Atlanta, Georgia -
They came from Boston and Amherst, Massachusetts, in the north and
Tallahassee in the south, and as far away as Paris, France, and
Trinidad, the birthplace of the steelpan. For three days world-class
panists, scholars, community activists, music educators and
students gathered on the Clark Atlanta University campus in Atlanta,
Georgia, under the theme: “Emergent Business Enterprises: Steelbands
in Educational, Religious and Community Institutions.” The April
17-19, 2008 event was hosted by the Clark Atlanta University
Economics Department in the School of Business Administration, in
conjunction with Clark’s Department of Music and the Hugh Hodgson
School of Music at the University of Georgia. Dr. Ajamu Nyomba,
chair of the Economics Department and founder of Pan People
Steelband of Atlanta, was the symposium principal convener. Dr.
Carlton Brown, Provost and Executive Vice President of Clark Atlanta
University, as well as Dr. Ed Davis, Interim Dean of the School of
Business Administration, welcomed participants to the campus.
More than a dozen presenters filled six sessions on a wide range of
topics concerned with the effective organization of the Steelband
Movement, new technological innovations, such as the G-pan, and the
development of pan jazz music. Session titles included “Starting and
Maintaining a School, Church or Community Steelband,” “Issues with
Instruments and Music for Steelbands,” and “The Business and
Economics of Pan.” An estimated 200 students, professors,
steelband directors, independent researchers and pan enthusiasts
attended symposium events. It was such a pleasure to meet so many
scholars doing so much amazing work on the subject, as well as so
many pan lovers. The Honorable Gerard Greene, Consul General,
Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, brought greetings to the Opening
Reception on Thursday and attended the symposium throughout the
three days of activities.
Amilcar Shabazz, chair of the W. E. B. DuBois Department of
Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst,
gave the keynote presentation titled "Field Marshal Chalkie's Beat:
The Steelband in the People's War for African Liberation." His
address integrated an analysis of the contemporary political economy
with some of the salient organizational dynamics and the aesthetics
of the Steelband and Calypso traditions. The intellectual and
metaphorical dimensions of the life work of Dr. Hollis “Mighty
Chalkdust” Liverpool was cited as a model for the Steelband Movement
and the Steelpan as an emergent, global industry. An exciting round
of conversation with the audience followed.
Also on the symposium program was Trinidad panmaker, Roland Harrigin,
who discussed the most recent addition to the pan family, the G-pan.
As one would expect, the symposium was interspersed with the sound
of pan music. At the Opening Reception, the youngest member of Pan
People Steelband, 6-year old Elmer Pride made his debut performance
in a trio with Kiara Nyomba and Keisha Whiskey. There were also
performances by Pan People Steelband and pan soloist Ronnie Dixon
from Charlotte, North Carolina. The Saturday evening pan jazz
concert featured top pan soloists Earl Rodney, Andy Narell and
Nicholas Mohan. Orville Wright, chair, Performing Arts Department,
University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Ron Reid, Associate
Professor, Ethnomusicologist, Berklee College of Music, Tufts
University, both presented scholarly papers on Friday and performed
in the concert on Saturday. Wright played piano in a piece with
Narell, while Reid played bass on several pieces with Earl Rodney.
Nicholas Mohan, “Atlanta’s new pan sensation,” also performed with
the Rod Smith Jazz Quartet, which accompanied the pan soloists.
Modern pan jazz as the unique fusion of the rhythms and
characteristic styles of Calypso, Shango and East Indian music with
traditional as well as the newer “smooth jazz” jazz rhythms was well
represented in the evening’s performances.
The symposium convener, Dr.Nyomba, plans to publish selected papers
from the 2008 conference, along with papers from the 2006 symposium,
in an edited volume.
At the conclusion of the symposium, Dr. Nyomba announced the
inauguration of “Pan in the Bamboo Grove,” a series of Sunday
evening summer pan concerts, beginning on Sunday, May 26, 2008,
during the Memorial Holiday weekend. The venue for the concerts will
be Pan People’s Studio, the New Arts Exchange, 750 Kalb Street,
Atlanta, Georgia 30312, just east of Downtown Atlanta.
Dr. Ajamu Nyomba
Clark Atlanta University
223 James P. Brawley Drive, SW
Atlanta, GA 30314
Clark Atlanta University
All photos by WST Pan
photographer R. Pope
©2008 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved
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