In Port of Spain (POS) – the capital of Trinidad and Tobago – cultural difference, mixture and co-habitation infused and produced a rich melody of sounds unique in their rhythms and fusions. Alongside the first peoples, Africans, Indians, Chinese and Europeans, have all contributed to the diversity and the musical heritage of the city. This social history is acknowledged and the music celebrated in the annual Pan African Festival which pays homage to persons of African descent, in the Emancipation Day parade, the Obatala Festival of the Orisha faith, and in the Hosay Festival of the Muslim community of St. James. The resilience and vibrancy of the city is reflected in the annual Canboulay and Carnival too, and the innovativeness and musicianship of a people is evident in the annual Panorama steelband Festival.
From the city’s multicultural heritage has emerged an outsized musical contribution for a geographically small place. POS is the heartbeat of the nation. There are many venues and locations across POS where in any given month you hear the sounds of traditional African drums, steel pan, calypso, spoken word performances, choral singing groups, carnival sound systems, the beating iron of rhythm sections and live concerts.
Musical venues in POS are both open-air with the Savannah Grandstand, the St James Amphitheatre, Adam Smith Square and the numerous steelband Pan Yards, as well as enclosed spaces with the Beryl McBurnie Little Carib Theatre, the National Academy of the Performing Arts, Queen’s Hall, the Hasley Crawford Stadium and the many lounges and bars of the city and its suburbs of St James, Belmont and Woodbrook.
Institutional support through programmes at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West Indies and state agency MusicTT, sustain an eco system that feeds the creative and cultural fabric of POS.
The future of POS, like its past, will be driven by its creative expressions. A new model of urban renewal for POS is proposed where creativity and culture generate employment, prosperity and innovation. This includes establishing Music Zones in historically relevant locations and Music Walks of Fame to honour the city’s musicians, pioneers and artists. A music museum in POS is another plan for the preservation and promotion of T&T′s indigenous music.
From Panorama with the sweet melodies of the pannist musicians, to the infectiousness of tassa drumming, and the liberatory and sonic power of calypso, soca and all our music, POS is a UNESCO Creative City of Music because, like Havana, Kingston, and Santo Domingo (the other Creative Cities of Music in the Caribbean), music is the stitching that holds the city together. Music shapes us. It is the central element of our environment. It provides an original soundtrack for the moments and memories of this vibrant city.
Music connects Port of Spain (POS) to the world.