far,
only female professional pan
tuner engaged in the annual
PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALVES
Links Archive February 24th 2015 February 26th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page