Words by Tasha Brown—
British director Keith Musaman Morton and Trini-American producer Charysse Tia Harper are on a mission to share the story of the steelpan in their new film project, Panomundo. Panomundo (the title is a combination of steelpan and the Spanish word mundo, which translates to world) is set to be showcased in 2013, but the directors have already issued a seven-minute promo video online to give viewers a taste of the film to come.
The two award-winning filmmakers are raising funds, and attention, to tell the controversial story of the oil drum turned highly-respected and adopted musical instrument. The film sheds light on how the instrument was created and the stigma that soon followed behind the pan players, who were commonly called Panners or Pansmen.
Though the steelpan is the only acoustic musical instrument invented in the 20th century, its conception in Trinidad and Tobago has not always been celebrated. Initially, Panners of Trinidad and Tobago were misunderstood and seen as criminals. Growing up in the ghettos of Trinidad and Tobago added to their shame. The Panners were restricted voting rights, property ownership, and employment.
It’s believed that Panorama, the popular steelband festival that brings steelband orchestras together for competition of the best sound and arrangement, has helped influence and shape a more positive image of steelband players. They are now respected for their creative expression, and hostility has subsided. The instrument that was once stigmatized as having evolved from a low-class community is now universally appreciated for its magical sound.
Keith and Charysse, who both have island ties, are supporters of independent films and entertainment platforms. Driven to bring awareness to the culture of Trinidad and Tobago and the steelpan, the creative pair are campaigning to raise $30,000 by January 15, 2013, to complete the film. While they look to tell the stories of the Trini-culture and Panners in Panomundo, they are continuing to promote the film around the world.
Watch the short version of the film currently on YouTube below, and to contribute to the campaign to help Panomundo become a full-length feature, go here. This is a story that deserves to be told.