Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

 

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Meet Bria Blake - New York, USA

“When I was a child I participated in an African dance program. Also, on my father’s side of the family, they would have prayers and include drums. I grew to love drums and the sounds of different rhythms. When I was introduced to pan I was taught tenor bass which instantly reminds me of African drums. That’s where the love story began.”  .... Bria Blake

Moving forward and striving for greatness. In an exclusive interview a determined and focused Bria Blake shares her pan experiences with the global When Steel Talks audience.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Bria Blake?”

Bria B. - “I’m a 27-year-old Caribbean-American female. My mother is from Trinidad and my father is from Guyana. I’ve always been creative and expressive through the Arts. I love creating with my hands. I got my Studio Art degree from Brooklyn College. I specialize in Painting with Acrylic and Oil Paints.”


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

Bria B. - “I was first involved with pan when I was 8 or 9 years old. I started playing with Pan Phonics in 99/00. “Tunapuna Scanty” taught me to play tenor bass. I played my first Panorama that year as well. I took a long break from then till I started back in 2009 with Pan Ambassadors, where I first played 6-bass. I haven’t stopped since. I will always be a “Woman on the Bass”.”


WST - “You are a seasoned panist with Vybez Steel Orchestra and Despers USA - please share your experiences.”

Bria B. - “I am originally from Sonatas since 2009. I recently joined Despers in 2017. Once I joined they made me feel welcomed and I’ve had positive experiences since. I started Vybez Steel Orchestra last year. That is my little pan family, we build so much VYBEZ!”

Bria Blake with Vybez Steel Orchestra
Bria Blake with Vybez Steel Orchestra

WST - “What are those eight/ten minutes like on stage for you, performing in Panorama - how do you feel?”

Bria B. - “For as long as I’ve been playing pan, I am always nervous and anxious before we start. As soon as the count begins I’m ready to ‘mash up the stage.’”


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

Bria B. - “When I was a child I participated in an African dance program. Also, on my father’s side of the family, they would have prayers and include drums. I grew to love drums and the sounds of different rhythms. When I was introduced to pan I was taught tenor bass which instantly reminds me of African drums. That’s where the love story began.”


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

Bria Blake with Sonatas Steel Orchestra in 2009
Bria Blake with Sonatas Steel Orchestra in 2009

Bria B. - “I don’t have any specific musical artist who influences me. I love music in general. If I had to choose genres, my top three would be Soca, Afrobeat & Reggae.”


WST - “What is your favorite Panorama arrangement?”

Bria B. - “My all-time favorite arrangement is “Bandoleros” – arranged by Yohan Popwell 09!”


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

Bria B. - “I don’t know much history on arrangers to call someone a favorite. Though, I enjoyed my years with Yohan Popwell in Sonatas.”


WST - “Were you ever dissuaded relative to, or encounter push-back for, pursuing your passion for pan?”

Bria B. - “I always wanted to try playing pan in Trinidad. I never had the time off from work or school to practice in time for Panorama. That will be my only push back. As far as playing pan in New York, I always try my best to play.”


WST - “What changes, if any, have you noticed since you first started out in Pan, and present day?”

Bria B. - “When I first started, my nerves would get the best of me. I would barely move behind my pan. I believe I play well today. My memorization has improved. I am more comfortable playing and engaging with others. I enjoy it 100x more now that I’ve shook the nerves and grown into my confidence.”


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

Bria B. - “All my friends and family believe I am very talented and wish me well.”

Bria Blake with Despers USA
Bria Blake with Despers USA

WST - “Some people are still vague about the steelpan instrument, what it is, and even more so, the concept of a full-size Panorama orchestra. Are there still times you encounter co-workers or friends, people in general - to whom you must explain the steel band art form?”

Bria B. - “This is a great question. As of today, there are times I will have to explain to someone about Steelpan. I still get pots and pans jokes from time to time. However, a lot of people would refer to steelpan for being a part of the Labor Day Parade.”


Bria Blake - Despers USA 2018
Bria Blake - Despers USA 2018

WST - “You experienced Panorama victory this past Summer with Despers USA; describe that experience?”

Bria B. - “The experience was amazing. So much tears of joy. I’ve been waiting for another win under my belt since 2010.”


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

Bria B. - “Its pretty sad to see all the degrading comments and people not putting much effort to keep steelband alive in New York. I only wish for the best year by year.  Hoping there will be change. As for me I will continue once I am able.”


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

Bria B. - “I would help find better places to practice, without interruption.”


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

Bria B. - “The diversity in the pan community.”


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

Bria B. - “The endless battle between us.”

Bria Blake with Despers USA
Bria Blake with Despers USA

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

Bria B. - “It’s a blessing that I am happy to be a part of.”


Bria Blake

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

Bria B. - “My advice to all the young female players is to take that opportunity. Practice and be great.”


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

Bria B. - “My vision for the steelpan is for it to be used more in different aspects. I want everyone to know what it is!”


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

Bria B. - “No, as of right now I just want everyone to work together to keep steelband alive in New York.”


WST - “What is next for Bria Blake?”

Bria B. - “I hope for everyone to continue seeing my talents. I hope to become greater, and hopefully learn different steelpan instruments.”



photos include those provided by Bria Blake



 
   Bria Blake performing with Despers USA




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