The flags were raised back in August for the inaugural Barry Mannette Flying High exhibition.
Conceptualised and produced by the Steelpan Authority, the project featured the artwork (logos) of steelbands, emblazoned on flags which danced gracefully in the wind above the city from August 17 to September 24.
Venue was the flag pole grounds on the Brian Lara Promenade between St Vincent and Edward Streets, opposite the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago.
Steel orchestras from around the world had their flags raised at the historic global initiative, which also served as a salute and tribute to the bank holidays in T&T: Emancipation, Independence and Republic Day.
Canada’s own Afropan Steelband, reputed to be one of North America’s leading steel orchestras, participated in Flying High. Brooklyn-based Casym Steel Orchestra, the other exemplary music outfit on the North American circuit, accepted the Steelpan Authority’s invitation, too.
Then came confirmation that Mangrove Steelband, the 2019 London Panorama champion had signed to the project, along with sister UK band Phase One Steel Orchestra. But that’s not where excitement for the project ended.
From the land of the rising sun came Sonics Tokyo Steel Orchestra to ensure Asia’s rapidly expanding steelband music loving audience claimed its place in the project.
Meanwhile, local participating steel orchestras rolled out the welcome wagon to receive the symbols of their international associates. They were: former Small Conventional Panorama champion Golden Hands; Royal Pan Illusion; Scrunters Pan Groove; Hill Toppers Steelpan Academy; 2019 Small Conventional Panorama winner T&T Defence Force; Courts Sound Specialists of Laventille; Uni Stars Steel Orchestra; and Southern Marines Steelband Foundation.
“The aim of the Barry Mannette Flying High initiative was to illustrate true national and cultural pride, as can only be conveyed by the steelpan fraternity,” said Steelpan Authority, CEO Sean Nero.
“Traditionally, steelband flags go into storage on Ash Wednesday in Trinidad and Tobago. Naturally, this will occur at different timelines based on the geographical location of respective steel orchestras.”
He continued, “Here comes the Steelpan Authority with an original concept to illustrate that these beautiful pieces of artwork, do not need to stay locked in storage. The project also commemorated observances from Emancipation (the call of our ancestors) – to Independence (the story of self-governance). It is instructive to note that couched in between those two dates was Steelpan Month. But team Steelpan Authority applied for and successfully obtained a 24-day extension and the Barry Mannette Flying High Exhibition ran until Republic Day.”
Nero came up with the idea back in August 2014.
He had missed a direct late afternoon flight from Piarco International Airport to JFK International Airport for his planned US vacation. So, he booked a one-way ticket out of Piarco to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport early the next day connecting to JFK, later that afternoon. In Fort Lauderdale, Nero spent most of the day sight-seeing.
But before turning on his tourist beacon, Nero reportedly paused outside the airport and took notice of a beautiful assembly of flags representing various countries, dancing in the cool summer breeze.He wondered as to the significance of the flags in a horse shoe-shaped order. He wandered further what it would take to have steelband flags from around the world dance in a similar space during Steelpan Month in T&T.
Back on local soil, Nero started location scouting. At first, he thought about the flag poll station at the entrance to the Hyatt Regency Trinidad. Then he contacted officials at the Tobago House of Assembly to find out which piece of state-owned real estate had flag poles ready to accommodate steelband flags.
Location scouting continued in Arima and back to Port-of-Spain, before contacting the Office of the Mayors of San Fernando, Point Fortin and Chaguanas for advice as the search continued.
“Team Steelpan Authority believed the project might have been better suited for the capital city at the flag pole area opposite the Eric Williams Financial Plaza. We reached out to the Ministry of Planning and Development. Officials there pointed us in the direction of the Central Bank for further guidance. We were heading to office of the Promenade Management Committee when officials at the Bank pointed us to the Office of the Mayor and Council of the Port-of-Spain City Corporation,” Nero said.
He continued, “Kudos go out to the Mayor Joel Martinez and Members of Council of the Port-of-Spain City Corporation and the Dr Alvin St Hilaire, Governor of the Central Bank and his leadership team. Representatives of both organisations saw merit in the Barry Mannette Flying High concept and despite the Covid-19 pandemic worked with the Steelpan Authority to help ensure the project was realised, at a time when so many projects were suspended or cancelled all together.”
Team Steelpan Authority started 2020 with a radio education series scheduled for 52 weeks titled Champions of The Steelpan aired Wednesdays at 7.25am during The Morning Show on radio i95.5FM.
Mention of this project is made to illustrate that efforts by the Steelpan Authourity should not be considered as knee jerk reactions to the heritage of Trinidad and Tobago, but rather a true enabler of a wider conversation on and about the steelpan through education, according to Nero.
Other public events conceptualised by the Steelpan Authority had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are dynasties across the world and it should come as no surprise that the steelpan community has its own. The Mannette dynasty is one such house of royalty.
The Mannette name in the sphere of culture, creativity and innovation has never been in question. You must have heard the name Vernon “Birdie” Mannette of Invaders fame and of course that of his brother Elliot “Ellie” Mannette.
In recognising the family’s storied legacy, the Steelpan Authority proudly presented the heir of the Mannette throne: Barry Mannette.
Very much like his father Vernon and uncle “Ellie”, Barry is a nurturer. Although, he did not formalise a career along the line of steelpan manufacturing, as those who went before, the younger Mannette has firmly ingratiated himself into steelband culture as an educator, earning respect and winning hearts wherever he goes.
Hosting the Flying High initiative in his name was an easy decision for team Steelpan Authority arrive at.
The Steelpanauthority.com is a Trinidad and Tobago based multi-media portal built for and committed to capturing and transmitting the most accurate news specific to the steelpan lifestyle globally.
Featured sections of the Steelpanauthority.com are: Kids, News, Business, People, Women, View Point and more.
While infusing on-going efforts to further promote the only acoustic musical instrument invented in the 20th century, we are intent on celebrating the richness of the steelpan and its unquestionable universal appeal.
Utilising this website, we have set ourselves the task to cover and publish all matters related to the steelpan and the people who make and play the instrument, daily.
Through the digital pages of the Steelpanauthority.com pannists have a unique hub to tell/share their story of discovery, nurturing, experiences and of course growth in the world of music, as well as performing. This, as they explore associated career paths.
Education is at the heart of everything we do. We hope all categories of students, as well as, educators, researchers and administrators will turn to us at Steelpan Authority as the encyclopedia of the steelpan, as our library of music, music videos, documentaries, biographies and photo albums grows.
It is hoped that our focused on-line presence will become the preferred choice for quick, reliable and easy-to-access steelpan information today and in the future.