Destination Montreal - Festival International de Steelpan de Montreal 2012 in Review

Canadians Celebrate Steelpan Music at Week-Ends du Monde

Another When Steel Talks Concert Review

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Week-Ends du Monde
Parc Jean-Drapeau - Montreal

Montreal, Canada - They danced, they sang, they smiled broadly, as they cheered and clapped and they listened intently - but mostly their hearts, bodies and souls were filled with the joyous vibes and sounds emanating from the infectious musical performances of steel orchestras. From time to time they would utter words in French, Spanish, English and a host of other languages - no translation was needed. With the St. Lawrence River as the backdrop of the event, they all communicated in tones of unadulterated universal approval. And when it was all blended - the alluring visuals, the chorus of languages, harmonized sounds, and the inviting aromas from all different cuisines surrounding the staging area -  it was crystal clear that the steelpan instrument, through the Festival International de Steelpan de Montreal had done it again—that is—bridged the cultural divide.

Le Weekends du Monde au Parc Jean-Drapeau

As When Steel Talks reported a year ago, the annual Festival International de Steelpan de Montreal (F.I.S.M.) and the annual Week-Ends du Monde held in the Park Jean-Drapeau, had embarked on what appeared to us then, a mutually beneficial relationship. It is the consummate win, win, win situation for all parties involved. The FISM would have access to an area that would meet the capacity needs of its burgeoning audience and vast popularity.  And similarly the Week-Ends du Monde would have authentic and direct access to one of the world’s trending cultural wonders - the phenomenon of the steelpan - directly under its umbrella and central theme of “Au rythme de ma culture.”

The potential to be alongside some of the biggest and most successful music-related events in all of Canada is there for “the taking,” or more accurately “the making.”  The monetary and cultural aspects for the city of Montreal are self-evident. However, this potential is simply that - potential. In order for that to be realized - intelligent, talented and forward-thinking people from the private, government and public sectors must be totally committed to the challenge.  Obviously, world-class steel orchestras from all over the globe have contacted the organizer/promoter and expressed a sincere interest in participating in this international Festival.  It is not hard to imagine hundreds of thousands of steelpan music enthusiasts descending on the city of Montreal annually for the FISM.  So what’s the hold-up?

The Show
Salah’s Steelpan Academy Wins 2012 Panorama

Salah’s Steelpan Academy performs at F.I.S.M. 2012
Salah’s Steelpan Academy

This year’s program was once more broken into two parts - a tune of choice contest and a panorama song competition. The contestants were Potts & Pans hailing from Illinois, USA - CCAH Steelband from Halton, Ontario - Pan Coalition from Maine, USA - HYSO from Hamilton, Ontario - and Salah’s Steelpan Academy from Montreal, Quebec.

For the tune of choice challenge Potts and Pans performed “Taboo” - CCAH Steelband delivered “Fireworks” - Pan Coalition opted for “Hungarian Dance” - HYSO showcased “The Greatest Love of All” and Salah’s Steelpan Academy dropped “Man in The Mirror.”

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For the Panorama song challenge Potts and Pans selected “It’s Carnival” - CCAH Steelband bet on “Archbishop of Pan” - Pan Coalition performed “Vibes” which was also chosen by HYSO, and Salah’s Steelpan Academy went with “Give Them Tempo.”

Despite the delayed start the audience was not disappointed. They were fully engaged and were treated to a great show.  For those who had never heard the music of a steel orchestra it was indeed a memorable experience.

Judges - Martin Albino, Darren Sheppard, Hammeed Shaqq
Montreal Panorama judges seated, left to right (Martin Albino, Hameed Shaqq, Darrel Sheppard

Each orchestra presented its unique sound and signature voice. The adjudication was seen to by three abundantly qualified judges: Martin Albino, Darren Sheppard and Hameed Shaqq. They awarded Salah’s Steelpan Academy the 2012 Panorama contest while the Tune of Choice challenge was judged to be a tie between Pan Coalition and Salah’s Steel Pan Academy.

For Salah’s Steelpan Academy (SSA) this was their 7th consecutive Montreal Panorama title. While it is undeniable that SSA has become a panorama juggernaut over the last few years in Canada, the competitive challenge provided by the other participants is ample.

The Tune of Choice competition is always a welcome addition to the festival. This year the groups presented a wide music repertoire, allowing the audience to connect with popular music of the day and more recognizable songs overall.

An additional element of Trinidad and Tobago - Carnival - was added this year. Sample costumed masqueraders gave the Montreal natives a small peak into aspects of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival which were well received.

Special Guest Artist

Special guest Darren Sheppard demonstrates the PHI
Special guest Darren Sheppard demonstrates the PHI

There was a special guest appearance by panist Darren Sheppard who demonstrated the P.H.I. (Percussive Harmonic Instrument) MIDI controller. The crowd was clearly intrigued by the different voices Mr. Sheppard was able to trigger through this controller, and the expanded possibilities for the panist displayed during his skillful demonstration.

The Area - Coin gourmand

Coin gourmand
Coin gourmand

The final day of the three-day FISM was held in the Parc Jean-Drapeau under the umbrella of the Week-Ends du Monde. This year the Festival International de Steelpan de Montreal was moved to the Coin gourmand section of the park. It was relocated from last year’s Place des Traditions area. Unlike the 2011 arrangement, this year’s created a less than ideal situation for both performing steel orchestras and program attendees. While in theory this area may have been larger than last year’s performance space - the reality was the presence of the permanent landmark structure, along with benches and booths left behind from the previous event, encroached on the enclosure, creating a very congested situation that was poor for the visual, listening and seating ambiance - not to mention far less than optimum conditions for adjudicating the competition.

