Celebration of Women
and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan - 2005



Pan Music 24-7

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Caution: Very Sweet Pan Music, Very Addictive



 "Pan Women of Antigua Speak"

The Steelpan has always played an important part of the Antiguan music culture since its inception.  Women have and continue to play an important role in the Antigua Steelpan movement.  The island, in addition to being the home of some of the best steel orchestras in the region, sports one of the most progressive music literacy and music performance programs in the Caribbean.  This program is aggressively led by Gemonites Steel Orchestra who use the steelpan instrument as the instrument of choice for instruction and practice, particularly in theory and musicianship. Furthermore, the orchestra has developed a large contingent of female players...  More On Gemonites


As a music lover, playing the Pan was a natural progression.  I play the recorder and keyboard by ear and was intrigued by the opportunity to play such an ingenious instrument as a steel pan.  I just love the sound of the pan.   Gemonites Steel Orchestra opened a door for me when they started the school of pan and later, the "Ladies of Gemonites." 

I find that women are naturally more disciplined with particular attention and respect for time, fellow members and generally more structured practice in sessions.   In Antigua a lot of girls are playing pan already; I think though that there may be women who have a desire to play but feel that it’s too late – It’s not.  It’s never too late to do what you love.   [The phenomenon of] Women at the pan yard has really caught on quickly here.  I guess the next step is to have an all-female steel orchestra including drummer, arranger and rhythm section.  Ladies of Gemonites can be considered the first step in that direction in Antigua/Barbuda.

Alstyne Allen

My name is Danielle Bennett and I’ve been playing pan for the past 2 years.  I believe that steel pan music is a vital expression of the Caribbean culture.  I am proud of the way steel pan music is developing in Antigua.  It is being taught in some schools and there are many “pan yards” where persons can go to learn this art form.   In addition, pan music is no longer a once-a-year thing.  The launching of Moods of Pan has allowed pan music to be celebrated even more than just at Carnival.  Notwithstanding, I think that we should “live pan” everyday, so just like other forms of music are played on the radio at any hour, I think that the same thing should be done for pan.

Danielle Bennett

My name is Deidra Peterson.  I have been playing pan for the past two years with the Gemonites Steel Orchestra.  Pan is becoming very popular in Antigua among people of all ages.  I must say that before I started playing pan, I was never interested in such an art form, but I decided to join a pan group, along with one of my friends, to see what all the fuss was about.  To my surprise, I am now addicted to pan. The sound is so captivating, it is like the advertisement for Pringles: “Once you pop, the fun won’t stop.”  Everything about pan is wonderful; it sounds good, it is a lot of fun and the members of the band treat you like family.  You are able to play at events in the presence of large crowds, and because of this, it is a great place to grow, learn and mature.

Females are fast becoming dominant in the pan groups in Antigua.  Being a female myself, I am quite happy to know this.  In fact, some bands are now able to have female ‘playing-out sides’ (this is when members of the band play at different events).  I would say that we add flavor to the band; as the saying goes “Behind every good man is a great woman”, just the same “Inside e very good band are great female players.”  So, continue playing your hearts out, my fellow female pan players.  Keep Pan Alive!

Deidra Peterson

My name is Jacqui Joseph originally from St. Vincent but living in Antigua.  My introduction to pan was through the Gemonites School of Pan where I have played since 2001.   I have learnt to play the single tenor, tenor bass and double guitar pans but my favourite is the tenor bass.  There is nothing like pounding out a strong bass line on pan.  My panorama experience is limited to two years when I played with the Gemonites Steel Orchestra in 2003 and 2004 and I look forward to playing in many more.

I am pleased to see the advances made by women in pan.  Back in the 80’s when I first became interested, it was unlikely that any parent would allow their teenage daughter to pass a panyard much less to play pan.  The number of young women playing pan in 2004 demonstrates the fact that the acceptance of pan as just another musical instrument is growing.  There is no sight more appealing than women playing pan.  The response the rejuvenated Ladies of Gemonites, an all-female pan side from Gemonites of which I am a member, has received even in our embryonic stages, attests to that fact.

