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by HC

The Clifton Family Steelpan Ensemble

Botswana - The Bahai Faith recently showcased the steelpan as an art form at its monthly “ART GATHERING” in Gaborone, Botswana, Africa.

The event featured The Clifton Family Steelpan Ensemble, originally from Carlton Lane, San Fernando, Trinidad, W.I., as guest performers for the specially invited in-house gathering.

The evening began with a short steelpan recital by the family aggregate – Karelle, Andre', Karysse, Hollis. A sumptuous meal was next, followed by a question/answer session on the steelpan.

Hollis (the father), took the enthusiastic audience on an historic journey through the origins of pan – the only new acoustic musical invention of the twentieth century – from his native Trinidad and Tobago; from the playing of the African drums to Tamboo Bamboo, to the banning of all drums during the Second World War, to their replacement by biscuit tins, and eventually by discarded oil drums (which were readily availably in Trinidad, being an oil-based economy); then the evolution of the steelpan players from 'outcast' status, to internationally-renowned musicians in their own right.

Another question which the former teacher of Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School had to respond to, was the making of the instrument. Again he took the astonished listeners through the process of SINKING the drum to 'stretching' the material (metal), and obtaining adequate space for the different notes, using a sledge hammer, followed by the GROOVING process to form and separate the notes with the use of a hammer and a punch.  He went further, explaining the next stages - the BURNING of the pan in order to temper the metal, and enhance the sound coming from the pan, then the actual TUNING to enable the proper musical pitch, resulting in the production of a refined musical instrument.   Other questions from the audience focused around the longevity of the instrument, its price as well as its availability.

Previous artists featured at the Bahai Faith's monthly gatherings included Quilt makers, Singers, Conventional Musicians, Painters, and Potters.  The organizers are always on the lookout for new talent.

The evening’s Coordinator was Philip Huebsch, a prolific artist himself, who was a recent recipient of a handsome award from the Government of Botswana for his depiction of a series of butterflies, native to Botswana, and to be used as postage stamps.



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