Steelpan Arranger
Salah Wilson - Steelpan Arranger
WST Pan Photographer

Salah Wilson

Salah Wilson - Salah’s Steelpan Academy, Flamingoes
Panorama Championships
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Salah Wilson has been involved with Flamingoes Steel Orchestra as far back as he can remember, because, he says “The ‘Steelband in my grandmother’s backyard’ was Flamingoes. I had to wait my turn to get involved even though my uncles, brothers, cousins and other relatives were part of it …they would not allow young guys like me and other cousins to be involved, not until around the mid to late 60s.

“I may have started around 1966-67 by sneaking in the pan yard during the day time. I recall playing the song “Carnival in ‘68” so I would assume that 1968 was my official entry into the band. I was about 16 years old. By today’s standard that is a late start, because my kids began at age 5 and 6 and my grandson began at age 4. I migrated to Canada in 1973 returned to the Trinidad Panorama in 1975 where I played with Flamingoes and Pandemonium. I did not return to Trinidad for some 7 years after that. At the end of 1982 I again returned to Trinidad and this time played with Exodus and Desperadoes in 1983 and 1984 (Flamingoes was no longer going to Panorama).

“After returning to Montreal in 1984, I began a more intense approach to pan abroad and started from the bottom up by taking the pan to the subway and street and anywhere possible. This subway ‘buskin’ gig went on for three years; during this time I did music theory Sec.III, IV and V at the McGill Conservatory.

“In 1988 I put together my family group “Salah & Family Steelpan Workshop” and introduced steelpan programs to two communities in Montreal. In 1991 I introduced the steelpan programs to two public schools in Montreal and enrolled in Concordia University in 1992. I graduated in 1995 with honours, with a BFA in music Jazz specialization using my pans as my principal instrument. During that decade more pan programs were introduced to more schools, my Academy “Salah’s Steelpan Academy” was founded, and two major festivals were introduced - “Classics to Calypso” in the winter and then the “Pan Jamboree” in the summer, which evolved to the “Montreal International Steelpan Festival”.

“From 1995 to present time, first my family group and then my Academy have been participating in the annual Toronto Panorama and Boston from 1997-1999. My Academy has won four consecutive panorama victories in Toronto (2007-2010) and seven consecutive panorama victories in Montreal (2007-2013). I completed my first Steelpan Text book “Steelpan Playing With Theory” in 1999. Since then I have written an additional six Steelpan text books.

“In 2009 I got back involved with “Flamingoes,” my village band in Trinidad, and since then it has been my quest to complete the renaissance of Flamingoes. This meant starting over literally from a handful of kids.

“I also continued to pursue higher education in Canada by enrolling at York University in Toronto in 2012, graduating with a Masters in Ethnomusicology at the end of 2013, at the same time returning to Trinidad for the Panorama season with Flamingoes.

“My objective is to eventually return home to Trinidad after living abroad for some 40 years. My next stage is the completion of my academics with a big push towards the PhD program.”

 
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