A steel band is more than just pan players, and one aspect which still seems to escape the female involvement is the position of drummer.  I would like to see some emphasis placed on cultivating a cadre of female drummers.  We have a wealth of female musicians in the Caribbean and more of them need to take the initiative and spread their wings into the realm of arranging pan music.  I guess you can say that my dream is to see an all-female panside playing music arranged by a female, with an all-female rhythm section.

Ladies… anyone up for the challenge?

Jacqui Joseph

Jannelle Wehner, 24 years old (I think) playing pan for about 5 years.

I've always loved steel pan but never got the time to pursue it as a hobby.   However upon meeting the Gemonites Steel Orchestra I had to join the organization and let my love for pan show through me (even though I don't catch tunes as fast as others.)

Women are beginning to take an active role in the composition of steelbands meaning there are more women now than in days gone by.  However, from the executive level, I don’t feel that enough women are integrated in the process.  It’s like the "powers that be" want women to make up numbers in bands but when it comes to decision making its "a man's job" as in the case of our local association.   Women are seen basically as secretaries, not people who are equal to their male counterparts.  As with most things that were once one-gender dominated, I'm sure pan will become integrated on all levels.  This is one of the aspects that must be addressed in order for the art-form to move forward since it would create awareness and interest in all levels.

Jannelle Wehner

I play pan because I love music.  In my younger days I had wanted to play drums but my clever mother redirected me to the violin.  Luckily, my dreams were not completely crushed as I later moved to the Caribbean where percussive instruments rule.  I started learning pan through an adult continuing education course given by the UWI (University of the West Indies) Cavehill campus in Barbados.  We students, playing with little skill but great enthusiasm, decided to form the group Pan Revolution which continues (much improved) to this day.  Many years later, I find myself in Antigua where I play with the Ladies of Gemonites.  As an import to the region, I feel blessed that my love of music and a bit of skill in playing has helped me to integrate into Caribbean society in a special way.  And a shot of rum never hurts!

Joanne Klonowski

I am Era Birk of the Gemonites Steel Orchestra.  I was introduced to the sound of pan music some thirty years ago when I first came to Antigua.  At that time, the steel band(s) I listened to were composed mainly of men.  I believe the pan, because of the relative ease with which one can learn to play it, broke the barrier of a male dominated musical group.  I don't know when the women in Antigua started getting involved with pan playing, but it is very heartening to see a fair number of us playing side by side with the men and even having a ladies band.  I hope this trend continues and that more and more women will step up and join one of the schools of pan to learn how to play, not just for financial considerations but for the challenge that it presents and the pleasure and satisfaction one derives from mastering this unique instrument ---- and that is my goal.   Regards, Era.

Era Birk

Hi…… I am Patrice Forde from the village of Freetown in Antigua and a teacher by profession.  Pan has made an impact on my life.  I have being playing the pan for the last 3½ years.  My main reason for playing the pan is that it helps me to foster team work to face the world ahead, to socialize and to calm my inmost feelings.  As the years passed by, it seems to me as though pan is not promoted enough and is treated more like a seasonal function than an all year activity.  Additionally, women are not taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to them to excel in the field of pan.  To this end I strongly suggest that the aggressive promotion of pan is done to target the female population.  I would also want to see a lot more public recognition of noteworthy panists to show them our appreciation and undying love for the art form.

In closing I aspire to, one day, become Antigua's most celebrated female pan soloist on the double second.

Patrice Forde

Avid Pan Fan especially of Potential Steel Orchestra in Calliaqua St. Vincent

Vynnette Frederick – Attorney at Law
St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Pan offers women a level playing field where their efforts in creating a symphonic melodious sound are equally as appreciated as the effort of any man in the band who's doing the same thing!  Listen nah... there's a reason we love to watch the "Woman on De Bass!"



© and Courtesy Gemonites Steel Orchestra


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March 10, 2005 

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