Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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An Interview with Anne Fridal

Global - The name ‘Anne Fridal’ reverberates throughout the Caribbean and wider world within operatic and theatrical performances circles as few others. Ms. Fridal has performed all over the globe at some of the most distinguished performance halls. This world-renowned dramatic soprano hails from the twin island-republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and has also performed with several steel orchestras.

Intelligence, courage, beauty and talent - Anne Fridal embodies all of those characteristics - a common thread among all women celebrated as Women is Pan.

Anne holds the distinction of being the first woman to have sung with every major steel orchestra coming out of Trinidad and Tobago. These steel orchestras include Phase II Pan Groove, Renegades, Desperadoes, Trinidad All Stars and Exodus. She also performed regularly with New York’s CASYM Steel Orchestra.

On women in pan, Anne says “women have shown the world that they too are capable of playing the steel pan to a standard that can be matched with any man [and sometimes better].”

“At this time it is an added pleasure to see and hear so many young people playing the steelpan in our Biennial Music Festival which is taking place at Queen’s Hall in Trinidad at this very time.

”In this exclusive 2010 When Steel Talks (WST) interview, Anne Fridal talks about the steelpan music genre which remains dear to her.


A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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

Ann F. - “I was introduced to steel pan by a pioneer of pan, Mr. Peter Aleong, and performed in a jazz concert entitled Jazzance ’87 with a host of wonderful musicians including Anise Hadeed and Raff Robertson, at a sold-out performance at the Central Bank Auditorium in Trinidad.”

WST - “Who are your musical influences?”

Ann F. - “My musical influences were rather classical - the music of Verdi Puccini Bach and Handel etc. But I have also been influenced by the music of calypso artistes Lord Kitchener and Shadow whose melodies are infectious - and of course the great jazz influence of “Boogsie” Sharpe and the voices of Ella [Fitzgerald], Louis [Armstrong], Frank [Sinatra], Cleo [Laine], Sarah [Vaughn] and many more.”

WST - “You’ve had some very interesting experiences with the steelpan genre where you have combined your vocal operatic skills with steel orchestras in performances. How did that come about?”

Ann F. - “I had been sponsored by the New York Daily News to do a series of concerts, in the New York metropolitan district. The invitation came from Mr. John Campi, an American and a steelpan lover who brought the winning bands from Trinidad and Tobago to New York. I had the privilege of singing with all of them. It was an exciting time of my life and I looked forward to doing this every summer for many years.”

WST - “What is your most memorable steelpan experience?”

Ann F. - “My most memorable steelpan experience was singing the national anthem of Trinidad and Tobago for Panorama in the Queen’s Park Savannah [can’t remember the year]. The crowd roared after I sang. I sang with a medium sized-band called Parry’s Pan School and I remember them having a really sweet sound.”

Anne Fridal with Casym Steel Orchestra
Anne Fridal

WST - “Compare the experience of performing with a “conventional” orchestra, with that of being accompanied by the steelpan?”

Ann F. - “I feel great. I suppose it is my national instrument and I am naturally excited to sing with a steelpan orchestra, on every occasion. ”

Anne Fridal head shot
Anne Fridal

WST - “There seems to be a growing feeling among steelpan musicians that the steelpan instrument is taken more seriously outside of it’s birthplace, Trinidad and Tobago. Have you seen or experienced anything in your global travels to substantiate this belief?”

Ann F. - “This I believe to be true; we only become attached when we feel that someone from the outside is showing a greater interest. We tend to be too casual in our acceptance and appreciation of the instrument and we need more of an interest in the promotion of the instrument coming out of Trinidad. There is a more active interest that circulates abroad in comparison with Trinidad and Tobago- in England, the [United] States, Europe. We need to wake up and invest more time and money to put this instrument on the world market.”

WST - “Do you remember the first female you ever saw play a pan?”

Ann F. - “The first female I saw play the pan was my dear friend Geraldine Connor who played bass [in Invaders Steel Orchestra] and I always wanted to play with her in a band for panorama - one fine day.”

WST - “What do you think might account for the large increase in women in pan worldwide?”

Ann F. - “Women are no longer in the kitchen all day, most women today have more interesting lives, they are independent, they are in jobs that were only held by men before - playing musical instruments that were controlled by men, like the saxophone and percussion drums, etc. And women have moved onwards and upwards being in many positions held only by men in the past. Women have shown the world that they too are capable of playing the steel pan to a standard that can be matched with any man [and sometimes better].”

WST - “What would you like to see happen to the steelpan instrument, steelpan music genre and players?”

Ann F. - “I would like the steelpan to be accepted as a conventional instrument and accompany more singers in my profession and accompany an entire opera and/or musical theatre production.”

Anne Fridel and Clive Bradley
Anne Fridal

WST - “You were a good friend of Clive Bradley. How has his passing impacted on you and the music?”

Ann F. - “Clive Bradley was my friend, yes. He saved a show of mine when a performer did not turn up, and accompanied me on the piano with Kitchener’s Symphony in G. Then he went on to the bass, percussion and every instrument that was in the house that night. He was the ultimate musician and I loved his magic. He was a genius and God knows how much I miss him. I hope that young people have learnt something from his talent and technique.”


WST - “What developments in pan are you most fond of?”

Ann F. - “I love the G-Pan and hope sincerely that we will continue in creating as the true inventors of this amazing instrument. And I also hope we will consider documenting material so that one day we could pass it on to perhaps one day be registered in a library or the sorts.”

WST - “What development in pan are you most disappointed in?”

Ann F. - “I feel that we do not have enough concerts throughout the years to facilitate some of our venues that are often left empty around the city [Port-of-Spain, Trinidad]. There should be concerts throughout the year at the academy and Queen’s Hall, and lectures and workshops and every school should have a class in pan playing, the theory of music and performance ethics.”

WST - “Do you think we will see a female president of Pan Trinbago in the near future?”

Ann F. - “Yes. It would be great to see the emergence of a female president of Pan Trinbago; but she would have to prove the mettle of her making - not just be a figurehead.”

WST - “From your perspective, what is the future of pan? ”

Ann F. - “Pan has to move and we must take it seriously, we must move it through the world and be more innovative in its promoting. The future could be exciting. Pan could be included in the major theatres of the world on the operatic stage to accompany ballet and musical theatre, a local play or musical, and a regular feature to educate young people in the wonderful art of steelband playing.”


The great Anne Fridal performs with CASYM Steel Orchestra at New York City Hall. The year is 2002

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