Siparia Deltones Panyard Model puts the steelpan at the centre

When President Christine Kangaloo appealed for the panyard model to be used in the fight against crime, many in the pan community rejoiced.

Although there is no formal structure for the panyard model, they felt that finally, the work they have been doing in the panyards across the country to capture the youth, instill discipline, and create a safe space for communities was being seen and validated.

The management of the Siparia Deltones believes, however, that they have THE blueprint for the panyard model and have been implementing it in communities across Trinidad and Tobago.

From neighbouring communities to as far as Sangre Grande in the East, Deltones has been pushing its model based on economic sustainability, education, community upliftment and self-awareness

The root of it all is the steelpan.

For Akinola Sennon, Executive Director of the Siparia Deltones, the very birth of the steelpan and the responsibility it imbues in a pan man provides the lessons for us to grow and thrive.

For him, it goes way beyond the music and competition.

“A pan man is a community leader, so there is a social side to him and because there is a social side there is a heritage side to a pan man because you can’t be a leader if you don’t know the heritage of the people if you don’t know where you come from so you don’t know where you have to go so automatically a pan man is a social scientist, a restorer and preserver of heritage, a pan man is a father, he has a domestic responsibility,” Sennon said when Loop News visited the panyard on Railway Road in Siparia.

Rehearsal at Siparia Deltones

When anyone crosses the threshold to the panyard they are taught this philosophy through example and various programmes.

“We have a leadership that personifies what that should be. So that awareness of what a pan man should be is in Alpha (his brother and marketing director of Deltones), in the development of WHYfarm. A pan man is an innovator, a pan man is an entrepreneur, he is a king, a pan man is a social engineer, a pan man is a political powerhouse; he is a doctor in psychology and philosophy; he is all these things in one individual. He is an engineer, a scientist, all these things in one individual,” Sennon stressed.

Sennon joined the Siparia Deltones at the age of 12 and progressed through its ranks from the leader of the Junior band to captain and then to Executive Director.

Under his leadership, the band, which was founded by Ellis Knights, formalised its role as an institution and pushed diversification of its offerings to benefit the membership and community.

Akinola Sennon

While we spoke, there was whirring of machinery from the band’s furniture factory where they convert wooden pallets to furniture, grow boxes, and even play parks. What began as a venture to supply furniture for the Cousoumeh Festival they started in Siparia grew into a business during the pandemic to provide employment and income for the band’s members.

WHYFarm, an award-winning and internationally recognised agricultural institution not only employs band members but also runs agripreneurship classes to teach people how to sustain themselves and their communities.

The band’s annual Cousoumeh Festival, a celebration of Siparia’s heritage and culture, showcases the community’s talents in music, the arts and food. Offshoots of that are the Cousoumeh Caravan which facilitates cultural exchange and the Cousoumeh Group which was established to promote community tourism.

A worker at the Deltones furniture factory. They make furniture from wooden pallets.

Sennon revealed that their latest venture, Railway Pizza, dirt oven pizzas, would soon be launched and their Siparia to Soweto project with Machel Montano and the late African giant Hugh Masekela is expected to be released in the coming months.

Outside of these ventures, the Deltones panyard is a hotbed of activity. On Friday nights, hundreds of people gather for a football tournament. There are music classes and art and craft classes as well among many other educational activities.

Sennon said they intend to establish a whole-day institution that would take children from pre-school to tertiary-level education to show that a panyard module in its evolved state as an institution can produce academic excellence at the highest level.

“A man will stand up and learn an eight-minute song in three hours. Why are we not taking that process and taking what happens there and implementing it in academics? That same child will be called a duncey-head in school,” he said.

With many pan sides only seeing activity around Carnival in preparation for Panorama or for other Pan Trinbago events, Deltones has created opportunities for member and community engagement that are not reliant on those.

“We are here developing THE panyard model and when we develop this model it can be reciprocated in a community based upon the heritage of that community, the socio-economics and the culture of that community at large but the foundation of the module remains because it is pro-innovation, it is pro-entrepreneurship, it is pro-health, it is pro-religiosity and philosophy and if all those factors are not intact you will be lacking. You could have 60 million Panorama trophies but what does that mean when people get robbed outside of your panyard?” he said.

A mural at Siparia Deltones panyard. The Meeting Place was the first single off of the musical project Siparia to Soweto between the band, Machel Montano and the late Hugh Masekela

Revealing that they are in the process of setting up modules in Debe, Buenos Aires, Erin and Oropouche and have established an institute in Sangre Grande, Sennon said the main foundational issue they uncover throughout the country is a lack of self-knowledge.

“If you don’t have a knowledge of self it is impossible to have knowledge of God. If you don’t have a knowledge of self it is impossible to have a knowledge of your environment and space and if you don’t have a knowledge of self you won’t have knowledge of the inhabitants of the space so is nothing for you to rob somebody because you don’t have knowledge of self,” he explained.

Asked to elaborate on how self-knowledge can be taught, Sennon said through steelpan.

“You teach that through art, art is the highest expression of self, music is the highest expression of art. You communicate those messages through the art and we happen to have one of the greatest art in the world, the steelpan,” he declared.

“When engaging with the pan itself, it shows development in a real prestige way. The story of pan speaks to something that was discarded, battered, rejected, and that particular thing came from…is a setta lil fellas from the ghetto who take it, shine it, dust it off and evolve it and they put it through fire and the pain and they burn it and they evolve it some more and they evolve it some more and it became the greatest instrument in the world,” he said.

“So what that shows you is a social thing that is possible. Yes, we are the sons of slaves but pan shows you that we can overcome that and evolve. Pan tells that story. It tells a story of innovation that you, sir, are innovative, so you are great. You are not a little zessing boy with your pants on your bottom, you are more than that, you are an innovator, you are a scientist. You have no knowledge of physics, you have no knowledge of chemistry and you take this thing with fourths and fifths… if that is not God what is that? So you are a spiritual being.”

Though they are sponsored today by Heritage Petroleum and receive support from other entities, Sennon said their come up was initially a difficult one. He said they dragged on their bellies to get to where they are before assistance came to them.

In that vein, he called on the Government to assist with financing.

He said: “We really don’t need the Government to develop anything for us. We engage in capacity development with our human resources from all sides of the coin. We need infrastructural development, we need tools, we need instruments, we need the ability to further develop the empire that we started, an empire that would foster economic freedom, and freedom of the mind, heart and soul but these things have a cost attached to it. The lack of it thereof won’t stop us in any way but that support will allow for a way faster evolution and quicker modeling of it in different communities.”


This article was originally published on Loop News (

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