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An Interview with Brigitte Fischer

President of PANCH Swiss Steelband Association

Women and the Steelpan Art Form

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Brigitte Fischer
Brigitte Fischer

Global - Meet Brigitte Fischer, musician, steelpan player and president of “PANCH” the Swiss Steelband Association.  There are over 150 steelbands in Switzerland.

Ms. Fischer is the first female president of the Swiss Steelband Association.

In this exclusive 2010 When Steel Talks (WST) interview, Brigitte Fischer talks about the steelpan in Switzerland, Panch and her recent performance with Phase II Pan Groove for Trinidad and Tobago’s 2010 steelband panorama competition.

  • WST - How were you first introduced to the steelpan instrument?

    Brigitte Fischer and Len “Boogsie” Sharpe

    Fischer - I heard the steelpan on a few occasions in Switzerland and then I read an advertisement in the local newspapers that they wanted to form a steelband and were looking for players. That was 1995.

  • WST  - What pan do you play?

    Fischer - My first love is and will be the double second which I still play in a trio formation. Besides this I play a four pan (cello) in a bigger band and a tenor bass (triple) in a small formation with a German flute that plays only classical music.

  • WST - Are you the first woman president of the Steelband Association?

    Fischer - Yes. PANCH Swiss Steelband Association was founded in 2004 and I was elected president in 2009.

  • WST - How many members do you have?

    Fischer - About 40 steelbands and 70 private persons are members of PANCH. We have about 150 Steelbands in Switzerland; however, a lot of these bands are not (yet) interested in any kind of association. We are growing slowly but surely.

  • WST - What are your responsibilities?

    Fischer - The Board of the association works as a team where everyone has his responsibilities. Besides the presidential and representative tasks, I am responsible for education/workshops and web mastering.

  • WST - What are your goals as it relates to the association?

    Fischer - The objective of our association is the enhancement of the Swiss pan community by means of activities such as launching big band projects like PANCH 2000, compiling a pan curriculum with various workshops, offering an e-mail information service to our members (concerts, advertising, general pan information) and providing a quarterly printed newsletter. My personal goal is to find a way how we can enhance and further cooperation among the many individuals who champion the steelband movement in Switzerland. United we stand strong!

  • WST -What is your greatest challenge as President?

    Fischer - Keeping the steelpan flame alive. Rejuvenating the scene, and cultivating and fostering passion for the steelpan.

  • WST - What are you most proud of about the steelpan movement in Switzerland?

    Fischer - I think it’s great how many steelbands we have in Switzerland. Considering it is such a small country, far far away from Trinidad :-) Many people love the instrument, love the band they play with and the pan community they are part of.

  • WST - What are you most disappointed with the steelpan movement in Switzerland?

    Fischer - If you were a fairy and I had a wish, I would love to see a joint effort amongst all players, teachers and other people involved to bring the steelpan to a next level - increase its popularity in Switzerland, grow the number of players and to see the instrument being more recognized by the public as a “veritable” instrument that can be played in many different settings (not only calypso but jazz as well as even classical music).

  • WST - You traveled to Trinidad this year and played with Phase II - how was that experience?

     Brigitte Fischer in Phase II Pan Groove
    Brigitte Fischer at Phase II Pan Groove

    Fischer - Well, it was just indescribable! I think I could write a whole book. It was such an honour to play with one of the best bands in the world! I am still delirious with joy about the opportunity I got. Thank you Phase II! And I had so many extraordinary experiences - meeting and getting to know all the nice musicians in the band, playing Boogsie’s great arrangement and seeing how it developed from verse and chorus to a masterpiece - incredible. And I got the opportunity to see a lot of this beautiful country, too.

  • WST - What is next for you as a musician?

    Fischer - Now of course a big wish is to return to Trinidad and do it all again. It was worth every second of hard practicing work! Here in Switzerland I have to work hard to catch up with the repertoire with my four pan (as I am new to that band). And on the double second I want to improve my improvisation skills and harmony know-how.

    A Celebration of Women And The Steelpan Artform

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