Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Patrice Charles of Trinidad and Tobago

“Steelpan for me is more than just music and notes, it somehow speaks to you in a language of its own that just drives you to tap your feet, to dance and to even sing...” 

There are no limits for the Pan woman. She walks the walk.  In an exclusive with When Steel Talks, Patrice speaks of  the potential for opportunity and her love for Pan and community.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “When did you first become involved in Pan?”

Patrice C. - “I became involved in Pan as soon as I entered secondary school at South East Port-of-Spain Secondary School (SEPOS).  I used to attend some Panorama competitions with my mother and I was amazed at how the players used to play an entire song by memory. This intrigued me, so when I first got the opportunity to play pan, I knew that it would be something that I would enjoy. I went on to play with SEPOS Prisons Youth Club, then unto Solo Pan Knights before my transition to WITCO Desperadoes.”

WST - “What fuels your passion for Pan?”

Patrice C. - “Steelpan for me is more than just music and notes, it somehow speaks to you in a language of its own that just drives you to tap your feet, to dance and to even sing; Pan brings with it a special rhythm, and to also hear how each type of pan compliments each other so well. Just speaking about it is raising my pores (laugh). Pan is truly beautiful.”

WST - “How has Pan changed over the years for you?”

Patrice C. - “I wouldn’t say that Pan has changed, it has evolved for me. There’s now the G-pan, the E-pan and steelpan apps on the iPad and androids, but nothing really beats the physical instrument itself.”

Patrice Charles
Patrice Charles

WST - “What is wrong in Pan?”

Patrice C. - “Hmmmm..... what’s wrong in Pan. I can see nothing much wrong in Pan, but what I would like to see is more being done for Pan. I would like to see more activities for Pan throughout the year. Year after year there seems to be less activities for Pan. Pan in the 21st Century was a lovely competition, there was none last year and I’m not even sure if there will be any this year, haven’t heard of it. I’m not saying that every month should have a major event featuring the steelpan, but at least community concerts every now and then, featuring a steelband from the community for example. I know that these things take money, but this is the land of the steelpan. Yes, Panorama is the greatest show on earth but I still believe that the steelpan is being a bit short-changed.”

WST - “What is good in Pan?”

Patrice C. - “Everything....”

WST - “If you had the power to change any aspect of Panorama immediately what would that be?”

Patrice C. - “What immediately comes to mind is the changing of the judges. I always wondered why we have the same judges year after year. Is there a dearth in the amount of persons that are musically qualified to fit the requirements to judge for Panorama? How is a judge chosen? Is there only one pool of judges when competition time arises? These are some questions I've always had.

“Secondly, I would immediately put a stop to whatever is the ‘Greens’. The North Stand was always a bit ‘rowdy’ for me in a good sort of way. The people that used to go to the North Stand went to have a good time but still had an interest to what was taking place. Nowadays, the ‘Greens’ is one big party that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Panorama Semi-Finals.”

WST - “Has the stigma of being associated with a steel orchestra, especially as a woman, finally been removed in Trinidad and Tobago?”

Patrice C. - “I would say that it has. Women have infiltrated the steelpan movement. No longer is there a comparison between the male and female about who’s the better player. Women are now captains and managers of steel orchestras. Some are even aspiring to be the President of Pan Trinbago.”

WST - “Is Panorama a curse or a blessing?”

Patrice C. - “Panorama is a blessing to me, however, it may be a curse to others. Panorama has brought camaraderie amongst players from different bands.”

WST - “You are a long-standing member of Desperadoes - speak on the effects of the steel orchestra on Trinidad society.”

Patrice C. - “Firstly, I won’t say that I’m a long-standing member of Desperadoes, I’ve been with the band for roughly fourteen (14) years, whereas some have been there for over forty (40) years. Desperadoes is considered one of the most legendary steel orchestras in the world. Our music brings joy to the hearts of many. Apart from the negative stigma that is associated with Laventille, Desperadoes is one of the many positive forces in the community. People only concentrate on the negative when they hear the name Laventille. However, some need to remember that Desperadoes has represented this country, more so, the community of Laventille worldwide on many occasions and it’s nothing but positive.”

WST - “What are your goals as it relates to the steel pan art form?”

Patrice C. - “Steelpan started as a hobby for me, never in my wildest dreams had I aspired to one day being the secretary of the finest steel orchestra in the world. I no longer hold that position, however; my goal right now is to help the children in my community do something positive by means of music. Currently, I assist an organization, led by Martin Cain called the Roadblock School for the Arts located in Trou Macaque, Laventille which is targeted at teaching music to the young persons in the community.”

WST - “Do you have any advice for young women who are interested in playing pan?”

Patrice C. - “To all the young women who are interested in playing pan, I say go for it. I’ve been to many countries playing pan. Pan can take you places if you like to travel and if you want to take it further, courses are being offered in tertiary institutions, specializing in the instrument.”

WST - “What is your vision for the future of the steelpan instrument?”

Patrice C. - “I would like to see the steelpan instrument make it on the Billboard Charts. Steelpan is now worldwide, so why not. A radio and/or a television station dedicated to the steelpan alone would also be nice.”

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

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