- Moods of Pan 2006
- 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
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.
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
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
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
ever since he heard his older sister playing. He
would eventually come second in the 2006 steelpan solo
Chekiyah, and dad
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.
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
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
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
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
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, 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
©2006 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved
'Junior Steelpan Solo competition in Pictures