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Salah Wilson:
a Man with a Vision, a Plan and a Point of Execution

(F.I.S.M.) Festival International de Steelpan de Montréal

During the two-day period of the 2009 Montreal International Steelpan Festival, When Steel Talks was given unrestricted access to the president of the festival’s organization, Salah Wilson, and its members.  We were able to - in addition to speaking with him - observe the man and his operation in action.


Salah Wilson displays his book - ‘Steelpan Playing with Theory’

Montréal, Quebec, Canada - The steelpan music movement - or the world for that matter - has never had a shortage of dreamers and procrastinators who can always find a reason why something ‘cannot happen.’  However, there are a distinct few individuals who consistently buck that notion, by their simple know-how to get things done.

Upon meeting Mr. Wilson you come into the immediate realization that this is one serious hombre.  His years of experience in the steelpan music movement have bolstered him with as many years of knowledge, as to what he can reasonably expect from a given situation and more importantly - what it would take to get to the next level.   He exhibits those qualities that most successful people have, which are - an expectation for success,  a taste of success, and a non-failure option.

“Some succeed because they are destined to, but most succeed because they are determined to.” - Henry Van Dyke
‘In either case - Salah Wilson has it covered.’

He is indeed rational, talented, intelligent, hardworking, self-sacrificing and committed.  And yet while obviously none of these traits can predict or guarantee successes, it is a safe bet that success will be a continued staple on Salah’s menu.

Members of Salah’s Steelpan Academy

Salah is clearly a person who is forward thinking.  Although he is man of the present, he has learned from and remembers yesterday’s events with vivid detail.  Moreover, he is planning for the future.   Indeed, he is a man who is always in three places simultaneously - yesterday, today and tomorrow.  His balance of these three realms contributes greatly to his even temperament, wisdom and drive.

He wants to get things done ‘like yesterday’ but he is not reckless.  He understands the importance of history and the past, but is not stuck in or immobilized by them.  He sees, relishes and is excited by the prospects of the future - but is astute enough to enjoy the present and is clear as to not miss out on life’s treasured moments by being too totally caught up in making other plans.

Mr. Wilson clearly has no interest in repeating the mistakes of the past as made by so many other steelpan music related-organizations across globe.  He is very business-like and pays strict attention to details - indeed a trait that is in short supply all too often in the steelpan music community.  His commitment to excellence is undeniable.  Just take look at his almost 400-page book “Steelpan Playing with Theory” by way of an illustration of his diligence to detail.  By the way everybody should own a copy.

Salah exudes an infectious and passionate aura about the steelpan instrument, its music and people.  This quiet passion and focused intensity are also prominently displayed by members of his organization. 

When faced with tragedies that would incapacitate most people, he deals with and manages them as unavoidable ‘course adjustments.’  Even as Salah revisits briefly the recent fire that destroyed his home, personal, and valuable steelpan music items - the rawness and pain of that wound are momentarily evident on his face.  But even as the emotions flicker across his visage, Mr. Wilson almost simultaneously smacks himself (back into gear) - ‘got to keep moving.

Salah Wilson among many things is an entrepreneur, educator, arranger, author, father, husband, leader, philosopher and community stalwart.  Moreover, he is a survivor and an extremely humble individual with a lifelong love affair with the steelpan instrument; he does not need to demand respect -  he simply commands it by his being.

Salah’s introduction to the steelpan came at a very, very early age when the famed Flamingos Steel Orchestra got its beginnings in his own grandmother’s yard - and he eventually became a ‘naturalized member.’  His passion for the instrument would lead him to Canada, then to America - and finally back to Canada where he would eventually settle and base his outreach and operations.

One of the surest and most indisputable ways of judging Salah Wilson’s success is by observing the people who have been closest to and influenced by him, and their subsequent accomplishments.  As one observes the members of his family, his students and colleagues - his impact on their thought processes, methodology and dedication is noticeable, and their own commitment is equally unwavering.

Salah Wilson revealed to When Steel Talks that Rudolph Charles, the late manager and leader of Desperadoes Steel Orchestra from Laventille, Trinidad - was a major influence on his outlook.  He and Charles developed a mutual admiration for each other’s visions and ideas, and formed and maintained a close relationship.  Wilson himself employs a savvy business acumen that was also characteristic of Charles in his leadership role with Desperadoes - that is, understanding the moment and environment that you are working in, and applying the necessary strategy to achieve the success you wish to obtain.

In an era of fiscal responsibility, and for getting the most bang for one’s investment buck, Wilson’s international outlook and business model for music with the steelpan as its focus, is an established vehicle with which to get on board.  It does not hurt at all that rarer commodities such as integrity, ethics and the ability to unapologetically accomplish goals - are part of the package of the proven and tested visionary known as Salah Wilson.

As per his vision, look for the Montreal International Steelpan Music Festival to become one of the most distinguished and respected music events in Canada.

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Contact: salah@steelpanplus.com; Salah Wilson: 1 (514) 924-7307

Ning profile - http://whensteeltalks.ning.com/profile/SalahWilson

Festival articles:
International Panorama 2009 - Montréal Style

Steelpan Soloists Light Up Montréal
Salah Wilson: a Man with a Vision, a Plan and a Point of Execution

Maine’s Atlantic Clarion Steel Band - Pan Coalition

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