Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


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Meet Yuki Nakano of Japan

Pan is in her blood. She has traveled all over the world with the steelpan instrument as her passport.  She is currently a student at NIU (Northern Illinois University). In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, Yuki Nakano of Japan shares her worldly experiences and thoughts on the steelpan instrument and culture.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive


WST - “When and how did you first become associated with the steelpan instrument?”

Yuki N. - “My first instrument was the xylophone which I started when I was four years old. During junior high school I began studying percussion which I continued throughout high school.  After high school I went to the Senzoku Gakuen College of Music to continue my percussion studies. While before that I had heard steelpan in various recordings, it was during my undergraduate studies which gave me my first hands-on experience with the steelpan along with steel band.”

私が幼い頃、初めて音楽を奏でた楽器は木琴でした。そして中学、高校と吹奏楽で打楽器をはじめ、洗足学園音楽大学で打楽器コース在学中、大学のスティールバンドサークルでスティールパンを叩き始めたのがきっかけとなりました。大学に入学する前からテレビやCD から聞こえてくるパンの音を聞くたびにいつか演奏してみたいと思っていました。”

WST - “You are a student at NIU (Northern Illinois University), what is your major?”

Yuki N. - “I am currently working towards a Performance Certificate in steelpan at NIU under professor Liam Teague and Cliff Alexis.”  

アメリカのイリノイ州にある Northern Illinois University、スティールパン科 Performance Certificate 専攻でスティールパンを Liam Teague 氏と Cliff Alexis 氏のもとで学んでいます。”

WST - “What keeps your passion for the instrument and music going?”

Yuki N. - “There are many things that keep my passion for the instrument and music alive. One is the instrument itself. It’s mysterious and interesting, for example, why is it when you are playing steelpan, you are getting such a nice and happy sound?  The shape of the instrument is very beautiful and with it, a very beautiful sound. The other aspect that fuels my passion for the instrument is the culture. In 2009 I went to Trinidad for the first time; during this time I was able to really learn about the history of the pan and how it is so important to this culture.”


WST - “You have performed with the Panorama Steel Orchestra (Japan), ADLIB (New York), Silver Stars (Trinidad) and of course you are a member of the NIU steelband - can you tell us a little bit about these experiences?”

Yuki N. - “When I was a student in Japan, I met Yoshihiro Harada. The first time I heard his band I was amazed by their sound and immediately asked if I could join. Being in this band was very influential on me because the bandleader, in addition to many of the members of the Panorama Steel Orchestra, has been to Trinidad. This band is also very important because it includes people of all ages and skill, and I think it does a great job of developing steelpan in Japan.

“In 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2014 I traveled to Trinidad and played with Silver Stars. This is one of the most important times during my steelpan career because for the first time I was experiencing the Trinidad culture and steelpan artform in its home territory. Silver Stars won panorama in 2009, in 2010, and I was getting a better sense of the groove and energy that is a part of this music, while constantly pushing my skills. The third year of my travels to Trinidad I met professor Liam Teague, which would lead me to study at NIU.  

“Being a part of the NIU Steelband has been a great experience. In addition to playing panorama tunes, we also play many different styles of music which require us to change how we think about steelpan. Our band really focuses on the sensitivity of the instruments, constantly trying to make the sound sweeter and more expressive. While playing music that doesn’t demand the same energy of panorama tunes, we are able to focus on the arrangement and how the different parts come together. At the NIU steelband professor Liam Teague and Cliff Alexis are able to teach steelband arranging and history of steelpan.  

“Throughout 2013, in addition to performing with ADLIB Steel Orchestra I performed with New Dimensions Steel Orchestra in Toronto and South East Steel Orchestra in St. Vincent. These bands have really given me a lot of playing experience under many different yet great arrangers. Each event has been very different with very different arrangements, but all equally important. Arrangers that I have been able to work with include Andre White, Barry Mannette, and Andre Rouse.”  

