Brooklyn, New York, USA - Having discovered pan music for the first time just five years ago, it is remarkable considering Mathieu Borgne’s résumé thus far. Borgne, originally from France, has already been to Trinidad three times, and is currently in Brooklyn working with Women In Steel, arranging for the 2003 Panorama, which is just around the corner.
Thirty-year-old Borgne is no stranger to the music scene, having played piano and then drums for several years. However he had no idea of the pan culture ′till running into a band that was looking for a drummer, a pan band. The eccentricity and the harmony of the pan music drew him in and ignited his curiosity for the culture.
Mathieu Borgne accompanying Women In Steel during band practice
Just a few months after his discovery of pan in 1998, Borgne traveled to Trinidad for his first ever Carnival. He returned in 1999 as well for the Carnival, and then in 2002 along with a French band, Calypsociation, for the World Band Festival.
Through the introduction of Andy Narell, Women In Steel’s arranger for the 2001 and 2002 New York Panoramas, Borgne got the opportunity to work with the band on this year’s song. In Brooklyn for August, he is working on arranging a song entitled, “Ellie Man” for this year’s Panorama. The piece is a tribute to one of pan’s legends, Ellie Mannette.
Borgne sees a huge difference between the pan movement in France compared to that of the United States. Namely in the exposure. France does not have a very large Caribbean community, unlike the U.S. France is home to just 11 actual steel bands, leaving the movement sparse. Coming from the kind of country whose pan movement is only about 10 years old, Borgne is enthused by the culture and the attention steel drum is given in the U.S. Speaking of Brooklyn‘s pan population, Borgne says, “It’s like Trinidad for me here.”
However small the popularity of pan is now in Europe, Borgne sees it growing. He names such countries as Germany, Switzerland and Norway, as having interest in the sounds of steel drum, an appeal that he attributes to their cold climate, and the people’s attraction to the kind of music that serves as a reminder of the hotter tropical regions. With this budding curiosity for the pan Borgne hopes to someday spark a European Carnival.
When asked of his dislikes concerning steel drum, Borgne laughs and shakes his head, as if the question is preposterous. “Everything is cool;” he answers with an assured smile. It is Borgne’s fresh nature and determined spirit that has him raising his goals. Borgne having accomplished all that he has so far in a mere five years, still does not consider all his aspirations met. He hopes, although he is aware of the difficulty for an outsider, to some day in the near future travel to Trinidad and arrange for the bands there.
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