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The Panists and their Pans
at Moods of Pan 2006

Junior Steelpan Solo competition in Pictures


Junior Steelpan Solo competition
- Moods of Pan 2006

St. John's, Antigua - The second night of the three-day Moods of Pan (MOP) festival drew even more crowds to the Deanery Grounds venue.  Hundreds were present for the program which first featured the Junior Steelpan Solo competition in two age categories, followed by the famous and highly competitive 'Five-Alive' competition, an Antigua steelpan original.  From school buddies cheering on soloists from their particular school - to hoops and hollas from proud moms, dads, other family members and well-wishers present with cameras and camcorders, support for the young pannists was extremely high.

Sandra Benta-Richards

Hostess for the soloists' phase of the evening was Sandra Benta-Richards.  But before she declared open the event, it was the young people of Mahico Stars Steel Orchestra who delivered the pre-show entertainment from around 7:30 PM.  There were plenty of people who had already staked out their seats under two large tents on the grounds, knowing that spots would soon be scarce.  They were right.  It was not long before all the seats were gone, leaving only standing room.  And even those spots had a 'premium shine' to them, going on a first-come, first-served basis.

Mahico Stars Steel Orchestra

Mahico Stars opened up with an ambitious number - Harold Faltermeyer's Axel F.  Their set would include Sean Paul's Just Gimme The Light, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Earth A Run Red and other selections, before they were through.  It was credible that a young orchestra included in their own repertoire, so much music that they themselves and their generation could relate to.  Sandra Benta-Richards called upon them not too long after to officially open the second night of Moods of Pan, by playing the national anthem of Antigua & Barbuda.

The Junior Steelpan Solo competition highlighted the talents of participants in two age groups, twelve and under, and thirteen through seventeen.  There were three entrants in the first category, while there was significantly more participation in the second.  Twelve-year old Imran Lewis was up first, performing The Moment by Kenny G.  Imran has been playing the steelpan instrument for nine years, and was captivated ever since he heard his older sister playing.  He would eventually come second in the 2006 steelpan solo competition.

Chekiyah, and dad Lingfield Martin

Taking the stage next was the eventual winner, eleven-year old Chekiyah Martin.  The young lady began her presentation with bows and flourishes befitting a seasoned performer, which in fact she is. Chekiyah, also known as the 'Pan Princess' has been playing the steelpan for seven  years, and already has a CD out (Talent from God, Volume 1), recorded when she was just eight, and is anticipating the production of another in 2007.  For the competition, she chose His Eye Is On The Sparrow as her selection.  Her father Lingfield Martin is an arranger more familiarly known as 'Kodjo' in pan circles, and plays with one of Antigua & Barbuda's powerhouse steel orchestras, Harmonites.  Mr. Martin is the reason Chekiyah is involved with pan, as are his two other twenty-year old twin daughters.  All three girls play with Harmonites as well.  In 2002, Chekiyah, who is an Antiguan and Barbudan pan sensation, created history when she became the youngest female in the nation's history to participate in their annual national steelband music panorama.

Javier Martin

The talented youngster who placed third also performed in the third position.  Javier Martin who has been a steelpan musician for four years, is nine, and chose King Obstinate's Independence as his tune.  He shared with When Steel Talks (WST) that he actually plays five voices in the steelpan family of instruments, as well as the recorder.  Javier's father is the renowned national pan musician Junior 'Jagger' Martin who worked with his son on Independence.  Like most of the solo performers in both categories, Javin also plays with one of the national steel orchestras.  In his case, it is Hells Gate steel orchestra, and 2006 saw young Martin take part in the panorama for the first time.

Up next were the young people competing in the 13 - 17 age category.  The players all knew each other, and the rivalry was friendly, with competing players just off the side of the stage supporting the others.  This was not a surprise, however, as many of the competitors are not only members of Antigua's main steel orchestras, but they are also part of the country's National Youth Orchestra, and travel together, participating in such events as the 2006 OECS Junior Pan competition in Dominica, and the Carifesta IX event in Trinidad & Tobago.

Fourteen-year old Javier Jarvis, who performed Stevie Wonder's immortal Master Blaster (Jammin') has been playing for three years, and is a member of Gemonites.  Jarvis followed in the footsteps of his twenty-year old brother, Jeremy, also a pan musician with Gemonites.

Khan Cordice began playing steelpan back in June 2002.  He remembers well because he accompanied his best friend to band practice, and the rest, as they say, is history, as he is now a regular member of Hells Gate.  And now, just over four years later, his diligence and skill garnered him first place honors in the Moods of Pan 2006 Junior Steelpan Solo competition, with a fantastic performance of Burning Flame's hit Combination Lock on double second. 

