Roseau, Dominica -
At carnival time in Dominica, one of the mainstay
events of the season activities is the semi annual Pan by
The Bay steelband music exhibition. The steelpan
affair is staged on the Tuesdays prior to the island’s
Carnival and Independence celebrations. Once again the
Dominican Steelband Association brought
When Steel Talks
to Dominica to cover the event. We were not disappointed.
Much, much more than Carnival was transpiring here in
Dominica. This steelpan instrument continues to be a surging component
of the Dominican music education, cultural and social scene.
The event, billed as the Reunion
Carnival 2008 - Pan by de Bay took place under the
Roseau Ship Berth on Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard.
With the picturesque hills of Dominica’s capitol city Roseau
to their bow, and the magnificent Roseau Bay to their stern,
the people of Roseau were off on a fantastic pan music
voyage that was Pan by The Bay. Within minutes after the boulevard was closed
for the event, steelpan music lovers and supporters filled
the performance area under the moonlit Caribbean night.
Tonight’s musical cruise featured four of Dominica’s steel
orchestras - Newtown Pan Academy, St. Joseph Steel
Orchestra, Brizee’s Cultural Drama Club and Real
The audience was treated to a selection
of wide and varied performances that captured their fancy.
The spectators were not bashful in showing their
appreciation as the performing pannists garnered their
applause throughout the evening. The performing steel
bands were comprised primarily of young people who showcased
their talent and their commitment to the artform.
Senior cultural officer Pearle Christian
welcomed the attendees and extended special thanks to all
the people who had contributed to and extended support of
the resurgence and growth of the steelpan movement in
Dominica. She was particularly pleased to announce the
institution and forward progress of the Steelpan in School
initiative. Special mention was made of the people who
were behind the island’s steelpan movement - pannist,
tutor and arranger Athie Martin;
Anna Raffoul, current
president of the Dominica Steelband Association; tuner,
Mr. Eddie André, and the late
Alan Jno Baptiste, among
Ms. Christian indicated
the Division of Culture has put a lot of resources
into the steelpan music movement in Dominica in the last few
years. They have also actively moved forward towards decentralizing the development of
the movement, by providing training in Portsmouth, Marigot,
Grand Bay, St. Joseph and the Carib Territory; this is very
important for the preservation of the country’s pan culture. Indeed Dominica’s Division of Culture remains
committed to the creative process through the utilization of
the steelpan instrument. The educators and cultural
custodians of Dominica are keenly aware of the multiple
benefits, including educational and social, that the involvement of their youth in the
steelpan music movement deliver. There is high
expectation that it is in this investment 'through the
young people, that is where it will take root and move
by The Bay event provides a
distinctive performance opportunity not ordinarily available for these young members
of Dominica’s steelband fraternity to showcase their
talents. The performing
orchestras have varied skill sets and experience, but that did
not diminish the enjoyment, pride and admiration displayed by the
encouraging crowd for the mainly youthful steelpan performers. Already
in a festive mood for the upcoming Dominican Carnival,
crowd of Dominicans plus the influx of tourist filled the
moonlit street with a great atmosphere.
St. Joseph Steel Orchestra opened the
show, followed by Newtown Pan Academy. They brought
with them their own special energy, and an eagerness to
display to all, the fruits of their hours spent practicing
for their big night, and turn in the spotlight. Proud
parents, friends and the rest of the community rallied
in support, complete with cameras and camcorders in hand,
cheering as they played on. Suffice to say, these two
fledgling bands came out to prove that as far as they were
concerned, they were on the road to steelpan fame.
Drama Club were up next, and proceeded to raise the temperature of the show as they
presented a 'call and response' entry to their segment of
the show that started
with the sound of blowing of clam shells from both behind
the staging area, and behind the audience. With the
rhythm section playing, the members of Brizee’s Cultural
Drama Club entered the performance area dancing in single file
and waving the Dominican flag. They captured the
full attention of the crowd as they launched into their
musical set. The Brizee’s Cultural Drama Club
performances are both musical and visual. Well
choreographed motions and dance steps are an important part
of their presentation.
Closing the event was Real Steel, a group whose members were
no strangers to Pan by the Bay. The pannists had
previously performed as two individual groups, Genesis and Cool Steel.
Both bands had given creditable accounts of themselves in
the 2006 show. On this night, they came together for
the first Pan by The Bay event for 2008.
Interestingly it was also carnival time in
the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, the birth place of
the steelpan music instrument. The world’s biggest
steelpan music competition, Panorama, would be taking center
stage in four days.
is the case with many programs in the Caribbean, limited
funding and resources have truncated the size at which organizers
and young musicians alike would ideally like to see these programs,
as well as the speed of their implementation.
As it stands, there are many struggles the existing programs and
have to endure. Everything - from mainly supporting
materials, instruments and personnel - is in short supply.
However, Dominica has it’s own very special vibes and an
abundance of drive and talent. The involved leaders,
educators and supporters are very devoted to the cause.
As the Dominican steelpan movement moves
towards the next level they will need the support of the
global steelpan community in terms of both resources and
Dominica’s steelpan resurgence is indeed
a case study in what can be done with committed leadership
and vision. Look for the seeds planted among the youth
to "take root" and bloom vibrantly. Great
advancement has been made in relatively short time by the
superhuman efforts of a few.
Association | Anna Raffoul, President | email:
email@example.com | tel: (767) 448 2622
contact: Dominica’s Division of Culture - Chief Music Officer |
Pearle Christian |email:
firstname.lastname@example.org | tel: (767) 449 1804
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