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The synergy between mavericks
Just after the Carnival this year, a display advertisement appeared in a weekend newspaper. It was a congratulatory message from Hadco Ltd and Phase II Pan Groove to the new Panorama champions, Desperadoes offering congratulations to the band and “their supporters and the people of Laventille.” Conciliatory. Magnanimous. Positive. In the hurly-burly world of competitive art that is Trinidad Carnival, Panorama foes are friends in life, but on paper, loyalties are disparate.
The gesture of congratulations could be a sign of the dawning of a new era in corporate relations between rivals or even communities. Hadco and Phase II were big enough to uniquely, from among their own cohort, and publicly congratulate the winning band. One needs to recognise that Hadco recently became the sponsor of legendary steelband, Phase II, who placed third. This was a signal. Are we witnessing a new way sponsors of steelbands interact with the community that is the steelband fraternity? Is this a new paradigm in a time of recession when history has shown that with the tightening of belts comes a “man for himself” mentality?
Both Hadco and Phase II represent a kind of rebel spirit in their representative industries. The synergy between the two organisations reflect a maverick nature that defines innovation and influence. Hadco, which celebrates 25 years of existence in 2017, was a radical that quarter-century ago when they entered into the local distributive trade marketplace among giants who already had over 50 years experience. They still thrive today with a focused vision that speaks of “enriching the quality of life” of their partners and, importantly, “setting trends.” They operate successfully with a business model that recognises the triple CEOs in the Hadad brothers as a unity.
Phase II represents the ultimate trendsetters—six young musicians leave an established Woodbrook band to form a new band that sought “to produce a more creative sound on pan,” and to become professional musicians. In so doing, they went against the grain by performing their own compositions and winning before anyone else did, and establishing a revolutionary spirit by surviving for many years as an unsponsored band. Additionally, among its ranks is a savant—some prefer the term “mad genius”—who astounds in his method of composition that draws onlookers and supporters from all over the world. Len “Boogsie” Sharpe’s legend is global. And successful.
The new partnership between Hadco and Phase II reflects a coming together that has repercussions to how music could be presented all year, and how the business of music and the business of steelband could operate in the 21st century.
A little history is needed to understand the context of the new partnership. On the cusp of a new century, Phase II entered into a sponsorship agreement—for the first time in the band’s history—with state-owned company Petrotrin that ultimately lasted for 16 years when it “expired.”
The steelband “opted to continue its work with the support of another sponsor” was the dry language of disengagement presented via a press release from the oil company. At the end of 2016, Hadco, the other sponsor, cemented a relationship that promised to enhance the brand of Phase II, and introduce a new concept in corporate engagement, creating shared value.
Creating shared value is the new buzz word among the business class and is seen as an extension of corporate social responsibility that has been bandied about for some decades.
The dictionary definition of creating shared value notes that the central premise is “that the competitiveness of a company and the health of the communities around it are mutually dependent.”
Hadco has embarked on a new and somewhat unique style of steelband sponsorship in T&T. In light of a national recession and general malaise in the economy, Hadco’s sponsorship of Phase II Pan Groove signals that the corporate sector is still alive to the potential possibilities of endorsing the efforts of the national instrument and the national institution of the steelband beyond the limited parameters of the annual Panorama competition.
For Hadco, this was no fluke, and for Phase II this can only be a win-win. The company has had an informal personal relationship with the steelband and its management going back a couple decades, and their recent conversations showed that going forward, a new vision for how a steelband connects with a community, real and virtual, was needed.
As a modern company, Hadco efforts recently already point to a tangible transfer of the entrepreneurial spirit said to be lacking in the nation, and more importantly, not very prevalent among the steelband community and large bands beyond a kind of tokenism seen with similar large corporation sponsorships over the years.
Immediately, one saw a physical and aesthetic revitalisation of the panyard, the locus of creativity, but increasingly, the site for commerce. There was a rejuvenation of the ambience of the space. There was a shedding of the idea of panyard as a space to “just lime and listen.” Hadco was teaching the band capitalism. The idea that profits from its ongoing ventures in trade and merchandise in the panyard can and would be added to potential revenue steams from local events and value-added material has taken hold. There is a shared buy-in as the company’s resources are used to enhance the asset that is Phase II. As Phase II grows, so does the Hadco.
The company’s efforts outside of the Carnival season to raise the profile of the band among a wider cohort of fans is observed and noted. With a turn-around of just three months after the hectic Carnival and Panorama season, Hadco’s team are assisting the band to present the International Jazz Panyard Jam Session on April 30 at the panyard in Hamilton Street in Woodbrook, featuring trumpeter Etienne Charles along with other Caribbean jazz stars, bassist Ron Reid, and pan jazz recording artist Leon Foster Thomas, who will reprise his role as drummer for Phase II. Joining these three Trinidadians are a cast of jazz musicians; Latin jazz percussion star Luisito Quintero from Venezuela, Haitians Obed Calvaire on drums and Godwin Louis on alto saxophone, and singer Roger George of Charlie’s Roots fame. Hadco brought along other sponsors, Carib and bmobile to share sponsorship duties.
Of course, the featured performer would be Len “Boogsie” Sharpe and the steelband that will perform alongside Dougie Redon and his band, and Charles’ band. This event is in celebration of International Jazz Day, and points to a recognition by all that the steelpan is not limited to our circumstance as a Carnival instrument, but stand alongside the pantheon of musical instruments that define the music of freedom. International Jazz Day brings together communities all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact. This event is more than a concert, it is about dialogue among cultures. The jam session is one such a dialogue. T&T and the world. Steelpan and any other musical instrument.
The steelband and the company both share a relative “new kid on the block” status among their respective industries. Hadco and Phase II are at the dawn of possibilities as they move along side by side into the 21st century. Together, they are creating a new paradigm for the steelband industry.
• For more information call 675-7628 ext. 1201, 1202 or 1314 or email [email protected]
ABOUT PHASE II INTERNATIONAL JAZZ PANYARD JAM SESSION
Phase II will be hosting the International Jazz Panyard Jam Session on April 30.
This one night only event is in celebration of International Jazz Day. Included in the line-up are the reunion Band members Ron Reid and Etienne Charles, along with Caribbean and international artistes Obed Calvaire, Godwin Louis, Brett Williams, Luisito Quintero and guest vocalist, Trinidad’s own Roger George.
Patrons are promised a truly enjoyable evening of jazz entertainment and the honour of experiencing an all-out jam session when Phase II and Len “Boogsie” Sharpe join forces with some of the most talented jazz players today.
Opening the show is the Douglas Redon Ensemble along with other guest artistes.
The International Jazz Panyard Jam Session will be held at Phase II Panyard, Hamilton Street, Woodbrook.
Gates open at 5.30 pm and the show starts at 7 pm.
Tickets are $300 each and available at all Häagen Dazs locations nationwide and also available at Hadco Corporate Office, San Juan.
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