Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pan in the Plaza

Every year during the summer, our local National Cultural Foundation in conjunction with the Barbados Association of Steelpan Teachers and The Central Bank of Barbados sponsors an intensive three week (75 hours) training camp for students (from 6 to 19 years old) in the rudiments of steel pan music.
Under the direction of camp director, Kently Gill, who has worked in several schools across London, teaching the steel pan, the students are taught not only how to play, but also how to hone their performance skills.
This year's event was advertised to be staged in the outdoors at the Cathedral Plaza, but due to the inclement weather, the production was moved indoors to The Frank Collymore Hall.

Every single student that participated in the camp had the chance to be showcased on stage, and they all did a great job. As always, no filming or recording was allowed in the Hall, but I'm sure some renegade has uploaded a covert youtube video, so hopefully I shall be able to include for your pleasure.

One little miss arrived late during the performance, and her dad was encouraging her to wait until the song was over before she walked on, but NOOO, not that little one. With beaming eyes and a determined walk, she pulled away from her dad and joined her mates onstage, taking her position with pride. I sat enthused by this little tyke, and I felt so proud as if she were my own. 

Those kids played their little hearts out. They made those steel pans "talk" as we say here. The quality of the steel pan performers in only three weeks was astonishing. These kids were swaying, tapping and jumping up and down as they played, dapperly dressed in their brightly coloured tee shirts.......with so much enthusiasm.

All genres of music were covered on the program...
Jazz.....Just the two of us - Grover Washington Jr. 
Calypso....several local numbers but also Sugar Bum Bum by Lord Kitchener
Pop......Thriller by Michael Jackson and Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5
Reggae...Get up Stand up and Jammin by Bob Marley to name a few.

What amazed me too was their ability to move around from one pan to the next playing from tenor pan, cello pan, guitar pan, double tenor pan, tenor bass pan...oh absolutely incredible.

Now a little background. The steel pan is a musical instrument created in Trinidad & Tobago back in the 1930's. It is made from 55 gallon steel drums that previously held oil, and comes in a variety of musical ranges.
Belonging to the percussion family of instruments (instruments that are struck or shaken), it is played using a pair of straight sticks with rubber tips; the size and type of rubber tip varies according to the class of pan being played.
When played collectively it is called a steel band, and each individual is called a pannist.
A bit of Wiki trivia: "Since Pythagoras calculated the formula for the musical cycle of fourths and fifths, Steel Pans are the only instruments made to follow this configuration".

This year's theme was "Links of Steel", and it was appropriately named as it was a combination of hard work, dedication and  discipline by these youngsters.

No renegade uploaded videos of last evening's performance as yet!

Here is a link to the Barbados National Youth Steel Orchestra.

 In case anyone is interested, learning to play the steel pan is one of the items on my Bucket List.


  1. Gosh that takes me back to my early 20s when I was involved with Stanley House in Liverpool which had a large Caribbean membership and steel bands were played. In fact Liverpool had (and still has) plenty of steel bands. They are one of the most evocative ways of making music. I haven't seen one playing for many years though. Sounds like a really wonderful evening.

  2. GB, that's true about the steel pan bands in the UK, we have had a few touring here over the years, and they sounded great.


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