Celebration of Women
and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan - 2005


Related Links
Carnivalitis: The Conflicting Discourse of Carnival


Pan Music 24-7

Without Compromise


Let us hear your views   



What pan do you play if any?

What is your name of your band or favorite band?

Where are you from?

E-mail address?

What is your web site?




Caution: Very Sweet Pan Music, Very Addictive



The Evolution Of The
Woman Pannist

Dr. L. Trevor Grant

Dr. L. Trevor Grant is the author of several books including Carnivalitis: The Conflicting Discourse of Carnival. Dr. Grant has written extensively on the cultural festivals of Trinidad and Tobago and is completing a new book on Carnival entitled Carnival of the Gods. To view published books, visit his website at  www.yacos.org .


It is not an accidental or chance occurrence that women are now active participants in the steelpan movement in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the pan-playing world. Women are the majority population in most countries and consequently, it is only natural that they become involved in the social, political and cultural dynamics of their nation. Steelpan music therefore is no exception.

Steelpan music – one of the music of Carnival - is going through its own metamorphosis and like calypso, soca and chutney music – there is no longer a gender partiality in the musical culture because females are encouraged to be active partners in the movement. For example, about 90 percent of the revelers (masqueraders) in Carnival bands are female and they have added not only beauty but also color and excitement to the festivities. Obviously, females have taken over Carnival and are the driving force behind the national festival of Trinidad and Tobago hence the tremendous success and growth of Carnival.

The steelpan movement, now enjoying international status is the new, innovative, acoustic instrument of the 21st century and this exposure from the outside world has brought about incremental changes including an increasing number of female pannists and female admirers. Female pan pioneers like Daisy James McLean, Norma Calender, Gemma Worrel-Sealey, Hazel Henley, Rufina Thomas, Eva John, Merle Albino de Coteau, Franka Headley, Dr. Dawn Batson, Dr. Pat Bishop, Jocelyn Pierre et al., are to be commended for having the hindsight to venture into man’s self-acclaimed domain (without a fight) and are such an important part of the musical culture that without them, the pan culture would probably become extinct.

All of the steelpan orchestras in Trinidad and Tobago (its birthplace), New York, Germany, Sweden, Canada, England, the United States etc. have women pannists and in the recent Panorama competitions in Trinidad, many women pan players shared the spotlight with their male counterparts in the various steel orchestras. Renegades, Phase II, Desperadoes, All Stars, Exodus, Sforzata, Skiffle Bunch, Fonclaire, Arima All Stars, St. Augustine Senior Comprehensive, Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra etc., all had many female players and these pan orchestras are now dependent on the female presence and influence, in order to maintain their domination in the various pan competitions.

Women have paid their dues in society and it should not be a big deal for women to be active partners and participants in anything – cultural, social or political. However, their inclusion should be seen as a necessary transition and not as an affirmative action policy because if it is, then women’s role in the movement would be limited and minimal and that would not augur well for the steelpan movement. The inclusion of women in the various pan orchestras is an important phenomenon because the movement badly needs new input, new creativity, new pannists and a new following.

The steelpan movement in Trinidad and Tobago is having problems with its management, policies, competitions, prizes etc., and has been criticized over the years because of its ineffectiveness, poor management, ridiculous policies and backward innovations. However, the main steelpan event – Panorama – is the most popular and well-attended festivity for Carnival. Obviously, much more could (should) be done by Pan Trinbago, the steelpan organization, to not only improve Panorama and other pan events such as Pan in the 21st Century, World Steelband Music Festival, Schools Music Festival, Pan Parang… but to be more innovative by creating a pan competition for women. This would be a wonderful gesture and acknowledgement for women and would in essence recognize their musical talents and contribution to the culture, and more importantly add another spectacle to the dynamic festivities of the cultural capital of the world.

Of course, much more could be done for the pan movement. For instance, steelpan musicians need to be able to read and compose music and resources should be made available for this. There should also be more experimentation with the instrument and financial resources should be made available to conduct experimentation along with securing permanent, suitable facilities to house steelpan theatres (pan yards). Pan Factories should also be constructed throughout the two islands to educate, teach and produce pans for local and foreign consumption. Finally, ongoing scholarly research and documentation of findings such as by publishing books would greatly professionalize the art form and provide valuable information on the mystical instrument.

Women’s participation in the once male dominated steelpan movement is very good for the pan industry because it creates diversity in the qualitative and quantitative expression of the pannists. The female pan player has increased the life span of the industry and has given new meaning to the once ridiculed, maligned steelband movement. However, as inclusion and progress are being made in the pan industry, other arrangements would have to be made to make women more comfortable in the male designed pan yard.


© 2005 and courtesy Dr. L. Trevor Grant

©2005 A When Steel Talks - EXCLUSIVE

Send your articles and/or pictures for consideration to whensteeltalks@hotmail.com

A Celebration of Women
And The Steelpan Artform
Follow When Steel Talks on

Comment here!

Search for Anything Steelpan Music Related



March 15, 2005 

Headlines * Site Map * Site Search Events * Pan Global * Message Board * Guest Book * Pan News * Pan Radio * Pan New York * Pan TnT * About Us

©2005 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved