Panman and Masman Pepe Francis – a man who has dedicated more than fifty years to the steelband art form, wears multiple hats including those as director of the Ebony Steelband Trust in London, and chairman of the British Association of Steelbands (BAS). Armed with a global vision for the steelband community, art form and instrument, Pepe Francis is abreast of and takes keen interest in, the steelband-related goings-on not only in the UK and Europe, but in the Caribbean and in New York as well.
In this interview Francis speaks on the challenges of Pan not only in the UK, but also relative to the global platform. Inspired by what he saw and his own experiences at New York’s J’Ouvert, he set out to and did indeed establish - J’Ouvert in England seven years ago - despite opposition from authorities.
Francis says “Pan is in healthy state in relationship to the youth... [But] where is [sic] the resources coming from to keep development of young people ongoing?” He himself is not one to rest on his laurels. He was honored for “services to Steel Pan Music” in the UK with an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2011, and utilizes his platform to continue speaking out in the furtherance of the movement. Moreover - he understands all matters connected with the steelband art form can move forward only if viewed for what it is - a business.
Augustine Pepe Francis
In New York for the recently-concluded 2013 Panorama, Francis continues to travel around the world, promoting the art form and forging alliances, while remaining devoted to the organization he leads and has been involved with before it was known by its present day name of “Ebony.” He works full-time in relation to and is involved hands-on in all aspects of the steelband movement, while still being a key voice in London’s Notting Hill Carnival arena.
And at the root of it all, Pepe Francis is a ‘Solo Harmonites’ at heart, hailing from Morvant, Trinidad, with his first experience in Pan around the age of eight with Ebonites Steel Orchestra. When Steel Talks sat down with Pepe Francis, for insight into one of the most pivotal and influential individuals in Pan in the UK.
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