Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

 

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Meet Allidonna George of St. Lucia

She is part of that new generation of steelpan playing women who are now navigating a new direction for the Pan fraternity. In an exclusive, WST speaks to Allidonna G. of St. Lucia

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “How long have you been playing Pan?”

Allidonna G. - “I started playing in 2002. It’s been eleven (11) years now I have been playing with the Diamond Steel Orchestra, located in Marchand, Castries, near my neighborhood.”


WST - “What made you fall in love with the steelpan instrument and its music?”

Allidonna G. - “On a whole I love music. No matter what form or rhythm it comes from - African to Classical to Latin, Hip Hop, Reggae, Dancehall, etc. You name it I dig it. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the music making process. Since I cannot sing…LOL and I’ve always looked at playing instruments like the keyboard, drums, etc. as difficult, one of my easier options was to try my hand at playing steel pan which was a success, I may add. My father and some of my siblings are also pan players and my mother has also been a lover of the art form.”

 


 

WST - “Which ‘voices’ of the instrument do you play (tenor, guitar, bass, etc.)?”

Allidonna G. - “Currently I am a Double tenor player. I started out with the tenor and bass then moved to guitar. Though I am now playing double tenor, guitar is my love.”


Allidonna George

 

WST - “Have you played in any other country besides St. Lucia?”

Allidonna G. - “Trinidad – World Steel Band Festival, 2002; Antigua – World Junior Panorama, 2003; Barbados – Pan In De Oval, 2009.”


 

WST - “What is the steel band art form like year-round in St. Lucia outside of the Panorama season?”

Allidonna G. - “Apart from the Panorama season, unfortunately there is not very much for bands to engage in apart from hotel gigs handled by the “Stage Sides” of various bands, or play as side acts at events such as the St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. It is my dream that with the recently-elected young and vibrant executive of the St. Lucia Steel Bands Association of which I am part, new initiatives will be developed to encourage greater national awareness of the art form, and create more avenues for individual panists and bands alike to express their creativity.”


 

WST -“There are currently five women in St. Lucia’s Steelband Association; is this the first time that this many ladies have been in the association?”

Allidonna G. - “Yes it is. Normally you would get 2 or 3 females on the executive at a time. Though it wasn’t purposely done this time we are equal, five men and five women. We also have our first female President this year. Congratulations to Ms. Vernetta Paul.”


 

WST - “Does this representation reflect a strong female component in St. Lucia’s steelband community?”

Allidonna G. - “Definitely. A steel band would traditionally comprise mostly men and a few women. Now it’s the women who are just as much, or even more involved in the art form.”


 

WST - “What type of support do the private sector and government of St. Lucia offer the country’s steel band community?”

Allidonna G. - “Private sector support for the Steel Band community leaves a lot to be desired. While a few bands are blessed with having responsible corporate citizens as major/title sponsors, many others are left to struggle under the enormous financial burden of running their bands and preparing for Panorama. Government support is not much different. However, they do facilitate our Junior Panorama and in recent times guarantee prize monies for Senior Panorama. Steel pans imported from Trinidad & Tobago are still subject to import duty and 15% VAT.”


 

WST - “Is there any formal ‘Pan in Schools’ or similar type programme in St. Lucia?”

Allidonna G. - “Though you would find steel bands in some schools there is no formal programme for Pan in schools. This I would like to see implemented in the near future. We need to get the youth more involved in the art form. This would help build interest and membership in the steel pan fraternity.”


WST - “Is your involvement with the art form full time, or part time? If the latter, what is your full-time career, and how does it impact your steel band activities?”

Allidonna G. - “I am mainly a Panorama player. If the band needs to beef up the stage side to play at a special event I would assist. I am an accountant, and Pan has never interfered with my work. I am accustomed of having two parts to my day. From when it was school at day then Pan by night - to work at day then Pan by night, or even into the early hours of the morning close to competition day. I am used to it. In cases where there are activities during the day or where overseas trips are involved, my superiors have always been generous in giving me time off. Well - at least the school teachers and bosses I have come across.”


 

WST - “In your opinion, how are St. Lucia’s female steelpan musicians viewed by the wider St. Lucia society?”

Allidonna G. - “Women in pan are looked highly upon by society. It is always a fascination when people see how the women can play the instrument just as good as the guys. Nowadays we even have female drummers, which shows that we are just as talented as any other.”


WST - “What is your vision for steel pan community of St. Lucia?”

Allidonna G. - “I want people to support and respect the steel pan art form a bit more in St. Lucia. Though we are a small island I hope in the future that there are double or even triple the number of bands we have now.”




 





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