Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

 

Tribute To Women In Pan

 

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Meet Patricia Black - Trinidad & Tobago

“I come alive as I transform into the woman on the bass while I lose my soul jamming to the sweetness, the harmonic and melodious arrangement by my legendary arranger Len “Boogsie” Sharpe....Panorama to me is one of the greatest shows on earth. It is a platform where musicians both pan men and pan women all over the world come together to express the passion we all have for pan, with a musical vengeance....”

Unabashedly proud of her pan involvement - she speaks of the immense joys and fulfillment she has felt over the years as a seasoned panist and member of the renowned Phase II Pan Groove.

Bright, loyal and confident - in an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, Patricia Black shares her feelings, experiences and insight into the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks Women Logo

WST - “Tell us about yourself?”

Patricia B. - “I am Patricia Black, a Customer Sales Representative at Courts, with a background in modelling, advertising and passion for playing pan. I am the mother of a two-year-old princess and the youngest of my three siblings. I come alive as I transform into the woman on the bass while I lose my soul jamming to the sweetness, the harmonic and melodious arrangement by my legendary arranger Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. I obtained a Grade II pass when I sat Music at the CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) Level in Secondary School. This enables me the basic knowledge and understanding for what music really means. I wish to someday further my studies in music for my pleasure. I love meeting new people and challenging myself in anything I attempt to do.”


WST - “How were you first introduced to the steelpan instrument and art form?”

Patricia B. - “I was first introduced to steelpan at the tender age of twelve at the Secondary School level. At the age of thirteen, I joined Couva Joylanders Steel Orchestra and became a stage side member. During my five-year stay with said band I obtained exposure and experience to the pan world on a substantial scale. There I first experienced Panorama, Pan In The 21st Century, Borough Day festival and Pan on d'Avenue just to name a few. With this band I was also granted the opportunity and was featured live in concert with musical icon Ray Holman. Back then I played in the frontline on a tenor pan and from time to time, strumming on the guitar pan was my jig.”


WST - “What made you fall in love with the instrument and its music?”

Patricia B. - “I was captivated by the sound this magical instrument projected; also my love for music on the whole always made me gravitate to any musical instrument, steel pan being my favourite. I spent most of my time in the music room during school every day, and as a stage side member at the pan yard every night. I had to fall in love with this instrument.”


WST - “You are a proud member of Phase II Pan Groove in Trinidad - talk about this experience through the years?”

Patricia Black with the legendary Len “Boogsie” Sharpe
Patricia Black with the legendary Len “Boogsie” Sharpe

Patricia B. - “I am quite honoured to be a part of Phase II Pan Groove, as growing up in the pan world I always saw them to be one of my favourites. Phase II is a band that has a lot of talented, mature adults, some who stood as role models to me. Friendly, respectable and loving they are indeed. Adding to that, experiencing first-hand what the legendary Len “Boogsie” Sharpe can do to those 7 letters of the alphabet on the bass and treble clef, is beyond magical. You know what it is like during practice - you stop playing, you're standing behind  your pan, pores raised, hands up in the air, eyes shot and you're just grooving because the melodies in the music too sweet to play. It’s almost like a sugar rush, an experience you can’t really explain. 

"I played in seven Panorama finals, obtained the Panorama title twice. I started off as tenor bass player in which I played for two years, but then realized that those four bass pans didn't do much for my 5ft 9 frame. This challenged me into the seven-bass which I love...love...love... playing. The music which "Boogsie" gives the background to play is like a man's voice singing at the lowest vocal level, and trust me when I say it isn’t as easy some people say it is.”


WST - “How has Phase II's leader and arranger - the legendary Len "Boogsie" Sharpe - influenced your own musical development?”

Patricia B. - “During my CXC examinations I was required to listen and analyse, a piece which was arranged by the legend himself, which was when I fell in love with his musical style, capability and ability both as an arranger and panist.”


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

Patricia B. - “I love music on a whole so I have so many musical influences. However keeping it on my level, Jenessa Baptiste, once known as the face of Phase II, who once was my bass section leader / vice-captain - is one in particular who influenced me. The vibes, the commitment and passion she has for music always stood out to me. Being a close friend of the individual and obtaining many other friendships with some of these "pan jumbies" in the music world have a huge impact on my likeness for pan.”


Patricia Black
Patricia Black

WST - “What keeps your passion for pan going?”

Patricia B. - “The sweetness in the music captivates and moves me. I have always used music as a form of relaxation and stress reliever from a lot of things in life. Being in the pan yard with some of my close friends and my Phase II family keeps my passion for pan going as I enjoy being around them. My countdown for Panorama begins just after the 8-minute performance ends on finals night. Being in an environment with people who all have a love for the same thing is really a different experience.”


WST - “Do any of your family members play?”

Patricia B. - “Yes my older sister and I both play in Phase II. She is actually the reason I started playing with Phase II as she joined a year before I did.”


WST - “What do friends, extended family think of your involvement with the steelband art form?”

Patricia B. - “My family and friends are a very supportive bunch. Anything I participate in they are always there to support. My father in particular was once a pan man and always shared his experiences of the many bands he played with, so I guess he has the same passion for pan as we do.”


