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Steel Pan in Dominica

Date: 05.01.06

Dominica's OECS
Junior Steelpan competition
- How It All Came Together

Roseau, Dominica - It was a long 'holiday' this past weekend in Dominica, with Mayday celebrated on Monday May 1.   But the fun in the sun started on Sunday April 30, as steelpan musicians, music lovers, those who appreciated culture, dignitaries, attendees, and friends and family - descended on the Botanical Gardens in Dominica.


All roads led to the OECS Junior Steelpan Competition as people looked forward to fun, sun and pan performances of a high level from some of the region's most promising young pannists.  Saturday afternoon at the gardens had seen almost endless preparation as the finishing arrangements were put in place for Sunday's event.  Tents were being set up, platforms built, and necessary infrastructure transported for the show.


Shortly before the scheduled start of 2:00 PM, Tamana Primary Steelpan Workshop, guest artists from Trinidad, began playing to the 'early birds' who had arrived to stake out claims of the better vantage spots under the shady trees (in picture).   Cool Steel from Dominica also performed as guest artists, in attractive and festive attire.


Adjudicators from Trinidad and Tobago - Franka Hills-Headley, Richard Pierre and Victor Prescod, along  with Pan Trinbago's Denise Hernandez (in picture) took up positions and reviewed event documentation in preparation.


Dominica's Minister of Education Vince Henderson and Ray Blackmoore, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister arrived shortly after.  President Nicholas Liverpool and First Lady Verna Liverpool followed, taking their places as guests of honor.


But to get to this point meant non-stop behind-the-scenes work, endless patience, and sometimes Herculean diplomacy on the part of Ms. Anna Raffoul, organizer of the event, and president of the Dominica Pan Association, and her brother Emile Raffoul (both pictured) - supported by a devoted team. 


Working seamlessly with his sister, Emile officially had responsibility for 'Instruments Logistics', but he actually took care of any and every crisis that was thrown his way.  And crisis was never far away - even after the midnight hour.  In effect he was the 'Renaissance Man'!


For a couple of days, Emile had spent long hours at the airport along with Denise Hernandez, waiting for flights bearing participants, instruments and their luggage to arrive; he personally supervised and worked alongside his assistant   (both pictured) loading the truck with instruments and luggage. 


His uncle, Mr. Raffoul of Raffoul Luxury Tours (in picture) made multiple hour-long trips from the Melville Hall airport, to Roseau where accommodations had been set up, and then back again for more new arrivals.  Emile himself transported the When Steel Talks crew to and from their commitments for the majority of their three-day stay on the island.


From frayed nerves due to missing instruments, etc. - to ruffled feathers of  event invitees/participants, When Steel Talks witnessed situations graciously handled with diplomacy, class and professionalism.  It seemed that nothing could remove the willingness of Ms. Raffoul, Emile, and their team (Raffoul's secretary with Ms. Hernandez - in picture), to ensure that challenges which arose were taken care of.


And so on Sunday, the end result was a superb event that ran so smoothly that those who arrived later in the afternoon, anticipating that there would be a 'late start' - were startled to find that the show was well along without them.


Dominica has been recently been named as one of the top ten eco-tourist hotspots in the world (verdant hills, right), and additionally, is well on its way to becoming a fully organic island.  If the latter is achieved, Dominica may have the distinction of being the world's first in this regard.  But this past weekend at the OECS junior steel pan competition, they have already written a new chapter in the history book on the global steelpan movement.

Contact Ms. Raffoul, president of the Dominica Steelpan Association at

C. Phillips, Basement Press Corp.

2006 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved


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