Meet Daisy James-McClean - Panist, Lecturer, Pan Pioneer - UpClose!

“ had a time my mother caught me, I get licks, you know - broomstick and pot spoon - anything she get she hand on... - but I did love the Pan so I didn't care how much licks I get - anytime I get a chance, I on the Pan...”  Daisy James-McClean

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

Mrs. Daisy James-McClean is an award-winning female steelpan musician, whose recognized list of firsts and accomplishments within the steelband movement are both significant and staggering.  She is an original (Ms. McClean started playing over 70 years ago, and just celebrated her seventy-sixth birthday) who keeps on giving to the steelpan movement, starting from its earliest, and now as the leader of Harlem Syncopators of Trinidad and Tobago.

When Steel Talks Exclusive icon

Global -  Mrs. Daisy James-McClean aka Daisy McClean is a living steelpan music world treasure whose memories, experiences, deeds and accomplishments unquestionably afford her global status and a unique place in the grand history of steelpan music development.  She is full of humor, humble, genuine, feisty, direct, of keen intellect - and will let you know ‘what time it is’ in a second. Most importantly, she is loving, giving and cares deeply about the development of the youth.

Daisy James-McClean
Daisy James at her first concert

She is one of the first women to have played Pan in a band as a member of Casablanca, and then City Syncopators. Daisy McClean is also the first female panist to have accompanied a Calypsonian—Brother Mudada—for a Dimanche Gras performance. 

She was also in the same primary school class with the rather quiet boy who would later become the legendary icon Rudolph Charles of Desperadoes; they had both attended Rosehill RC School in Laventille, Trinidad. Daisy McClean experienced first-hand many of the hardships, pains and joys early steelpan players faced.

She first started playing pan in 1944 at five years old.  Although frowned upon, she was not dissuaded from her attraction to and love for the steelpan instrument in a time when the mere thought of women being associated with Pan was unthinkable -  and which in her case initially and routinely earned her several “cut-tails” from her mother.

Daisy James-McClean, leader of Harlem Syncopators and oldest living female Pan Pioneer
Daisy James-McClean

In this UpClose When Steel Talks exclusive interview, WST participated in one of those rare and treasured moments as we stepped back in time through the eyes, voice and memories of an original Pan pioneer Daisy James-McClean in our ‘UpClose’ series. Here is Daisy James-McClean’s story in her own words.

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