Musashino-City, Tokyo, Japan - Japanese steel pan player Sasaki Kentaro who visited Trinidad and performed with Phase II Pan Groove in 2005, has a passion for Pan, and earlier this month he funneled this passion into what became the festival ‘Pan Love 2012.’ In Japan, he says indeed “there are a few steelpan festivals, but they are more like school recitals.” In part it was this which made him determined to have an alternate platform for Pan in Japan. To get his brainchild off the ground, at the end of 2011 Sasaki got together with fellow musicians, who, like himself play other ‘conventional’ instruments such as the guitar and accordion in addition to Pan, and set about planning the festival.
“The show was a great success, everything went well, there were good vibrations,” says Sasaki. “Japanese people love Pan music.” The show was several hours long, with each participating band taking the stage for thirty minutes. In all ten ensembles got the audience going during Pan Love 2012 in the intimate setting of Star Pine’s Cafe in Musashino-City, Tokyo. So is ‘Pan Love 2013’ in the works? Naturally! “Of course yes!! I want more steelbands to perform,” declares an enthused Sasaki.
There are more than fifty steelbands in all of Japan, though few are large groups. Sasaki himself is the leader and arranger for Zipangu Steel Orchestra. Even with fifty-odd bands the sight of a live steelband can still be a novelty for some Japanese. However, according to Sasaki, people have heard Pan before and caught performances on various media such as television. “Year after year, steelpan is becoming [more] popular in Japan,” he explains. As for Sasaki Kentaro himself, he looks forward to returning to Trinidad in 2013, for the euphoric experience of once again being part of Phase II Pan Groove and competing in the annual steelband Panorama competition.
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