Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


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Meet Keina Calliste of Trinidad and Tobago

She has an acute understanding of the challenges that face the steelpan art form in Trinidad and Tobago if it is to remain relevant and at the forefront of the global steelpan movement.  Moreover, she believes it is time for ‘Innovative Strategic Thinkers.’ In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - player, administrator and planner Keina Calliste of Skiffle Steel Orchestra shares her thoughts on some critical issues facing pan in Trinidad and Tobago.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive


WST - “Tell us about yourself, and how you became involved in the steelpan art form.”

Keina C. - “I started playing the steelpan at Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School in 1992 and entered the Schools Music Festival as a member of the band.   I joined Skiffle (Skiffle Bunch) at that time in 1994 and, well, the rest is history.”

WST - “Have you ever been dissuaded from being involved with Pan?”

Keina C. - “There are times when I have been dissuaded from being involved in Pan primarily based on what I felt was unfair judging.  Over the years I have realized that Pan is bigger than any competition and I’ve learned to accept, move on and come again.”  

WST - “What impact, if any, has being the daughter of the legendary calypsonian Black Stalin, had on your involvement with the steelpan art form?”

Keina C. - “I think because of his involvement in the calypso art form I was able to appreciate the significance of the overall culture of Trinidad and Tobago from an early age, and his support would have made it easier for me to get involved in pan.”  

WST - “What have the experiences been like performing with Skiffle, while the band accompanies your father on stage?”

Keina C. - “Performing with my father is always a wonderful experience.”  

Keina Calliste
Keina Calliste

WST - “What is the overall impact of Pan in your life?  Share some of your most memorable experiences while performing abroad.”

Keina C. - “Being involved in Pan has afforded me the opportunity to travel and experience various cultures.  My most memorable experience was performing in Cuba in 2007.   The people were so energetic, they did not speak a word of English, they did not understand any of the songs we played, yet they appreciated our performance.  They loved the Steeplan and when foreigners fall in love with our instrument you can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.”  

WST - “You are part of the management of Skiffle; what are some of your challenges from that perspective?”

Keina C. - “Sometimes it’s hard to make decisions.  You never know until later and sometimes not even then, whether a decision was the right one.  Reality is, decisions have to be made all the time and often with very little time to consider.  Sometimes decisions are reversible and some are not but in either case, I understand the importance of making decisions when necessary as well as the consequences involved.”  

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

Keina C. - “Being a member of  Skiffle (Skiffle Bunch at that time) and winning the World Steelband Music Festival in 2000.”

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

Keina C. - “The fact that Pan Trinbago continues to meet with the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism before and after each competition/event to discuss funding.  I look forward to the day when Pan Trinbago starts thinking “outside the box” and can actually facilitate meetings with foreign investors.”  

WST - “What would be your advice to young women who would like to become involved with the steelpan art form?”

Keina C. - “Get involved because it is a fulfilling experience.”

WST - “Do you think women are as respected as they should be in the art form?”

Keina C. - “I think that back in the day women playing the steelpan would have been looked at as trespassing on male territory and to many, it was baffling that a woman would want to play the steelpan.  That has changed and women are now captains, managers, arrangers, drummers, administrators and the dominant faces of the modern Steel Orchestras, and I do think they are respected.  In some instances they have earned their respect but there is always room for improvement.”  

WST - “Who, and what are your musical influences?”

Keina C. - “My dad of course.  I really love working with Len “Boogsie” Sharpe (it amazes me how he interprets every day “sounds” we take for granted and is able to make beautiful music), Pat Bishop, Ray Holman and Liam Teague.  I also admire Ben Jackson and Kareem Brown for the discipline they are able bring to a steel orchestra.”  

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Keina C. - “It is simply a “Competition” that has the potential to become obsolete if not coordinated properly.”  

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

Keina C. - “Panorama is a blessing it just needs creative thinking and it will evolve.”  

WST - “Men were once in the majority in steel orchestras, now in most bands, women are the faces of pan. Should there be concern for the absence of more men in the art form, and what may this mean for the future?”

Keina C. - “I don’t think there should be concern for the absence of more men in the art form.  It simply means that women are taking up the challenge and venturing into what was once perceived as male territory.  Hence, the future is in good hands.”  

WST - “What changes, if any, have you noticed since you first started out in Pan years ago, and present day 2014? ”

Keina C. - “The most prevalent change is the introduction of Pan in the Schools and at the Tertiary level as well.  This was almost nonexistent when I first started out in pan.”  

WST - “What is your opinion of the current level of overall corporate support of the art form?”

Keina C. - “I think that more support can be given to the art form, but if the governing body that represents the art form is not clear on their priorities then it follows that the entire art form is also unclear.  Let us face the facts, corporate entities are interested in sustainability, long-term development, returns on their investment and most importantly accountability.  If these are lacking, of course there will be that reluctancy to support based on past track record.”  

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

Keina C. - “The Management of Pan Trinbago. I think they have made significant contributions over the years, however they have failed to react to increasing competition, as well as take advantage of the many technological advances of modern times.   It is dangerous for us to assume that what has been done in the past will always work. The time has come for the Steelband movement to be led by “Innovative Strategic Thinkers.” The days for BBQs, Back in Times Dances and Cake Sales as income generating opportunities are no longer. We need to be talking “big” such as Investment and Marketing Opportunities, International Tours and how the steelpan can be incorporated in Trade Missions and Tourism.  Pan Trinbago is a business and should be operated as such.”  

WST - “Do you have any other observations/thoughts relative to the steelpan art form?”

Keina C. - “I would like to see more emphasis placed on the development of the younger upcoming arrangers.  Younger persons are enthusiastic about pan and we just need to find ways to encourage them and keep them involved.  A pool party during Panorama may not encourage them but the offer of scholarships as part of the prizes for Junior Panorama may work.”  

WST - “What is next for Keina Calliste?”

Keina C. - “I am currently in my final year pursing an (MBA) Masters in Business Administration and look forward to graduating.  I also had to sacrifice some of my time with Skiffle last year because of my studies and also look forward to resuming my duties as administrator and player with my band.”

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