日本の大学に在学中、 Panorama Steel Orchestra のリーダー、アレンジャー、プレーヤーである原田芳宏氏に出会いました。初めて彼のバンドを聞いた時、彼の曲、アレンジ、そしてバンドの持つエネルギーに感動してすぐに入団を決意しました。Panorama Steel Orchestra30人以上のメンバーからなっていて、その中のメンバーは原田氏も含め、トリニダードに行ってパノラマを経験したメンバーもたくさん演奏しています。学生時代からこのバンドに参加し、バンドのメンバーや原田氏からトリニダードの話を聞いたり、演奏活動をする事で、よりトリニダードへ行ってパノラマでいつか演奏してみたいと思うようになっていました。Panorama Steel Orchestra のメンバーは老若男女、プロのミュージシャンも含めいろんなキャラクターのメンバーで成り立っています。その背景はまるでトリニダードのスティールバンドに似ていて私はこのバンドが大好きです。日本のスティールバンドの中でも、たくさんのオリジナルソングを持つ素晴らしいバンドで、私はそのメンバーである事を誇りに思っています。

日本の大学を卒業後、2009、 2010 2011 そして2014年にトリニダードを訪れました、そこでシルバースターズと言うとても迫力がありエナジーに満ちあふれたかっこいいバンドと出会う事ができました。一緒に演奏した経験は私にとって宝です。トリニダードの旅で実際にトリニダードの人々とのふれあい、そしてトリニダード文化を経験した体験は私のスティールパン人生において最も重要な時間の一つとなっています。シルバースターズは 20092010 年にパノラマで優勝し、またその経験も私にとって貴重な体験となりました。そして、三度目にトリニダードへ訪れた時に、Liam Teague 氏と出会い、NIUで学ぶきっかけとなりました。

“NIU Steelband では、パノラマの曲を演奏することに加えて、クラシックやポップス、様々なスタイルの音楽を演奏しています。私たちのバンドは非常に音が繊細で、ここでは、Liam Teague 氏と Cliff Alexis 氏からスティールパンのアレンジや演奏の技術だけでなくさらにスティールパンの歴史の話を聞く事ができています。私が NIU Steelband で経験している事はただ楽しく演奏するだけでなく、演奏表現をより表現力豊かにし、スティールパンの演奏のダイナミックスそして全体のバランスなどなど常に様々な視点から演奏をするように意識しています。

“2013 年時、セントビンセント島、カナダのトロント、そしてニューヨーク、それぞれで行われたパノラマに参加しました。これらの体験は、各バンドによってチームのカラー、アレンジそしてそれぞれの国によって文化も違うのでとても興味深い体験となりました。とても素敵なバンドメンバーそして優秀なアレンジャーと一緒に出す音はとても素晴らしい私の体験となりました。


St. Vincent: South East Steel Orchestra アレンジャー Barry Mannette 氏

New York: ADLIB Steel Orchestra アレンジャー Andre White 氏

Toronto: New Dimensions Steel Orchestra アレンジャー Andre Rouse 氏”

Yuki Nakano
Yuki Nakano

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

Yuki N. - “If I could change one thing about steelpan right now, it would be to make the instruments easier to tune. I have studied how to tune steelpan with Cliff Alexis and Yuko Asada and it is extremely hard to do. I wish I was able to tune and take care of my instrument like a violinist does. That - or to make [the] pan, steelpan compact so I can put it in my purse and take it out at the gig!”  

チューニングをもう少し容易くできるとしたらどれだけ良い事かといつも私は演奏者側から感じています。私は NIU で Cliff Alexis 氏と浅田優子氏からスティールパンチューニング、ビルディングを学んでいますが、常に私が感じる事はスティールパンチューニングができるようになるにはとても時間がかかり、やる気と根気が必要な仕事であります。よって、もしもバイオリニストが演奏前に音をチューニングするように私も自分のパンが簡単にチューニングできたら素晴らしいなと思う時があります。


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

Yuki N. - “I am most proud about the fact that steelpan has given me the ability to travel the world and meet many great people connected to pan.”  


