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Jenessa ‘JB’ Baptiste – spreading her musical love with the rhythm of her bass lines

by Robbie Joseph

Jenessa Baptiste

At twenty-eight Jenessa is a schoolteacher and an avid lover of sports who started playing the steelpan instrument at the age eleven with the Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra. Jenessa has been teaching for the past eight years, she started as a primary school teacher and has progressed to attain her B Ed. in Physical Education and has recently been installed as a PE teacher at Princes Town East Secondary School.  

Jenessa BaptisteJenessa confessed that before she started playing with Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra she found great joy and extreme fulfillment from converting disused biscuit tins into small tenor pans and beating the day light out of them to quench her musical appetite. Little did she realise that her actions in her early childhood would lead to her current musical career with the steelpan. Her musical quest has seen her learn to play the Cuatro and is known to dabble on the African drums as well.  

Jenessa maintains fond memories as a child of staying awake into the wee hours of the morning to watch the Trinidad % Tobago National Steelband Panorama Finals on the big stage at the (Big Yard) Queens Park Savannah in Port of Spain. She said, ‘I remember patiently waiting to see Phase II Pan Groove, Carib Tokyo and Guinness Cavaliers. I was mesmerized by the wealth of mystical steelband music being played and deep down knew that I wanted to be part of it and after being officially introduced to the instrument under the tutorship of Mr Roland "Moose" Joseph at a steelpan workshop during school vacation, I was hooked’.

Her musical journey with the instrument started with the tenor pan, learning scales, chords, melodies, bridges etc. However, one day she saw a set of six bass drums and enquired what they were and why no one seemed interested to take up the challenge of playing multiple drums.

Being of an adventurous nature and never wanting to avoid a challenge Jenessa dived right in and currently can be seen jamming her set of seven bass pans. Ironically, Jenessa has never played a tenor pan competitively even though it was the first steelpan instrument that she was introduced too. On the topic she stated, ‘I love my bass too bad!’

Jenessa Baptiste on Bass with Phase II Pan Groove

During her musical career as a pannist Jenessa has been successful in performing with the Phase 11 Pan Groove Steel Orchestra in five of their seven National Steel Band Panorama Champion’s titles. She also played in the UK National Steel Band ‘Champions of Steel’ Finals with the Ebony Steel Band in 2006. Performed in St Lucia with the Diamond Steel Orchestra and has enjoyed touring the Caribbean, Europe and Africa.

Jenessa enjoys being able to network and develop relations with other colleagues in the music industry especially when their friendly "rivalry" sees the support and love being shared openly. She stated, ‘As someone recently told me, Music is the Food of Love so keep sharing that love through your musicality, makes sense right! I consider myself to be blessed, as I am part of a unique family of people from around the world that share one commonality, music. Thank you for the love, support and critique it fuels me to strive harder. Music is Love - It is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting. Peace.’

If you have ever seen Jenessa perform you will witness the unbridled energy coupled with her musicality that oozes excellence during her performances. Look out for Jenessa in the Trinidad and Tobago National Steel Band Panorama 2016 competition with the Phase 11 Pan Groove Steel Orchestra.

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