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Trinidad and Tobago: The Pope and the Pan
Steelpan
Challenging Caribbean Inferiority and Cultural Prostitution

By Ras Tyehimba
August 07, 2013


There was a picture recently of Pope Francis playing the Steelpan next to T&T president Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona who presented it to him as a gift. This picture was published by the media, several Steelpan websites and has made its way around various social media platforms. One website exclaimed: "Truly a great day for our nation and our national instrument! The pope is a Trini now!" Another Steelpan website expressed, "Steelpan is the sweetest!! Just ask the Pope."

As the only musical instrument of the 20th century and as what I consider to be one of the greatest inventions of the Caribbean region it makes sense for the pan to be a gift to persons and nations that Trinidad and Tobago interacts with. However, the power of the Steelpan is not just about the sweet music it produces, but also about how it was created. The Steelpan emerged from the most disenfranchised and looked-down elements of society. It is these grassroots, mainly Afro-Trinidadian sections of society who had been most affected by the structures of colonial society in which legitimacy and social status was defined by race, skin colour, class and acceptance of the Christian religion.

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