Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

Follow When Steel Talks
WST google search WST Forum WST facebook page WST on Twitter WST Newsletter Global Steelband listings

Meet Koruri Hanato of Japan

She is a panist, arranger and leader of Panple Steel Orchestra in Japan. And she is a member of the famed Trinidad All Stars. In an exclusive interview, Koruri shares her immeasurable joy and love of Panorama, the steelpan instrument, its music and culture on When Steel Talks.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks Women Logo

WST - “Tell us about yourself?”

Koruri H. - “I’m Koruri Hanato, a member of PANPLE steelband in Japan. My favorite things are arranging pan music, playing double second, and playing in Panorama in Trinidad. I have been playing in Panorama 10 times since 2004, every year I’m coming to play from the other side of the earth :-)

I’m arranger and owner of my band - but I’m very ordinary people. I’m working a cellphone company and I am a now a student in the school of oriental massage. I have a blog (sorry Japanese only) I’m writing about my Trini experience on my blog.”

WST - “How and when were you first introduced to the steelpan? When did you fall in love with the instrument?”

Koruri H. - “Yan Tomita who is a Japanese modern classical music composer was playing pan on TV show when I was high school student. That was first contact for me. I realized in one moment what I was looking for!! I want to hit something but I need melodies, I was attracted to the UFO shape and Angel harp sounds.”

WST - “What band do you play for in Japan, and how large is it?”

Koruri H. - “My band PANPLE is a very small band. We have almost 15~20 non permanent members  all season.”

WST - “How active are you, how frequently do you play Pan in Japan?”

Koruri H. - “My band has practice every Saturday morning and we are playing  at some local events almost monthly. We aimed to have the best performance in the “KOBE Steelpan Carnival” every year. You can listen to my arrangement and performance by my band on CDs “PAN PACA PAN vol.1~4”, in addition to me sometimes doing another band or small ensemble arrangement. My main activity is creating.”

WST - “What other genres of music, beside soca (such as Japanese songs, etc.) do you play as a member of your band in Japan?”

Koruri H. - “My motto is Oriental wave meet “Ganges and Nile” steelpan scene. so I’m almost choosing from Japanese songs for my arrangement. When we play Japanese songs, Japanese people can sing with us -  that was the same scene in Trinidad carnival time. I love to be sharing Pan music with the audience in my country also.”

Koruri Hanato
Koruri Hanato  (foreground)

WST -“You are a member of the Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra. How did that come to be?”

Koruri H. - “Yes, actually I had no connection with Trinidad All Stars. but I was dreaming to play with All Stars since I saw them on 2006 Panorama stage. The “Soca Warriors” performance was sensational for me. How cool! What a nice arrangement! How thrillingly!!

“Anyhow, I just asked the band to join to play. They are always kind and gentle to me. Everybody knows they have best organization and management. I can learn true Pan culture from Trinidad All Stars. Smooth man is the best “Guru” of arrangement for me.”

WST - “Talk about your Panorama experience. What is Panorama to you?”

Koruri H. - “I think it’s like a Spring Flower Season, after Boxing Day musical Pan flowers coming into buds in each panyard. And I can become one of them. They swelling up during the Panorama season, pre, semi, junior... We can see many kind of new flowers, at last Final day, the musical flowers will be blooming full on the Panorama mountain, and I myself can bloom - not only audience. It’s my precious time.”

WST - “Do you play any other instruments?”

Koruri H. - “No, only steel pan now. But I’m composing my arrangement by computer and keyboard.”

WST - “How popular is the steelpan instrument in Japan?”

Koruri H. - “Hmm... I think it is not enough yet. Maybe Japanese pan scene faces phase two now. One Japanese student is learning high playing skills in NIU now, A young Japanese tuner came to Trinidad to learn tuning last year and now he’s running his own factory in Japan.

“A brand new 100 players steelband event will held this autumn inside of Fuji mountain. Some Japanese Pan people are taking the challenge to take it to the next level. It will be change - not only rare ethnic instrument for ordinary Japanese people - the steelpan will be more popular and add value with its true presence.”

WST - “If you change one thing in Pan what would that be?”

Koruri H. - “I don’t like sometimes when Japanese people say  “Steel “pan” Band or Steel “pan” Orchestra” it’s sounds strange - I never heard Trini people call it like that. I hope to stop that.

“I asked a guy “why you call “Steel” pan” Orchestra not Steel Orchestra? You know well that world pan people calls just “Steelband.” That is musical genres name so you can’t change selfish” ...then He answered to me “I don’t mind what  Trini people calls that, most important things is my musical business. Steel “pan” Orchestra is easy search on the Internet in Japan. That is very important thing in Trini culture for me… When I heard his answer, I felt it was distasteful. I want to respect the original culture. So I implore them to stop it.”

Koruri Hanato
Koruri Hanato  (foreground)

WST - “What is your favorite Panorama arrangement?”

Koruri H. - “it’s hard to choice but my best 3 are...  
*Rain Melody (arr. by Smooth Edward)
*The Bomb (arr. by Robert Greenidge)
*High Mas (arr. Clive Bradley)  

“I love artistic and unique tunes. I hope to experience more artistic arrangements and new arrangers in my Panorama future.”

WST - “Are there any other steelband related matters you would like to bring forward?”

Koruri H. - “I am enjoying When Steel Talks web site, Thank you so much for your long-time magnificent work. If I had more English skills I would like to translate (WST)  into Japanese. If we could read in Japanese this web site, Japanese pan fans will be able to feel more familiar about world pan scene - I feel so.”

Koruri Hanato
Koruri Hanato (foreground)


photos by Robbie Joseph

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

Leave a comment in the WST forum

When Steel Talks shirts
now available!
Order yours now!
When Steel Talks -- T Shirt