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

Patricia B. - “Yes I have been at times. Many people have the perception that the pan yard is not a good place. They believe it’s full of bad influences and violence. Also the distance I travel and the long hours that I spend at the pan yard have always been an issue with my loved ones, but none of these factors have ever deterred me from doing what I love.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Patricia B. - “Panorama to me is one of the greatest shows on earth. It is a platform where musicians both pan men and pan women all over the world come together to express the passion we all have for pan, with a musical vengeance. It is one of the shows/competitions that people from all walks of life can appreciate, and enjoy the sweet sound of our national instrument as pan players sweat, jump high and play their hearts out while putting on a spectacular performance hoping to become Panorama champions. It is more than just a one-day show, it's a season you anticipate to share with your pan family.”


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

Patricia B. - “A blessing it is indeed, as it brings people of different ethnic descent, age and gender together as one team to project one sound, with the hunger of becoming the best on the final night of the competition.”


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

Patricia B. - “I am proud of the fact that pan, my country's national instrument, is making waves not only in the Caribbean but on a global scale. It has given me the opportunity to build friendships with people from countries I never dreamt to visit. One of my proudest moments was waking up to see  myself on the front page on the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday jumping high, wearing the biggest smile, surrounded by my seven-bass pan. I believe it was indeed one of the most positive rays of sunlight spreading through my country that day.”

Patricia Black
Patricia Black

WST - “What about the steelband art form do you find most disappointing?”

Patricia B. - “The politics, the lack of appreciation they show to pan players, the lack of attention pan gets and the removal of some of the pan shows that happen after Panorama, for example Pan In The 21st Century. A lot of people don't know pan exists after the carnival season and this stems from a lack of proper advertising.”


WST - “There were reports of poor audience numbers for the 2018 Panorama final night competition; certainly the North Stand saw less attendance. If you witnessed this, what are your thoughts, and what do you believe might turn things around?”

Patricia B. - “Yes I noticed the drop in the attendance for this year’s Panorama. However, I believe it has a lot to do with the crime situation in the country. Many people stayed away from the crowds and the carnival festivities this year. Another key factor leading to such is advertising; I honestly believe that much efforts do not go into proper advertisement for the Panorama finals. Also, too many other events are happening on the said night of Panorama finals.”


WST - “There were reports of poor audience numbers for the 2018 Panorama final night competition; certainly the North Stand saw less attendance. If you witnessed this, what are your thoughts, and what do you believe might turn things around?”

Patricia B. - “Yes I noticed the drop in the attendance for this year’s Panorama. However, I believe it has a lot to do with the crime situation in the country. Many people stayed away from the crowds and the carnival festivities this year. Another key factor leading to such is advertising, I honestly believe that much efforts do not go into proper advertisement for the Panorama finals. Also, too many other events are happening on the said night of Panorama finals.”


WST - “Do you think the steelband community and its musicians are well-regarded/respected in Trinidad & Tobago?”

Patricia B. - “No. There has always been a rift among Pan Trinbago, players and the bands' management. I believe it all starts from the heads, and if Pan Trinbago can’t respect us, the pan lovers, how can the public? They need to start showing more appreciation to the players for the commitment and efforts we put into making Panorama what it really is.

"A lot of very young people are becoming more fond of the pan movement, and the distance in which we travel, and the hours in which we stay at these pan yards, says it is all for the passion we have for steelpan.”


WST - “What is your vision for Pan a decade from now?”

Patricia B. - “Well as I mentioned before I would like that pan players, bands and the instrument itself receive more attention and appreciation all round. It would be nice for Pan Trinbago to produce more shows during the year or maybe revamp some of what we had, so that we can share with both musicians and non-musicians the sweetness this magical instrument can present.”

Patricia Black
Patricia Black

WST - “If you could change one thing about Pan what would that be?”

Patricia B. - “I would not change anything about “pan” itself but I would help change the way it is perceived. However though, I do wish they can design something that can take my bass rack up the drags and onto the stage, so that when I reach on the stage I can channel all my energy into what can be a winning performance.”


WST - “What advice would you give to young and upcoming females who would like to follow in your footsteps as a female steelpan musician?”

Patricia B. - “Times have changed; women in steel are somewhat being treated much better, however when in a management or even as a regular position remain strong, be firm and defeat time with talent. Be confident projecting that women can be just as powerful as men can be.”


WST - “After playing Pan for some time, several young adults eventually cease playing. Do you have any plans in this regard?”

Patricia B. - “At this point in time I don’t think I would officially retire as a panist but there might be a year I just feel to relax, listen and support members of my pan family in other bands, as sometimes listening to an entire arrangement as a spectator is a different experience. I have noticed while playing inside a band you tend to miss some of the sweetest phrases and synchronized melodies taking place. Also, I strongly believe in the saying 'pan before band' because I have a love for the music the instrument projects, and there isn't enough space for no one band to facilitate the amount of talented players and arrangers sweet T&T has.”


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

Patricia B. - “We play for the love of pan not for the money... a little appreciation goes a long way.”


photos provided by Patricia Black


   Patricia Black performs with Phase II Pan Groove during the 2018 National Panorama finals




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