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Trinidad and Tobago

Published on October 3rd, 2016 | by TandT Newsday Newspapers

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Cordettes’ pan music legacy

Cordettes Steel Orchestra may be an unsponsored outfit, but it remains an institution in the eastern district of Sangre Grande. Established around 1962, the band has held its own as an ensemble, having made it to the finals of the medium conventional band category of the National Panorama competition on 15 occasions, its last appearance being in 2012 with the Philmore/ Loquan/Destra composition, “Vibes”, a piece arranged by Anders Kappel Ovre.  The band has performed extensively throughout the country and is also known for its vibrant stage side and varied repertoire: it is said that Cordettes can play more than 90 minutes of continuous music, at a moment’s notice, on any given day.

Moreover, Cordettes’ panyard on Foster Road is an unofficial stomping ground for players, pan lovers and residents alike, many of whom venture to the revered space to reminisce about the band’s early years in the steelband movement and brainstorm on ways in which it can retain its stature within the fraternity.  But to members of the band’s management team, Cordettes is much more than a steelband. In fact, over the years it has spread its wings to include a range of social interventions, specifically targeting the youth in the eastern district.  Four years ago, the band joined forces with what was then known as the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism (now the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts) to launch a “Music Schools In the Panyard” project.

The hugely successful initiative provided music literacy to young people in varying age groups and has produced over 200 graduates thus far.  This year, the band’s Music School has set its sights on the Junior Panorama competition and, in so doing, also has extended an invitation for students in schools throughout the region to participate in the ground-breaking project.  “A lot of students have been showing interest, with some even telling their friends,” Candice Hughes-Bengochea, co-ordinator and parental liaison, Music School Programme and Junior Panorama Band, said of its launch of the Junior Panorama initiative last month.  In a Sunday Newsday interview, an excited Hughes-Bengochea said she had sent letters to primary and secondary schools within the region toward the end of the last school term, providing details about the Junior Panorama project.

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