Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


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Meet Israel Mcleod - Trinidad and Tobago

In regards to Pan: "As a country it is still difficult for those outside of pan to appreciate that we are artistes who have a right to speak up on issues that concern our security, our health, issues of compensation and so forth.”  The business of Pan is her business. Panist, PR and Marketing manager, Israel Mcleod of Trinidad and Tobago - in an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - shares her experiences, intellect, insight and vision for the steelpan art form.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive


WST - “Tell us about Israel McLeod?”

Israel M. - “The name Israel was actually a pet name that was given to me by a friend at a time in my life when I was questioning my faith and purpose. Throughout my experiences, it has always kept me focused and serves as a reminder of God's plans for me.

Apart from that, I am also a wife and mother and am currently exploring my PhD options. ”

WST - “What were your earliest experiences with Pan?”

Israel M. “My first encounter with our national instrument was as a form 1 student at San Fernando Government Secondary (now San Fernando Central). Our then history teacher, Mr. Michael Scott was instrumental in implementing the early stages of such a music program for the school. The first arranger that I worked with then was Mr. Richard 'Alvin' Gittens and to this day, he has a style that is refreshing and creative.”

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

Israel M. - “The need for the diversification of our economy in Trinidad and Tobago is what inspires me to stay involved in the steel pan fraternity. I am an advocate for the continued development of the creative industries as a sustainable sector.

Specifically, the steel pan community needs to be further developed as a sub-sector. There is a dire need for professionals (like myself) to become involved. The strategic use of graduates in fields such as project management, public relations and marketing, film, photography, audio, information technology, music and even accounting will help propel the strides that have already been made in a more meaningful way.

Such an approach will ensure accountability, innovation and competitiveness regionally and globally. ”

WST - “You are currently involved it the Public Relations and Marketing of Pan.  What challenges have you experienced in this arena?”

Israel M. - “Let me begin this question by stating that my work in these fields has been locally. The greatest challenges for me however have been psychological.

As a country it is still difficult for those outside of pan to appreciate that we are artistes who have a right to speak up on issues that concern our security, our health, issues of compensation and so forth.  This is reflective of potential sponsors in the private sector, hosts in both public and private institutions and of course the thousands of citizens who claim to be 'trinbagonian.'

Steel pan seems to be primarily relevant only at carnival and miscellaneous cultural activities. Outside of that we are yet to treat the development - particularly investment types of activities as urgent or as critical to youth development in areas that are inclusive of education, discipline, financial literacy, and even history. Likewise in the contexts of tourism and even manufacturing/light industry.

However, my next point may prove contentious. The psychology behind pan is also demonstrated by the players. As leaders, we sometimes fail to open gateways for the younger players in the band or we insist on a degree of oppression by not including them in the daily operations and management structure of the band. As such, we see the continued growth of a sub-culture of pannists who are hustlers and have no real interest in pan becoming anything greater than what it exists as today - something quick, frivolous and an escape from possible pressures at home.

When such an environment exists then it should not be a mystery as to why our collective interests are not strategically positioned in policies geared towards people-centered development. ”

Israel Mcleod
Israel Mcleod

WST - “Are steelpan music organizations devoting enough resources and energy towards the marketing of their brand and image - locally and globally?”

Israel M. - “I would agree from a general global point of view. This is as a result of the power of social media as well as digital communication such as photography and smart technology. I must say that in this regard, When Steel Talks has been a phenomenal initiative.

Locally however, I believe that it comes down to the interests of your sponsors, the management of the orchestra and the interests of your players as brand ambassadors.

What we have as marketing and PR in Trinidad and Tobago can probably be considered as a 'stroke of luck' for those orchestras that have the benefit of an already established sponsor such as 'Massy,' 'NGC' or even 'BP.' These companies have qualified and experienced staff that push their company's advertising and consumer-related objectives and as such position their investments in the band. Bands are held accountable for expenditure, the procurement of goods and services and also, are expected to practice 'model forms of behaviour.'

It is interesting that most of these bands are synonymous with sponsors who are deeply trenched in the energy sector. How that will auger in a few years will prove to be colourful case studies. Remember CLICO Sforzata? For years they were at the top of the medium conventional category. Where are they now that that particular sponsor is not present?

Nevertheless, because the steel pan community has only recently been producing experienced players in marketing and communication, we have to wait and see. ”

WST - “Youth development is a critical aspect of the future success and longevity of any institution. What is your belief and approach to the advancement of youth? ”

Israel M. - “I was previously employed as the Public Relations Officer of the National Training Agency. As such, where it concerns the development of youth I am a strong advocate for skills development and the evolution  of an enterprising and competitive labour force.

In the context of the steel pan I would love to see critical focus placed on career mapping in the community. Continue to identify and market the opportunities for learning, certification and employment. These must however be intrinsic to the administrative plans for country development overall. ”

WST - “What would be your advice to the thousands of young female panists all over the world who dream of following in footsteps such as yours?”

Israel M. - “My advice would include not lowering your standards to please everyone. Many times, I see young girls in the yards holding to the belief that to be successful means being loud, uncouth and engaging in derogatory behavior. The pan yard is a microcosm of our wider society and as such, we must emulate the positive things that we as a citizens would like to see in our part of the world.

Our Creator placed in us the ability to lead and in everything we do, as women we must serve in a spirit of excellence. ”

WST - “What are the thoughts of friends and family regarding your involvement with Pan?”

Israel M. - “My family and friends have always been supportive of my involvement. This is especially true since my husband is a musician himself.

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

Israel M. - “Is there a limit to this question? Lol. Musical influences include Maestro, Lord Kitchener, David Rudder, Boogsie Sharpe, Dr. Samaroo, Michael Jackson, Billy Ocean, Sade and so many more.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Israel M. - “Panorama continues to have its pros and cons. What I love the most is the quality of music that has emerged over the last few years.

My cons though include the obvious waste of resources, the lack of media coverage for the small and single band categories, and certainly, the demise of the semi-finals. Years ago we used to witness large crowds on the drag behind their bands. Now, at semis you can feel the wind blowing because the numbers  have dwindled.

I also lament that the results have become predictable; so much so that the judging criteria is mocked. ”

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

Israel M. - “Proper project management, accountability and marketing. If only we could address these issues Government and the business community would take us more seriously. ”

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

Israel M. - “Locally I would start with the location of PanTrinbago's office. It is a national embarrassment.”

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

Israel M. - “Working with Khari Codrington and his band, C&B Crown Cordaans. That is a true public relations and marketing story as it relates to them making the semi final round of the 2015 conventional band panorama.”

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

Israel M. - “Certainly the representation of our interests as players from the level of our  association and subsequently, at a governmental level.

In particular, I continue to protest against the half-cooked schemes that are meted out towards South and Tobago-based steel orchestras.

However, if our Association does not see it fit to invest in some of the afore-mentioned then our community will continue to be stagnant. ”

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

Israel M. - “To be a profitable and respected facet of sustainability for our country”

WST - “Where will Israel Mcleod be ten years from now?”

Israel M. - “Happy, healthy and even more productive.”

WST - “Are there any other steelband-related matters you would like to bring forward? ”

Israel M. - “I want to encourage all players and enthusiasts to invest in documentation of your band's history.

So many times we lose players with valuable facets of a band's history. It may seem miscellaneous but years from now when the steel pan becomes a staple in tourism, when our players are restored to 'hero-status' in our midst, when more film makers and international media houses continue to explore and illustrate the magic of pan, every shred of history will matter then. ”

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