Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan



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Meet Zakiya Howe of Brooklyn, New York

Zakiya speaks on family, friendships and the lifelong bonds and relationships developed through her steelpan music playing in an exclusive with WST

A When Steel Talks Exclusive


WST - “How did you become involved with Pan?”

Zakiya H. - “I became involved with Pan because of my father. From a very young age my father always wanted me to play pan because he himself was a pan man with Invaders Steel Orchestra, but I was never interested until the age of 15; that’s when I decided to give it a try.”

WST - “What is your favorite genre of music to play on steelpan?”

Zakiya H. - “Well, I have two favorite genres of music that I like to play on pan; the first will have to be soca. Soca on steel pan just gives off a very energetic vibe which puts me in a great mood especially in the summertime at band launchings. The second will have to be R&B; any R&B song to me, when played on steelpan, just sounds so sweet.”

WST - “You are a member of Pantonic steel orchestra, which has a great legacy on the New York Pan scene; how do you feel about being the next generation of this music franchise, striving to become as successful as the original incarnation of Pantonic?”

Zakiya H. - “I feel good being part of a steel band as Pantonic which has such a tremendous legacy in the fraternity in such a short span of existence. I am also excited to be a part of Pantonic - the next generation - and also look forward and am excited, to continue to build upon the legacy of Pantonic Steel Orchestra with the young talented group I am a part of.”

Zakiya Howe
Zakiya Howe

WST - “You’ve been a member of Pantonic for a few years - what is different now as compared to when you first joined the orchestra?”

Zakiya H. - “The difference now, compared to when I first joined Pantonic will have to be the age group. When I first entered the band I was probably one of the few younger players [in Pantonic] which was mainly filled with young adults. As years went by younger players entered.  Now the band has players as young as 10 years old which is good, because in today’s society, kids and young adults get distracted by technology such as television, video games and internet, and following bad company.  Therefore, Pan can be viewed as a hobby and a safe haven, in what can be viewed today as a ‘cold’ world.”

WST - “You’ve played in New York Panorama competitions, talk about those experiences?”

Zakiya H. - “My experiences playing in New York Panorama have been worthwhile; I look forward to panorama every year. The experience also has to be one of the best where I anticipate going on stage and playing for thousands of people. The mere fact of playing sweet music and portraying the carnival spirit and vibes is also very nice.”

WST -“As a female steelpan musician, what do you believe you bring to the orchestra, and the wider steelband community in general?”

Zakiya H. - “As a female musician in the band I bring diversity that states, just like other things in today’s society, women do have a place in this great art form. For the steel band community with me being a female playing Pan it brings a new outlook on the way people would view things. It is now something that not only males are a part of but it’s now about a love, unity, and togetherness that is not only in a band. This spreads globally from band to band culture, to culture.”

WST - “As is common in the steel band community - there is great camaraderie among the players, in your case a sisterhood; you stay in contact and hang out together year-round, outside of the Panorama season. Talk about these relationships.”

Zakiya H. - “The relationship that I have with the players in the band is very serious. The bond we all share could never be broken even when we grow old. I look at everyone in the band as an older or younger sibling because not only do we speak about Pan we speak about life, we joke around but the number one thing is that we always support each other in the hardest times. We’re like one big family who no one can come between. I love them unconditionally and I am more than happy that we are all a part of Pantonic.”

WST - “You may have come across school mates who did not understand what you mean when you say you ‘play pan’ - if this has ever been the case, talk about how you shared your steel band experiences, and their reactions.”

Zakiya H. - “This happened to me on numerous occasions where I will tell my friend I play steel pan and their number one question would be “you play with pots in your kitchen?’ After I would have to explain “No, I play steel drums from Trinidad and Tobago.” I shared my experiences by informing my friends about our gigs such as band launchings, MIT, Ithaca, Panorama, etc. After explaining my experiences about gigs or panorama my friends became very interested and wanted to attend events such as band launchings to support me. On many occasions some of my friends even wanted to join the band.”

WST - “Though he is not a player himself in the band, your dad is usually with you when you are in the Pan yard, and accompanies the band when it plays out on gigs - talk about this aspect, what does it mean for you?”

Zakiya H. - “The fact that my father is around on gigs and in the yard means a lot to me because my father is my number one supporter and fan when it comes to Pan. I know he is happy because he always wanted me to play. I appreciate my father around. Hopefully my father would inspire other parents to be more involved; we need more active parents in the Pan world.”

WST - “Besides your Dad, what do your other family members in general think about you being a steelpan musician?”

Zakiya H. - “Most of my other family members are steel pan musicians. They’re very happy and proud to know that the younger ones in the family are keeping the Pan tradition going.”

WST - “Is there anything else you would like to share related to steelpan?”

Zakiya H. - “If there is anything that I can share about steel pan, I would say Pan offers different genres of music that can be played. I would also like to share that steelpan is spreading through schools and universities all over the world which is very good progress. In the future I hope the full potential of this instrument will be recognized, because currently I realize over the years players tend to give less effort and show less interest, which is something that needs to be changed to insure for future generations to come.”

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