Women In Steel  - at the queens llibrary   - A Tribute To The SteelPan Woman


Carnivalitis: The Conflicting Discourse of Carnival


Celebration of Women
and the Steelpan Art Form

                                                              Tribute To Women In Pan - 2005


By Dr. L. Trevor Grant

As part of the Celebration of Women and the Steelpan and Women’s History Month, the Queens Borough Public Library presented the all-female steelband from Brooklyn – Women in Steel – on March 20th 2005. Playing to a very responsive and captive audience comprised predominantly of Americans (white and black), the eight piece ensemble provided a scintillating mixture of calypso, jazz, samba, R & B, reggae and classical music, much to the delight of the diverse audience that included a surprisingly large number of children.

Despite the cold, soggy, rainy day, around 100 people paid their respects to the new acoustic musical innovation of the 21st century – the steelpan – and based on the thunderous ovations, those in attendance thoroughly enjoyed the performance and were treated to an entertaining, lively, musical interlude. As for the performance itself, Women in Steel led by Claudette Baptiste played in a relaxed, laid back manner but got their musical message across. I expected a few highly energized, individual, acoustic performances but that was not to be. However, the synchronized group sound was audible, clear and moderate. Although the acoustics in the auditorium was poor, the music was soothing and enjoyable and resonated well with the audience.

Questions pertaining to Black Historians were posed to children in the audience and they answered all the questions correctly. The question and answer session conducted between tunes went down well with the audience who appeared to really appreciate the historical, educational discourse and musical expression. It was also pleasant to see adults and their children bonding, dancing and swaying to the sweet sounds of pan music. In essence, the mini-concert turned out to be an entertaining family event.

Steelpan music is still a new, mystical musical expression for many and this mini-concert by Women in Steel should be the beginning of regular concerts by the many steel orchestras in New York City. Concerts should be held in libraries and other cultural centers throughout the city on a regular basis. Exposing the musical instrument to its many music fans would eventually be beneficial to pannists who want to seek employment opportunities in the profession. Steelpan music is big business now and pannists should be compensated for their years of hard, unpaid work and pannists should also be at the forefront of the musical evolution.

The presence of many children alongside the diverse adult audience speaks volumes for the musical art form and culture and shows that the steelpan is on its way to becoming not only a heavyweight instrument but a very important addition to the cast of instruments already accepted by musicians and musicologists. However, more laborious work lies ahead to create a larger following for the steelpan while at the same time learning ways to properly market and promote steelpan music in the Americas. The steelpan is now an international instrument and business people should be given the task to promote and secure the profits from this important musical innovation.

Dr. L. Trevor Grant is the author of Carnivalitis: The Conflicting Discourse of Carnival – Available at website: www.yacos.org



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