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

Yuki N. - “One disappointment I have in regards to steelpan is not being a part of the culture. While the people are always accepting of me, I will always be an outsider to the culture which at times can be frustrating.”  


WST - “What would be your advice to the thousands of young female panists all over the world who are dreaming of following in the footsteps of Yuki Nakano?”

Yuki N. - “If you find something interesting, just do it! Don’t be afraid; I always worry about things but if I don’t do something then I will have nothing. If I do something then I will have something. Steelpan used to be only for men, but now is the time for women.”  


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

Yuki N. - “My musical influence? Everything! Some of the largest influence on my music is my own Japanese culture, simply since that is what I grew up listening to. When I was learning music at a young age I would play a large variety of musical styles, such as traditional Mexican, ragtime,  and of course classical music. In addition to that, I am really interested in music from Africa. Of course I am also influenced by great steelpan players. Right now my largest influences have been my steelpan peers that I work with on a daily basis.”  

“私の音楽に最も大きな影響のいくつかは、私自身の日本文化であり、幼いとき始めた木琴で演奏し、聴いた、メキシコ民謡、アメリカ民謡、ラグタイム、などの音楽スタイル、そしてもちろん Jazz、クラシック音楽、SKA、カリプソ様々な音楽だろう。それに加えて、私は知識は浅いですが、アフリカの音楽に本当に興味を持っています。もちろん偉大なスティールパンのプレイヤーに影響を受けています。名前はたくさんいすぎて書ききれません。しかし今、私が最も影響うけているのは、NIU での生活、Liam Teague 氏を含め、NIU で出会ったスティールパンの仲間です。”

WST - “What is “Panorama” to you?”

Yuki N. - “Panorama for me is a time and place where people who love pan like I do can come together and exchange ideas and music. It is one of the only times where I can experience the magnitude of this genre of music in person and to really be able to feel the vibe of each band.”  


WST - “What is the greatest challenge the steelpan music art form faces in Japan today?”

Yuki N. - “One of the largest problems the steelpan art form has in Japan right now is that there are not enough Japanese pan builders and tuners. While we can usually get pans from Trinidad, once they are in Japan it is difficult to have the pans worked on.”


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

Yuki N. - “My vision for steelpan is for the instrument and culture to become known by more and more people, while being thought of as an instrument that has a beautiful sound. Today steelpan in Japan has a relatively small community, I hope this community blossoms and that Japan can have its own panorama.”


WST - “Where can one expect Yuki Nakano to be in the next decade as it relates to the steelpan instrument?”

Yuki N. - “Over the next decade I would like to continue studying steelpan as much as possible. This May I will be graduating from NIU and returning to Japan. I hope upon my return to Japan I will be able to perform and help make the instrument better known. In the future I would like to teach academically but I must continue to learn the history and origins of steelpan. In Japan, steelpan is often thought of as a hobby but I hope I will be able to show that steelpan can be a career. I also hope to be able arrange for steelbands, hopefully one day even in Trinidad!”

“私は可能な限りスティールパンを学び、演奏していきたいと思います。今年の五月にNIUを卒業し、日本に帰国する予定なのですが、演奏する事で、スティールパンがもっと日本で広まるように願っています。将来的には NIU のようなプロを目指すパンプレイヤーたちの集まる環境を日本に作りたいです。そしてこれからもスティールパンの起源そして歴史を学び続けたいと思います。チャンスがあったらトリニダードのバンドでアレンジもしてみたいです。”

For more information please visit my site yuki-steelpan.com. In the month of April the NIU Steelband will be celebrating its 40th anniversary with a concert on April 13th at 3:00 pm (CST), and I will be giving a graduation recital April 23rd at 6:30 pm (CST); both will be streamed online at niu.edu/music/media/webcasts/index.shtml.”

“中野優希についてもっと知りたい方は、ホームページ yuki-steelpan.com  までお問い合わせください。
2014 年4月13日3時(CST)より NIU Steelband によるコンサート
2014 年4月23日6時半(CST)より中野優希によるスティールパンリサイタルがおこなわれます。

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