Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

 

Tribute To Women In Pan

 

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Meet Zakiya De Coteau - Trinidad & Tobago

“In 2016 I made history with Platinum All-Female Steel Orchestra by becoming the first all-female band to compete in the panorama competition. I also had the opportunity to experience different cultures performing at the Panorama competitions in both New York and St. Vincent. Overall, it has been tough at times being involved in the pan fraternity but, I have always been grateful for the opportunity.” 

Despite being young in age, she posses an unapologetic combination of intellect, awesome talent, a confidence and beauty that are in the DNA of this generation of  trailblazing women panists. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks -  Zakiya De Coteau shares her feelings, experiences, and insight into the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Zakiya De Coteau?”

Zakiya D. - “Zakiya De Coteau is a dedicated and determined musician. Born into a musical family, I was exposed to the instrument at a tender age. Having been heavily involved in the performing arts, during my primary school years I joined the Malick Folk Performing Company and Caribbean School of Dance.”


WST - “How and when did you first become involved with Pan?”

Zakiya D. - “I started playing pan at age four and first performed at my Pre-school graduation playing ‘Bits of Paper’ on the tenor. I can also recall playing that entire song with one hand and holding the rim of the pan with the other hand. In 2007 I joined Pamberi Steel Orchestra at age twelve where I played my first Panorama. Ever since then I have performed with many other bands for Panorama.”


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

Zakiya D. - “Knowing every day that God has blessed me with such a wonderful talent keeps me going.”

Zakiya De Coteau
Zakiya De Coteau

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

Zakiya D. - “No, I always had that moral support from my family to keep on pushing.”


WST - “You may have come across from time to time, people (non-Trinbagonians) who did not understand what you mean when you say you ‘play pan’ - if this has ever been the case, talk about how you shared your steel band experiences, and their reactions.”

Zakiya D. - “I have never encountered this experience.”


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

Zakiya D. - “I believe that it varies. As a student of the University of Trinidad and Tobago Academy for the Performing Arts Campus, there is a level of respect we have for each other within our steel pan studio. However in the public domain there are people who do not understand our passion for the instrument and tend to be disrespectful towards the art form.”


WST - “You’ve performed in various capacities including as a member of Platinum Steel Orchestra, and more. Tell us about these, and in general, your ongoing journey in pan?”

Zakiya D. - “In 2016 I made history with Platinum All-Female Steel Orchestra by becoming the first all-female band to compete in the panorama competition. I also had the opportunity to experience different cultures performing at the Panorama competitions in both New York and St. Vincent. Overall, it has been tough at times being involved in the pan fraternity but, I have always been grateful for the opportunity.”


WST - “With reference to Panorama seasons - you’ve participated both in New York, and in Trinidad & Tobago. How have you found the overall experiences - both in preparation and competitions - share a comparison?”

Zakiya D. - “With respect to preparations from my experience, the pan yards in New York are usually lively at night hence that is the perfect time for one to ‘catch’ music. In Trinidad there is no specific time to do so. Similarly, for the competition they would practice on the ‘Drags’ with a high level of intensity and anticipation before heading to the stage.”

WST - “What is your opinion on Pan in New York?”

Zakiya D. - “In my opinion, from a musician’s stand point, pan in New York has a lot of ‘gigging’ opportunities. It is also good to see my culture expand specifically during the Panorama season.”


WST - “What is your opinion on Pan in Trinidad & Tobago?”

Zakiya D. - “In my opinion pan in Trinidad and Tobago has come a long way, especially Panorama being referred to as ‘the greatest steel band competition experience in the world.’ However, it is sad to see that Pan is Beautiful, Steel band Music Festival and Pan in the 21st Century competitions are not a part of the many cultural experiences this country has to offer.”


WST - “Regarding Panorama specifically, what are those eight/ten minutes competing on stage like, for you?”

Zakiya D. - “That feeling of euphoria engulfs me every time I reach on stage to entertain the audience but also saddened at the fact that time flies past so quickly.”


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

Zakiya D. - “My musical influences are my lecturers at the University of Trinidad and Tobago as well as the late Dr. Jit Samaroo and Clive Bradley.”


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

Zakiya D. - “I do not necessarily have a favourite arranger because I have played various musical arrangements by many other arrangers.”

Zakiya De Coteau
Zakiya De Coteau

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

Zakiya D. - “Panorama is and will forever be a blessing!”


WST - “If you had the power to change something in Pan immediately what would that be”

Zakiya D. - “I would like to reinstate competitions such as: Pan In The 21st Century, Pan is Beautiful and Steel band Music Festival.”


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

Zakiya D. - “I am most proud of graduating with an Artist Diploma in Music Performance at the University of Trinidad and Tobago in 2016.”


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

Zakiya D. - “Firstly, the fact that the steel pan is not standardized. Secondly, the leaders of the steel band organization do not realize the power of the instrument and its impact over the world. They do not try to push the possibilities the instrument can offer economically.”


WST - “What would be your advice to young female players all over the world who are dreaming of following in footsteps such as yours?”

Zakiya D. - “The sky is the limit, never stop chasing your dreams.”

Zakiya De Coteau
Zakiya De Coteau

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

Zakiya D. - “My vision is for the steel pan to become a global phenomena that revolutionizes the world of music.”


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

Zakiya D. - “No. I do not have any plans to stop playing pan any time soon. This is my passion and what I love.”


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

Zakiya D. - “No, I would not like to bring forward any other steelband matters.”


WST - “What is next for Ms. Zakiya De Coteau?”

Zakiya D. - “Firstly, to complete my Bachelor’s of Fine Arts at the University of Trinidad and Tobago and then begin teaching.”


photos provided by Zakiya De Coteau




 
   Zakiya De Coteau performs with Pantonic Steel Orchestra during the orchestra’s 2015 Basement panyard recordings as they prepare for Brooklyn’s Panorama




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

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