Celebration of Women
and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan - Antigua



 Woman On Pan

My name is Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau. I am an Antiguan mother, a sister, a wife, a writer and above all else a - renaissance woman.  Women doing their natural thing excites and tickles me.  Women committed to being all of the woman they can be and breaking new and untraditional ground is cause for celebration.   In fact; it’s like sweet steel pan music to my ears.

In Antigua and Barbuda, that special dot on the world map, where I’m from, it is an exciting time for women.  We have found our voices and unveiled our talents and we are unstoppable.  We have taken on the men in traditional “men” activities and are excelling.

The steel pan is just one small area that we have challenged and taken by storm.  Traditionally, steel bands have been a “man” thing.  Women listened and enjoyed, probably never entertaining the thought of being a part of it. Well, at least one woman must have thought about it and dared to try it, and then it caught on like a "bad flu."

Just about every steel band in Antigua and Barbuda now has female members.  The schools of pan have a high female enrollment from as young as seven years up to the forties.  We aren’t just learning to beat the pan but also are learning music theory; which means that we have a real understanding of and appreciation for what we are doing.

There is no greater joy than watching a sister beat pan with attitude. The sound of the music fades away and all else is blurred and the women become the center of attraction for all five senses.  A few moments later, I wake from my reverie to find myself smiling and keeping time and just simply admiring the natural confidence with which they handle this art. They seem to be saying, “Pan playing wasn’t made for man alone.  It was made for me too.”

 It is this attitude that is the attraction to pan for other women.  It leaves a longing and some degree of envy.  I myself have said, “Next year carnival must find me beating pan.”  Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, next year is always a year away and I reason that somebody must be on the sideline to watch and report.

I have been told by Robin Margetson, a passionate, veteran player and instructor that the Quads is by far the most difficult [pan instrument] to master.  He says there is one woman in his band who masters it and about six others who are showing exceptional potential.  Well; of course, we master whatever we set our minds to.

Last November at the annual Moods of Pan, an all-female steel band from New York was invited to play, and play they did!  There is no all-female band on the island….as yet.  But knowing us and the mood we’re in these days; coming shortly to a neighbourhood near you!

In 2005 when the struggle for women’s rights continues it is pleasing to see that there are men in some areas that are accepting of us and actually encourage us to join them.  But with the history of the all-boys club it makes one wonder if we are invited in because we make the band look better.  Hmmmm... Hey; don’t blame us for being suspicious.  We have reason to be.

In this month of March when women are celebrated I say let the drums roll; lift the curtains and let the show begin.  I say to all the women of pan everywhere in the world; if music be the food of love, play on.

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


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  © and Courtesy of Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau


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March 7, 2005 


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