Celebration of Women
and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


Pan Music 24-7

Without Compromise



The Steelband Movement
– A Way Forward

Dawn K. Batson, Ph.D.

Dr. Dawn Batson, associate professor of music, holds degrees from renowned institutes of higher education. Her Ph.D in music and international affairs from the University of Miami, an M.M. is but one. She was most recently associate professor and director of the steel band music program at Florida Memorial College. Over the years Dr. Batson has fulfilled a number of roles in many countries - including performer, arranger, conductor, teacher, judge, composer, musical director, lecturer, grant writer and producer.  [Full Bio]

In global terms, the steelband world has moved and is moving rapidly ahead. In the land of its birth however, few benefits from this forward move have accrued to its creators, proponents and progeny.  As a Trinidadianwoman actively involved in the steelband world for over twenty-five years, this fact has been the driving force behind many of the initiatives with which I have been involved.  In this article I will look at two ways in which the movement may move forward and also benefit its creators and their cultural descendants.

Dawn Batson

Inventions of worth do not long remain the sole property of the creators.  Intellectual property rights worldwide ensure exclusive rights for a limited period of time, after which the public at large can utilize the creation to their benefit.  The steelband, even as a part of Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural heritage, never gained that initial protection and the skip to the public domain has been made.  This is an open door that many are now fighting to close.  In the interim, groups formed in Europe and North America have organized festivals, competitions and workshops centering on the instrument.  Entrepreneurs on these continents have entered the market and made major economic strides in the areas of promotion and manufacture.  These initiatives have impacted the individuals and groups involved, but only in a few circumstances have the gains trickled down to the communities that created the art form. 

In 1995 I proposed the utilization of Trinidad and Tobago’s steelband communities as economic structures that would propel the instrument and the communities forward.  Since that time and perhaps before, others have proposed similar moves with varying success.  I know that the steelband communities in Trinidad and Tobago have within their boundaries, many talented individuals.  I still firmly believe that their strengths can be utilized to promote the steelband product through manufacture, research and development, marketing, performance, cultural exchanges and associated administrative and labor tasks thereby positively impacting their communities, the nation at large and the global steelband movement.

Another way forward must be through the youth.  Over the last few years educators in Trinidad, the US and England have endeavored to provide opportunities in higher education for young pan men and women.  Those that have taken advantage of these opportunities are those who will lead and are leading the steelband movement.  Efforts must continue to educate the sons and daughters of the sons and daughters of the creators.  Our youth must be educated, not only in the history, technique and artistry involved in the making of the instrument, but in international business, entrepreneurship and money management.  Everyone now involved in the steelband movement has one or more of these strengths - practical experience, a strong cultural base and education. It is this combination of strengths that we must impart to the next generation. 

Over the years many persons have devoted themselves (blood, sweat and tears notwithstanding) to the promotion of the art form.  The problem is that many of these efforts have taken place in isolation.  We as members of the community must come together to work towards common goals.  If we succeed in passing on our traditions, improving our knowledge base, working together and are armed with the drive, passion and creativity of youth, the movement has nowhere to go but forward.

© and courtesy Dawn K. Batson, Ph.D


Their Story, Their Voice, Their Life, Their Dreams - click for more stories


Send your articles and/or pictures for consideration to whensteeltalks@hotmail.com

A Celebration of Women
And The Steelpan Artform

Search for Anything Steelpan Music Related



March 7, 2005 

Headlines * Site Map * Site Search Events * Pan Global * Message Board * Guest Book * Pan News * Pan Radio * Pan New York * Pan TnT * About Us

©2005 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved