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Steel Pan in Dominica

Date: 05.01.06

The Anatomy of
2006 OECS Junior Pan Competition
A Success

 2006 OECS Junior Pan Competition Winners - Antigua & Barbuda

Dominica - The first OECS Junior Pan Competition gets two thumbs up.  You should make plans to attend next year's event immediately.  You will not be disappointed.  The Dominica Steelband Association under the leadership and vision of Ms.  Anna Raffoul presented a creditable and entertaining musical event.  Simply put: steelpan is back in the Caribbean island of Dominica in a big way, and the sky is the limit.  Far more important than the actual results and band placements, was the participation of different islands - providing a truly international music summit.

Armed with talent, preparation and national pride, each contestant performed the required test piece "Pan Earthquake" by Calypso great Lord Kitchener, and an additional song of choice composed by an OECS-born artist.  A total of six nations participated in this year's event.  The competition began with Grenada, followed by St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Vincent, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica and Montserrat.   Additional guest performances were provided by the Trinidad's prize-winning thirteen-and-under junior steelband Tamana Primary Steelpan Workshop and Dominica's Cool Steel.  


 2006 OECS Junior Pan Competition participating countries

Indeed, while there has a been a mercuric rise in the popularity of the steelpan instrument and music globally, the OECS Junior Competition firmly establishes an educational and performance outlet in the region for educators, students and other cultural organizations to compare agendas, directives and goals.   Moreover, the coming together of all these organizations and key qualified persons, provided the opportunity for comparison and formation of new strategies for the instrument's development and marketing, and steelpan music educational methodologies.

Each country brought its unique experiences and wealth of knowledge to the event.  The musical arrangements and performance techniques highlighted the similarities, as well as the subtle but well-defined musical differences between the islands of  the Caribbean.  This competition was an ethnomusicologist's dream.  The history and culture of each island was skillfully interwoven in the test piece arrangement and performance by each band.  Indian, French, English, Portuguese and Spanish influences could be heard distinctly between the common African music and rhythms that bind the islands together.

This was truly one of those events where any OECS member orchestra who had an opportunity to enter and perform at this competition, and did not - lost out considerably.  A win, win, win situation - a win for the organizers, a win for the performers and a win for the audience.

The Show


 Crowd enjoys 2006 OECS Junior Pan Competition

The show began promptly at 2:00 pm as advertised and rolled smoothly without any major hiccups.  The basic performance logistics were well thought out by the organizers as there was almost  never a break in music performances once the show was underway.  The three-stage outlay provided the means for the bands to setup prior to their actual performance with only one additional set change done during intermission.

The sound was less than ideal.  The sound reinforcement engineer never got a firm handle on the sound.  The engineer needed to get to the event early enough to have performed the necessary sound checks as the first  three bands were already setup and present.  Since the bands were being judged on categories that were audio-dependent, there can be no compromise in this arena.  Having said this, the sound was not nearly as horrifying as what we have routinely encountered in some larger steelband markets.  And taking into consideration this was the first attempt, we are confident that Dominica will quickly rectify this issue for all future steelband events and become a leader and trendsetter in steelband music sound reinforcement, based on their innate desire to learn, improve and lead.  They have already shown how things ought to be done, in almost all other areas related to this event.

The Judges/Panel Contributors


2006 OECS Junior Pan Competition Judges (l to r) - Victor Prescod, Mrs. Franka Hills-Headley and Richard Pierre

When Steel Talks had the opportunity to meet with and engage the judges both in their official capacities, and their leisure moments both before and after the competition.  All the judges brought a wealth of music, cultural, teaching, performing and educational and human experiences that made them uniquely qualified for the difficult task they were charged with undertaking.  However it was their forward-thinking and open-mindedness, combined with their sense of tradition and knowledge of music and history that made this group of judges/panelists unique. 




 Media out in force at 2006 OECS Junior Pan Competition

The Media

The organizers did a great job ensuring that the local press was there to document the event.  The local print and electronic media was present in force.  The show was broadcast live.  A promotional campaign to alert island residents of the event was in full effect via all mediums.  Also present  was the popular E-Zone crew - the Caribbean's number one television entertainment show for regional coverage.  And of course When Steel Talks was present to provide a global connection.  The media present were genuinely interested in the subject matter and performers. 


Business Opportunities

The competition is a business, marketing and advertising bonanza as the intellectual, cultural, education and entertainment aspects of the event extend far beyond Dominica's borders.  There is no doubt this will be one of the most sought-after events by both national and international conglomerates seeking a positive global presence for their image.


The Location / Lodgings

Dominica is considered God's country to the native Dominican.  There is very little one could use to argue against that belief.  It is one of the most well-preserved and beautiful islands in the world.  The show was held in the Botanical Gardens.  It was excellent for the competition as it provided adequate space and an appropriate arena for an outdoor event of this size.  The location was excellent as most of the young people were located at the Garraway Hotel a short distance away from the gardens.  Others were located at additional lodgings in the vicinity such as the Ambassador Hotel.

The out-of-town media, judges and panelist were housed at the Exotica Cottage mountain resort.  Everyone should have an opportunity to stay at Exotica once in their lifetime.  The view is breathtaking and the managers of the establishment are two of the most down-to-earth and delightful people you could ever meet.

Contact the Dominica Steelband Association at:


- Ed -

2006 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2006 -  Basement Recordings, Inc.   All Rights Reserved.



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