- Often one can look back in history and identify a single
event, time and/or a single person whose presence,
sacrifices and deeds were so enormous and critical to a
movement, that we are simultaneously happily amazed and frightened
- at the fragility of the survival of subsequent dependant events and cultural occurrences. There
are similar stories throughout the Caribbean of steelpan
people who were the only entities that stood between life and
death of the steelband movement in their midst.
In Dominica the man who has played the pivotal role in keeping
the candle lit on the Dominican steelband scene is Mr.
Edward 'Eddie' André. Mr. André has at times single-handedly been the shield between the steelpan's continuous
presence, and complete extinction, from the Dominican music
Mr. Edward André
Currently Mr. André is Dominica's only
resident tuner. Mr. André is also one of three instructors
on the island. Choosing to consciously forego
lucrative settings and opportunities abroad - André opted
instead to serve his country,
Dominica. In the early seventies the Dominican
steelband music scene fell victim to emigration and the
increased cost of steelpans instruments.
First introduced to the instrument as a youth in the early
1950's, Mr. André remembers well the day he was
returning home from school as a thirteen-year old, and being
totally captivated by the magical sound of the steelpan
instrument as a steelband performed on a neighborhood
corner. He immediately fell in love with the
instrument for life.
Inspired by what he
had heard - the youth literally saved his pennies to purchase
his first instrument for the princely sum of five dollars. Blessed with a
natural gift and talent for the instrument, André's proficiency on the instrument was immediately acknowledged.
In spite of his young age he was sought after by local
steelband leaders to perform in their steelbands.
André had the ability to play any song on the instrument after
hearing it once. He was recruited into Sun Valley
steelband, whose leader was impressed with André's playing
addition to André's performing skills on the instrument, he
became very interested in its actual construction. A member of the famed Brute Force
Steelband from Antigua provided both a member in his band and
himself, with what was then known as a baritone pan and a
tenor pan. He studied the instruments and began
experimenting in building his own. André
quickly became proficient at constructing instruments which
he considers an ongoing learning and improvement process
even to this day.
Mr. André has played a critical role
in the development of almost every steelband-related
activity in the island. His days are quite long has he
begins his regimen of tuning early in the mornings, before
embarking on his instructor duties that take him late
into the nights, for as many as three bands in a day.
He is very happy with the
current steelband resurgence in Dominica, as he remembers
when steelbands were previously in abundance in the country.
He was extremely proud of the highly successful
Pan competition held in Dominica last April.
Dominica was represented by the Cultural Drama Club Steel
Orchestra under the tutelage of Mr. André, and captured second
Mr. André looks forward to seeing
Dominica catch up with rest of the Caribbean by instituting
a comprehensive Pan in Schools program. In addition, he
would like to see the re-emergence of steelband competitions
like the ones he participated in during the 1960's, to generate
further interest and excitement in the rebounding steelband movement in