Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

 

Tribute To Women In Pan

 

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Meet Jahnya Gilkes - New York, USA

On who is her favorite arranger -  “Marc Brooks because he has seen me grow from when I first started playing to now, and has challenged me and pushed me to be the best that I can be. Plus, his arrangements are always vibes and sound amazing in my opinion. From the intro to the minor - straight sweet music, which it makes it even more fun to play.” 

She is a fashion designer, a model and panist. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks -  panist Jahnya Gilkes reflects on her feelings, experiences, and desires for  the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Who is Jahnya Gilkes - tell us about yourself?”

Jahnya G. - “I was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in a West Indian household. As the middle child I was shy and not very outspoken. Growing up I always listened to all different kinds of music, mostly old soca and reggae. Then eventually I learned how to play the piano and guitar and read sheet music. I’ve always loved music, and aside from that fashion has been a really big part of my life; it was and still is a way for me to express myself and relax.”


WST - “When and how did you first become aware of the steelpan instrument?”

Jahnya G. - “I was about eight years old when I went to my first Pan Stars practice with my older sister Quiana, my younger sister Iyanna and my cousin Kamicha. Seeing my older sister and cousin play I decided to give it a try.”


WST - “What keeps your passion for the instrument, the music and art form going?”

Jahnya G. - “Music is a big part of who I am and how I express myself. It helped me through many different life lessons and has created a path for me to help and inspire others.”

Jahnya Gilkes performs with New York Pan Stars in 2017
Jahnya Gilkes performs with New York Pan Stars in 2017

WST - “You are a proud member of New York Pan Stars. Tell us about that relationship.”

Jahnya G. - “I started playing with New York Pan Stars when I was eight; that is where I learned how to play. Since I met everyone when I was small they have been like family to me. They actually are family to me. Even when I stop playing and moved, when I came back I was welcomed with open arms and an open pan. They teach me new things all the time and I have been able to travel and have fun experiencing those new things.”


WST - “You've also performed with other bands - tell us about a few of these experiences?”

Jahnya G. - “My Panorama band Pan Evolution has also became family to me. Being able to meet new people in the Pan world who not only support you but enlighten you as you continue to grow older, is wonderful. With this band I was able to experience placing second in New York Panorama 2016 and we sure did work hard.”

Jahnya Gilkes performs with Pan Evolution in 2017
Jahnya Gilkes performs with Pan Evolution in 2017

WST - “What is your opinion on the current state of Pan in New York?”

Jahnya G. - “Pan in New York is not at its highest point right now but is definitely gaining more exposure and love. It's all up to the bands and players that are in the community to keep it alive and encourage the younger players for continue to have fun and play.”


WST - “What do your family and friends think about your involvement with Pan?”

Jahnya G. - “My family and friends are really supportive and most of them play Pan themselves. They love the lessons and experience I gain from it.”


WST - “Who, and what are your musical influences?”

Jahnya G. - “My musical influences range from old school reggae to R&B, from people like Tarrus Riley and Bob Marley to J.Cole and Daniel Caesar.”

WST - “Who is your favorite arranger and why?”

Jahnya G. - Marc Brooks because he has seen me grow from when I first started playing to now, and has challenged me and pushed me to be the best that I can be. Plus, his arrangements are always vibes and sound amazing in my opinion. From the intro to the minor - straight sweet music, which it makes it even more fun to play.”


WST - “Are there any other instruments you play?”

Jahnya G. - “I used to play piano and guitar, I haven’t played in a while but I do remember the basics and how to read sheet music.”


WST - “Do you think the steelband community and its musicians are generally well-regarded/respected?”

Jahnya G. - “I feel like we are for the most part well-respected and are gaining more respect as our the culture spreads throughout the world. Even though people don’t think of playing Pan as a way of life, it is and that is what matters; sharing our way of life though music.”


WST - “What is the greatest challenge facing this current generation of steelpan musicians from your perspective?”

Jahnya G. - “In my opinion there are two "greatest" challenges. One is finding good, young, aspiring arrangers/players who are willing to put in the work to improve and become great, and the lack of practice space both during stage side and Panorama time.

"Yes, the arrangers that are in the game are wonderful and their music brings vibes and helps build their aesthetic, but fresh ideas and young people going after their dreams in the pan world are good too. The younger players are the one who have to help keep pan alive; as time goes by the fate of the steelband community starts to be in the youths' hands, the ones growing up in the community and learning and experiencing different things than the people older than them did.

"Also there are not a lot of practice spaces for steel bands to perfect their craft and get ready for gigs or competitions. This causes a lack of readiness when it's time to perform.”


WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Jahnya G. - “Panorama to me is a way for some of the top or well-known steel bands to show off their aesthetic and have fun living their way of life. With it being a competition this helps bands not only put their best foot forward, but arrangers too show off their talent and how they interpreted the song of their choice.”

Jahnya Gilkes performs with NY Pan Stars in 2017
Jahnya Gilkes performs with NY Pan Stars in 2017

WST - “Is Panorama a curse or blessing from your perspective?”

Jahnya G. - “I believe Panorama is a blessing because it's a platform for arrangers and players to come together and show off their talent.”


WST - “Being female, were you ever cautioned or perhaps even dissuaded in any way, from becoming involved in steelband?”

Jahnya G. - “Being a female in the steel band community I was never dissuaded from getting involved and I am grateful for that.”


WST - “Do you believe women are finally getting the acknowledgment and opportunities they deserve?”

Jahnya G. - “Yes, I do because we are gaining more opportunities and are being credited for our talents.”


WST - “What have you been most proud about as it relates to Pan?”

Jahnya G. - “I am most proud about how the steel band community is expanding, and with me being apart of two steel bands that are both like family to me and the accomplishments I’ve experienced with them. This can show that we are coming up in the world as musicians. Being part of both New York Pan Stars and Pan Evolution has helped me get better as a player and meet people that can help me in the future.”


WST - “What disappoints you the most in the steelband movement?”

Jahnya G. - “The thing that disappoints me the most is that sometimes people are not given the credit they deserve and that stops the steel band community from growing.”

Jahnya Gilkes (right) performs with NY Pan Stars in 2017
Jahnya Gilkes performs with NY Pan Stars in 2017

WST - “What would be your advice to young female panists all over the world who are dreaming of becoming involved with the steelpan instrument as a career move?”

Jahnya G. - “The advice I have is go for it! Work hard and just have fun, be open to trying a new pan or learning to play all pans.”


WST - “What is your vision for the steelpan instrument?”

Jahnya G. - “My vision for the steel pan instrument is for it to continue to be unique with its sound and for bands to be able to get more of them for their players.”


WST - “Are there any other steelband-related matters you would like to bring forward?”

Jahnya G. - “No.”


WST - “Where do you see Jahnya Gilkes in ten years?”

Jahnya G. - “I see myself with a successful career in both Fashion and Music. Playing my part in the steel band community to make it even better than it is now.”




 
   Jahnya Gilkes performs with Pan Evolution during the orchestra’s 2017 Pan Yard Recording by Basement Recordings




Their Story, Their Voice, Their Life, Their Dreams - click for more stories

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