by Emmanuel Joseph
A sea of people washed up on the shores of Brandon’s Beach just off Spring Garden, St. Michael yesterday – the most ever for the annual Neal & Massy Pan Pun De Sand Crop-Over event. Last year, an estimated 12,000 pan fans converged on the site and the producers’ expectations of attracting more than 14,000 this year have in their opinion been realised. People started flowing onto the wide expanse of glistening white sandy beach in slow and steady trickles yesterday, some two hours before the official 3 p.m. start of this National Cultural Foundation-produced family-oriented outing.
However, by the time the broiling hot sun had begun to lose its intensity, the several empty sandy spaces that made up a near half mile track, stretching out from the front of the two joined stages, had been transformed into a solid mass of humans as far as the eyes could see.
As SKF Steel Sound – the first group to perform – beat out their rhythmic songs with verve, it was evident that safety and security and law and order were serious considerations for the authorities. Uniformed and plain clothed police were everywhere, and Barbados Coast Guard and Marine Police vessels had dropped anchor a stone’s throw out to sea. People in pleasure boats were also enjoying the music from across the water as others on land played football, relaxed on the beach, enjoyed the shade of tents and sat on the sand beside their coolers from which drinks flowed all day. Some others preferred to splash in the calm turquoise ocean. Parents with babes in arms, other young children, middle age and senior citizens and persons of varying races and nationalities had come to “steel.”
The Reddy Panners, an 18-member steel band comprising staff from the Barbados Light & Power Company, were the second act on stage. The transition from band to band was seamless because the use the two stages made it possible for one band to set up and standby, while another was performing. The third act was off stage. The Pompasetters and Tuk took advantage of the grounds or should we say, the beach to show off the mobility and tradition of the tuk band and steel pan worn around the neck which moved from place to place in times past.
This was one of the innovations of the Pan Pun De Sand event. Another local band, Olakunde, also provided some excitement for the thousands of pan lovers.