Trinidad - Recently
on “Pan Diaspora” on the one-hour segment inside “Pan in Yuh Puefen”
on WACK radio 90.1 FM, the guest of honour was the intriguing Atiba
Chike Williams (pictured at right in red, with
Clifton and DJ Heshimu to the left and right, respectively).
The 18 year-old wonder boy is now a second-year student at the
United World College of the Adriatic (UWCAd) in Italy in pursuit of his IB
(International Baccalaureate Diploma).
As has always been the case Atiba was accompanied by his sister,
Nubia. Atiba explained that pan on the peninsula is still a
novelty. And Italians are still taken aback at the mellifluous
sounds emanating from the only percussion instrument invented since
the twentieth century.
Chike now finds himself in an institution - UWCAd - which is a reservoir of gifted
youngsters who have excelled in areas inclusive of piano, violin,
Mathematics, Physics among others.
Nubia explained that her brother’s gifted ability was noticed back
in 1990 when he was merely 18 months old. She iterated that the
family was practicing for a show whereupon Atiba started to cry and
misbehave. Instead of giving him a rattle or tambourine, she
gave him a pair of pan sticks just to let him play around with the
notes on the instrument. To everyone’s astonishment he played
the piece they were practicing “Where There Is Faith.”
Everyone was shocked.
Their mother was a bit careful and cautioned all seven siblings that
Atiba’s performance at home should be kept under covers. When
he was 2 years old, he performed before his local church
Thanksgiving celebration – his first public performance.
On another occasion when the family took a break during one of their
performances, Atiba coolly went to the steelpan and played “Amazing
Grace,” causing quite a stir, with people gathering around.
Then and there it was established that the two-year old was destined
for great things.
By the time he was four, Trinidad and Tobago’s National Carnival
Commission acknowledged his pan-playing prowess by having him
perform the national anthem for the opening of Dimanche Gras 1994.
He would go on to make his mark as a composer at age five.
In the arena of panorama he was merely nine years
old when he arranged a calypso
entitled “The Tenor Player” for a conventional steelband - Panasonic
Connection - in Trinidad. That was in 2002.
According to Nubia, her baby brother’s special abilities have
afforded him unique opportunities for education outside of his
normal peer group. He was allowed to sit in on a Jazz Theory Course
at age fourteen in 2004, at the University of the West Indies and
passed along with adult musicians who were in pursuit of their
In 2006 Atiba topped a class of Music Teachers at a course for Music
and the Computer.
These achievements must have been the impetus behind Nubia’s
research on “gifted musicians” in Trinidad and Tobago – inclusive of
Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Keisha Codrington, Anselm Walters, Earle Pierre
(deceased) and of course Atiba.
The ‘Pan Prodigy’ performed his latest composition on the soprano
[tenor] pan for the millions of listeners for its maiden airing on WACK Radio.
The piece was entitled “Impressions of England.”
Atiba revealed that
the inspiration for the composition occurred on his visit to the UK
during his winter break, Christmas 2007. According to the young pannist composing is a rather lengthy process
since he’s usually working on more than one piece at a time.
Atiba revealed some of the challenges he
experienced during his student tenure in Italy. One of these
included having to attempt to blend his pan with a shampoo bottle
after it was mishandled by an airline. In offering a rationale he claimed that even though he had
pursued a pan tuning course years ago, he really had no experience in
pan tuning, nor did he have access to pan tuning gadgets in Italy. This created great laughter in the studio among Hollis, Heshimu and
As a composer Atiba iterated that he might be ‘strutting’ down the
street and if an idea comes to him, it may stay in his head for years
where he seldom toys with until it eventually spits out when he is
able to assemble it into a piece.
“Ideas flow from almost anywhere. Sometimes pieces are discarded
simply because they are too raw or green.”
When quizzed about his vision, he expressed that it is to become a
psychologist, performer, composer, and arranger. He iterates,
however, that his brand of psychology would be through music therapy
i.e. playing music for terminally ill patients or differently-abled
students, in a similar vein as a previous guest of Pan Diaspora –
German-based John Innis - as well as Jeff Barnes who did some work
with south Trinidad-based Skiffle Bunch steel orchestra a few years ago.
Many WACK FM listeners congratulated Atiba through the shout box as well as
by phone on his amazing achievement in such a short space of time.
These included Stephen Valentine who remembered the budding genius
and his performance at the Cheshire Home many moons ago. Then there was Valerie from New York who claimed that he blew her
mind and left her in awe. She felt that the experience was so
refreshing in view of so many negatives being bandied around about
Then there was the ‘Bake and Shark Specialist’ who was so excited of
Atiba’s Cocoyea Village heritage. She was quite emphatic in urging
parents to take heed and to stand by their children adding that with
Nubia, Atiba is in good hands.
The ‘Lady on the Hill’ also felt that with the likes of Atiba “the culture
of pan is in safe hands.”
Peter Warner from New York was also in high praise for the young
Pan Diaspora Visionary
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