The late Road March king, Lord Kitchener's Rain-o-rama was the tune of choice for sixteen-year old Travis Philip.  He was the second competitor who chose the double second as his instrument for the event.  Travis also plays the recorder and viola, and performs with two steel orchestras in Antigua - one of their steelband powerhouses, Halcyon - and a smaller group called Just Six.  He actually competed against his sister Sharee, fifteen, who also took part in the competition and was the final contestant in the 13 - 17 age group.  Sharee played Think Twice, and proudly said that hers was a musical family, with her father being the renowned calypsonian Derek 'Chalice' Philip.  Sharee has been playing for seven years.

One of the two adjudicators, Anthony Hampson, is a former pan player with Hells Gate, and in addition to being principal of Parham Primary School, is the current president of the country's steelband association.  He also holds the reins as director at Le Chateau d'Or Music Academy.  He told WST that the academy is a type of 'nursery' for budding steelpan musicians who can become young players on the national steelpan music scene.  Competitor Garvin Francis is one such student who is now seventeen, and also plays the piano.  For the competition, Garvin threw down a seriously funky version of Stevie Wonder's My Cheri Amour.  Garvin became a pannist a bit differently from his fellow competitors.  His little brother was interested in playing, and their parents told Garvin he had to go along, because 'they both needed a hobby.'  So his younger brother's desire determined his path, and five years later he is still playing.  And on Saturday night, Garvin played straight into the second position in the 13 - 17 age group of the steelpan solo competition.

Anthony Sampson and his fellow adjudicator also officiated at the subsequent Five Alive competition later on in the evening.  Julien Lawrence, the second judge, is a banker with twenty-five years experience, but has also taught music for more than twenty-four years.  Like Sampson, Lawrence has been a player on Antigua's steelband scene.  He has been a member of Halcyon, Harmonites and Gemonites.

Jamie Wehner

Getting back to the performers: Jamie Wehner has his own story to tell.  Since big sister Jannelle performs with Gemonites, one would think that he would be playing with that orchestra as well.   But good-naturedly, Jamie explained that 'Big Sis' was not keen on him being in the same band she was in.  Their loss became Harmonites' gain, as Jamie calls that band his home.  At sixteen, he has been playing for five years, and confessed that he wanted, and eventually did, follow in the footsteps of Aubrey 'Lacou' Samuel, renowned pan musician in Antigua.  Jamie greatly admires the 'coolness' of Samuel when he performs.  In Jamie's estimation: "most regular pan players move their body around when they are playing.  Aubrey [is so cool]; only his wrists are moving when he is playing."  Today, Jamie is fortunate enough to have the musical icon he has so long admired and wished to emulate, as both mentor and tutor.

Aisha Joseph

Aisha Joseph, thirteen, was one of two female entrants [the other was Sharee Philip] in the 13 - 17 age group of solo contestants.  She comes from an extremely supportive family which includes her twenty-one year old sibling, Latifah, also a pan musician.  Mom Charlene does not play, but is squarely in her talented daughter's corner and was of course present at the contest.  Dad Stafford Joseph is a music teacher, and Aisha benefits from that relationship to the max, and in fact points to him as the reason she has been playing pan for the past ten years.  Mr. Joseph was also the tutor of other contestants in the competition.  Aisha opted to showcase her patriotic spirit with her choice of selection - Antigua Land.  As a member of Hells Gate, to date Aisha has performed in three national steelband music panoramas in Antigua & Barbuda.

A quick review of the solo performances overall, and the results of the hours of training that were obvious in the presentations of the majority of the contestants, clearly shows why Antigua & Barbuda is one of the countries in the Caribbean enjoying a revitalization in the steelpan artform.  Pride and smiles, some gleaming and some shy, came to the fore when results were announced, and trophies and prizes distributed to the winners by Ms. Barbara Mason, steelband co-ordinator from the Ministry's Culture Department.  And additionally, for the majority of the soloists, their time in the spotlight was not at an end for the evening, but continued as many took part in the much-anticipated Five Alive competition, which followed almost immediately on the heels of the Junior Steelpan Solo competition.

It is hats off to the organizers of Moods of Pan 2006, Gemonites Steel Orchestra, for ensuring that these young steelpan musicians were showcased in this international pan forum, not only as part of the general orchestras and smaller steelpan ensembles, but as individual talents in their own right.  And the crowd was privileged to witness the passion for pan these skilled musicians proudly showcased.  Come 2007, the challenge will begin anew. 

C. Phillips, Basement Press Corp.
2006 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved

'Junior Steelpan Solo competition in Pictures



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Gemonites Steel Orchestra| |
Patrick 'Stone' Johnson | email:   | 1-268-727-6633 (cell)
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Franka Hills-Headley | email: |1-868-653-4117

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