When Steel Talks
Everybody Listens

Contact James


New York Steelbands Open Practice Sessions To The Public
Miracle Instrument Dominates Urban Live Music Performance Scene


Rarely can the past, present and future converge to a single point; however - such is the case in the New York steelband music culture, experience and history.  The steelpan is the only music instrument invented in this century and it has bridged the generation gap.  It has found a comfortable home in both the young hip-hop and I-pod generation, and the generation of the past.  Indeed, it is not uncommon to find three generations from the same family together in an ensemble or orchestra.

D'Radoes Steel Orchestra at their Brooklyn panyard

On any given day you can find music educators from the world's finest institutions observing and studying these urban steelpan masters executing their craft. They are busy creating in broad daylight what will be future music masterpieces that will become legend, and will foster debate and conversation for the ages.

Imagine being afforded the opportunity to observe and study the likes of Michael Jordan, Picasso, Mozart, Beethoven, Thelonious Monk - up close and personal in their prime - daily - for free.

Every night between now and Labor Day, you witness some of the greatest musicians of our time performing in the panyards of Brooklyn.  The New York City steelbands are currently preparing for that musical extravaganza known as Panorama.  It is one of the biggest music spectacles in this hemisphere.

Pantonic Steel Orchestra at Practice - After

Nightly, hundreds of musicians come together at their respective outdoor practice areas/panyards located throughout central Brooklyn neighborhoods (Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Bedford Stuyvesant).  This year thirteen steel orchestras will participate in the NY panorama competition, with others opting to prepare for the J'Ouvert celebrations.

Educators from UConn & Princeton University
at Pantonic Practice

In New York, household names like steelpan music arrangers Clive Bradley, Pelham Goddard, Arddin Herbert, Yohan Popwell, Jit Samaroo and Robert Greenidge among others, ring like Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart or Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones and Dr. Dre. of their eras and respective music genres alike - with as much, if not more stature, talent and cultural significance.   And ironically, like its humble beginnings the instruments represent the aspirations and voice of a people not normally seen or  heard.

Interpreting and generating hauntingly beautiful, intellectually stimulating and rhythmically challenging music that tell various stories, is the norm of the day in these urban steel orchestras.

The mere existence of the NY steelband orchestras and movement defies logic, time, and environment.  In spite of the hostile economics, environment and social stigmas, the steelbands continue to survive displaying a brilliance and remarkable resiliency.  In spite of all their supposed business savvy, we dare say that neither Martha Stewart or Donald Trump could run a steelband in New York - if given the same resources and social conditions that management of the respective orchestras have to work with, and constant obstacles they face - including bad finances; inconsiderate, hostile and contemptuous authorities, and a non-existent housing environment.

Pan yard  - a toxic dump or lot behind God's back that no one wants, that the pan man will transform into an outdoor urban Carnegie Hall through vision, imagination, sacrifice and sheer hard work. 

Pantonic's 2005 'panyard' before it was transformed.  See picture, above, for the practice space,
as it appears now..

Of course upon this transformation, the lot will now have value and be taken away from the pan man, by the very people who previously viewed it with utter disdain.   Example:  Pantonic Steel Orchestra, for two seasons in a row, has transformed properties that were complete eyesores and dumping grounds.  In 2004, they did this with the work of the pan players themselves; and paying for necessary improvements.  The end result was a prime property which they had to give up.  It now generates hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in rent for the owner.  They have just done the same thing again for 2005, and the end result could be the same.

But - for the days leading up to the panorama competition - the bonafide, the curious, and the new steelband music fans all find themselves at the respective New York panyards, most oblivious to what it took for some of the bands to arrive at that point.  Now, the focus is strictly on the creative process of the art form, resulting in musical masterpieces emanating from these instruments through the dexterity of their players and genius of the arrangers and tuners.  It is a once-a-year experience, so don't miss it.  Find the locations of the panyards here.


Click here Countdown to New York Panorama 2005

Feel The Pulse Of The Steelpan Community

GSMN - Global Steelpan Music News