Look for organizers to locate FISM in a larger and more accommodating region within Parc Jean-Drapeau. Portable seating, bleachers and the likes are a must for events and competitions of this nature.


When Steel Talks was booked by the event organizers on a WestJet flight from New York to Toronto and then we caught a connecting flight from Toronto to Montreal. This is not the quickest way to get to the festival however it does provide some economic advantages if time—a four-hour layover—is not an issue.


Week-Ends du Monde au parc Jean-Drapeau
Map for Week-Ends du Monde au parc Jean-Drapeau

The FISM has not been without its growing pains, cuts bruises and all. However, organizer Salah Wilson and team are to be commended for their success, effort and professionalism in providing twelve consecutive years of FISM. With very little “talk” Wilson and company have been “walking the walk” and orchestrating a distinctive and unique steelpan music festival with international presence. Simply put this is a festival that every steelpan music enthusiast should attend.

Contact Salah Wilson at

(HYSO) Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra performers
Six-Bass: Kyle Ferreira & Jake Connor; Double Tenors: Neuman Bruins, Jasmine Francis & Myles Ransome; Tenor:  Kristian Ferreira, Nick Abram, Rebecca Pettinella, Jalen Salazar, Asia Walczak, Emeline Auguste, Sydney Herault Ayres & Dejehan Hamilton; Guitars: Kareem Ferreira, Gillian Walczak & Derron Alleyne; Tenor Bass:  Jayde Daniel, Jaylin James & James Poyton; Double Seconds:  Kambreia Cumberbatch, Jamila Abrams & Justin Ferreira; Rhythm Section:  Joseph Abrams, Kemarr Cumberbatch, Lindwe Abrams, Keira Silverglen, Edwin Terry & Roger Ferreira
Co-Managers: Cathy Ferreira, Karen Nelson
(HYSO) Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra
(HYSO) Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra

Salah’s Steel Pan Academy performers
Bass: Rachel Wilson (Montreal), Ish Wilson (Montreal), Stephanie Williams (Jamaica), Guillaume De La Rotule (France) & Balint Tamas (Hungary); Guitars: Fatima Wilson (Montreal) & Lailaah Wilson (Montreal); Double Seconds: Desiree Tucker (St. Vincent) & Brian Quintyn (Montreal) & Daniilu Valdovinos Vega (Mexico), Salah Wilson (Trinidad), Raynald Drouin (Quebec City) & Pepeto Pinto (Jamaica); Sopranos: Miriyam Wilson (Trinidad/Montreal), Rashiyd Wilson (Montreal), Ukpong Etang (Montreal) & Gabriela Heslop (Jamaica/Toronto); Percussions - Drums: Zaynab Wilson; Congas: Eddie Alleyne (Trinidad); Iron: Edwin O’Neil (Trinidad) & Bugs (Trinidad); Scratch: Jim Padmore (Trinidad); Cowbell: Adiylah Wilson (Trinidad)
Officers of Salah’s Steelpan Academy: Salah Wilson, Adiylah Wilson, Rachel Wilson, Miriyam Wilson, Desiree Tucker

Salah’s Steel Pan Academy
Salah’s Steel Pan Academy

CCAH (Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton) Steel Orchestra performers
Shania Rock, Terrence Sweeney, Albert John, Keneisha Sweeney, Kadesha Lewis, Trencye Sweeney, Tymia Brown, Sierra Dume, Randy Rock, Colin Lewis, Tonie Parker, Evelyn Armogan, Omoya Jackman, Diego Rock, Shane Harroo & Vilma Harroo

CCAH (Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton) Steel Orchestra
CCAH (Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton) Steel Orchestra

Potts and Pans Steel Orchestra performers
Tenors: Paige Moore & Mike Schwebke; Six-bass: Anthony Houston; Double Seconds, Cello & Flute: Christina Guerrero; Double Seconds & Cello: Matt Potts; Drums: Zaynab Wilson

Potts and Pans Steel Orchestra
Potts and Pans Steel Orchestra

Pan Coalition Steel Orchestra performers
Tenor: Marvis Zou, Lily Chase, Daniel Kelly, Nadia Cromwell, Zephyr Lymburner, Hannah Hurvitt; Double Second: David Bertrand, Mia Bogyo, Cecily Page; Guitar: Perry Chase, Cosmos Siebert; Cello: Martin Conte, Harry Grillo; Tenor Bass:  Beck Brownlow; Six-Bass: Zak Vogel, Savannah Leaf; Drums: Zach Strehan

Pan Coalition of Maine Steel Orchestra
Pan Coalition of Maine Steel Orchestra

Officers of FISM (Festival International de Steelpan de Montréal –Montreal International Steelpan Festival): Salah Wilson (President), Egbert Gaye (Vice President), Rachel Wilson (Secretary/Treasurer), Adiylah Wilson, Desiree Tucker, Marie-Helêne Moisan, Joyce Amorer, Miriyam Wilson

Festival International de Steelpan de Montreal 2012:  Highlights in Pictures

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