Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Julie Williams of Exodus Steel Orchestra - Trinidad and Tobago

From child to adult, the steelpan instrument has been a constant love and comrade. Her love for the instrument is profound. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, Julie Williams of Exodus Steel Orchestra Trinidad and Tobago, shares her insight, experiences and expectations for the steelpan art form.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “When and how did you first become aware of the steelpan instrument?”

Julie W. - “My mother introduced me to the steelpan instrument. As a child she sold papers at the corner of Queen and Frederick  Streets in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. During the carnival time, when she was finished selling, she would take me to the savannah to Panorama, and we would go on a bus ride to South Panorama.

“Those outings inculcated a desire for me to play pan, and when at St. George’s College, assisted by Pamberi Steel Orchestra  the opportunity arose, I immediately joined the steelpan side. However, at school the playing opportunity was limited and my desire  was strong, so my mum took me to join Exodus.  At that time the band was American Stores Exodus and the rest is history.”

WST - “You are an organizer, facilitator and steelpan player within one of the great steelpan franchises of the world, Exodus. Which role do you cherish the most?”

Julie W. - “The role I cherish the most is being a steel pan player with Republic Bank Exodus, simply because that role cushions my other roles.”

WST - “The contributions of women to the steelpan movement is undeniable. Do you believe women are finally getting that acknowledgment?”

Julie W. - “Yes, I believe to some extent women are finally being acknowledged for their contributions in the steel pan movement.”

WST - “In terms of creating and maintaining a true steelpan music industry for the benefit of Trinidad and Tobago panists - what needs to done?”

Julie W. - “I think all elements of the steelpan industry need to be reviewed in order to establish a true steelpan music industry. For e.g. without the instruments, there will be no panists and whilst there is an abundance of pan players, it is quite the opposite for pan tuners/makers.  Each facet is connected –  the player, the music, the drums, the administration, etc.”

WST - “You’ve successfully fostered co-operation among the bands beyond Panorama. How do we build on this, and expand even further - your work?”

Julie W. - “I can see us building on this co-operation and furthering this work in so many ways.  A simple start is by the continued promulgation of support by steelbands to steel bands, particularly with respect to fund-raising activities.  I am of the opinion that any steelband having a fund-raising venture should be successful by the simple support of all steelbands.”

Panist Julie Willams
Julie Williams

WST - “If you had the power to change something in Pan immediately what would that be?”

Julie W. - “The structure of the annual Panorama competition.”

WST - “What have you been most proud about as it relates to Pan?”

Julie W. - “That pan unites people from all different ethnic and economic backgrounds and creates a true ‘one-love’ environment.”

WST - “What disappoints you the most in the steelpan movement?”

Julie W. - “The fact that in this day and age, a number of steelbands do not have a well-erected pan tent or rehearsal space. A proper structure can assist a steelband in pursuing viable economic activity.”

WST - “What would be your advice to the thousands of young female panists all over the world who are dreaming of becoming involved with the steelpan instrument as a career move?”

Julie W. - “My advice to the thousands of young females who are dreaming of becoming involved with the steelpan instrument as a career, is to get involved properly. Decide which area they are interested in and aim to be at the top.  For e.g. if they want to become an arranger (which I believe is a special gift) ensure that they have a sound music background via their academic studies, etc.

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Julie W. - “A competition.”

WST - “Is Panorama a curse or blessing from your perspective?”

Julie W. - “Panorama can be seen as both a curse or blessing.  A curse in the fact that all this time is spent learning one song, so much so that musicians are not even interested in learning other songs.  Are we limiting our capabilities?  A blessing, based on the build up to the competition - as bands can obtain income via sales from various activities in their pan yards, as well as the social element it brings with it, interacting with the Panorama family night after night, for a limited period of time.”

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

Julie W. - “The day will come, in the land where the steelpan was created, that the instrument will not be referred to as ‘noise’.”

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