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Steelband History Comes Alive


Dr. Kim Johnson & Folk Arts Institute Provide Live Historical Look at the Development of the Steelpan Movement In Pictures


News Release




New York - Once again Sesame Flyers International Cultural Center was the focus of another edifying and inspiring steelpan music experience.  Indeed it was one of those "you should have been there" type of activities.  The event, referred to as the "Historical Images of the Steelband Movement" operated under the auspices of the Trinidad and Tobago Folk Arts Institute led by Mr. Les Slater.  Mr. Kim Johnson of the University of Trinidad and Tobago delivered his presentation to the capacity crowd which had assembled at the Sesame Flyers facility in Brooklyn, New York.

Kim Johnson (center) and Sesame Flyers International  Exectutives

The presentation was anchored by a series of historical photographs that, when presented in the cohesive, linear manner as Mr. Johnson has assembled, provides the viewer with a seldom-experienced voyage of the evolution of the steelpan music instrument, movement and characters.   Mr. Johnson is the senior research fellow of the Academy of Arts, Letters, Cultural and Public Affairs at the University of Trinidad and Tobago.  The one hundred photos viewed at this colloquium are a portion of the collection of photos Mr. Johnson has accumulated for his in-progress project entitled the "National Pan History Project".
Through Mr. Johnson's  live and interactive narration, a wealth of information and insight into the timeline, background, and environment surrounding each photo was provided.  An understanding of the political and social conditions surrounding and impacting each image was critical to fully appreciating the valued information each photograph afforded the viewers.  Never-before-seen photographs of the steelband movement, starting from the early 1940s made up the images.  Many of these treasured historical photos Mr. Johnson showcased are from private and sometimes discarded albums.  It is these images which precipitated and fostered the discussion of everything from the implementation of harmonic tuning of the steelpan, to the government work programs which were part of the social fabric of the respective time period, and by extension, the steelband community.

Kim Johnson (left) and Keith Marcell (Manager  Sesame Flyers Steel Orchestra)

Rarely are members of the steelpan music community afforded the opportunity to affirm their knowledge and contributions to this fantastic society in an academic setting within the pan communities.  Sesame Flyers International and Mr. Slater are to be commended for facilitating this occasion.  Mr. Johnson provided this opportunity through his delivery style and openness to allow the audience the chance to express their direct connection with what was being shown and discussed.  This enhanced the educational experience of this meeting to immeasurable proportions.  Furthermore, the attendees relived a valued part of their life's experience and existence.  Indeed one of the attendees was quite pleased to recognize himself as a young boy standing in a picture of one of the early steelbands some forty years ago. 

Kim Johnson

The audience left this event entertained, educated and empowered with the knowledge that they had witnessed and experienced a very critical beginning to documentation process of the creative, inventive and genius of the people of steelpan movement from it's inception to present.  The large congregation of retired and current pan men and supporters who exhibited a thirst for this information and recognition is in itself undeniable and historical.

Mr. Johnson continues to look for additional old photographs of steelbands and panmen from private albums throughout Trinidad and Tobago and from the US, Canada and Britain for the completion of this visual tapestry of the steelpan movement.  This presentation is strongly recommended to any steelpan organization or individuals or others who are interested, and looking to experience an authentic and honest understanding of the steelpan instrument, the history of the movement's people and the instrument's deployment.

Contact Mr. Slater to schedule a possible presentation at your facility. 

For further information you may contact Leslie Slater at 1-718-783-6161 email: and Kim Johnson at

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