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Meet Jenessa Baptiste of Phase II Pan Groove - Trinidad and Tobago

She is a natural. Music and Pan have been in her blood from the very beginning. She is a first-rate musician, educator and bass-section leader in a massive, legendary steel orchestra. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, Jenessa Baptiste of Trinidad and Tobago's Phase II Pan Groove Steel Orchestra shares her concerns, and her joy and unadulterated love for the steelpan art form.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive


WST - “Tell us about Jenessa Baptiste?”

Jenessa B. - “I'm a 27 year old School Teacher from Trinidad and Tobago with a Bachelors of Education in Physical Education and Bass Pannist/Section Leader with Phase II Pan Groove Steel Orchestra.”

WST - “How did your involvement in Pan begin?”

Jenessa B. - “When I was much younger I had a bad habit of turning biscuit tins into pans and making sticks out of pencils which  drove everyone in the household crazy until my mother received a call from someone who knew about music classes with special emphasis on the Steelpan was being held at Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra under the tuition of Mr. Roland "Moose" Joseph. I also have a love for percussion and had to choose between playing Pan or Percussion.”

WST - “The steel pan is now an integral part of your life. What keeps your passion for the instrument and music going?”

Jenessa B. - “I am always happy to see when persons take the time to walk up to me and say a simple, "hello Miss, I saw you on the newspapers, well done" or even " I love to see you play" or any comments along those lines. Then my entire family, friends and colleagues are just always so supportive that they would turn up for various shows or the simplest events that I participate in nationally or internationally.”

WST - “You are a significant member of the world-famous Phase II Pan Groove? What does Phase II mean to you?”

Jenessa B. - “Well being in my current band has shown me with it means to be in "the thick of things" because I am a Section Leader in Phase II Groove. Performing with the band is musical freedom filled with happiness from the head of  “Mozart of Pan” Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. He does what he wants with a musical vengeance which spreads throughout  the band. His bass lines especially for every panorama makes me “Jump High”. To be in the “thick of things” you have to be a dedicated well skilled pan musician. That's just the start.”

Jenessa Hosein
Jenessa Baptiste

WST - “How has Pan changed over the years for you?”

Jenessa B. - “For me, the introduction of different types and styles of Pans which includes Basses,(Sonic Sonia 7 and the G7 Basses )which fit in well with the Steel Orchestra. I've been playing bass from the get go so I think that has helped me improve so well over the years. ”

WST - “What is wrong in Pan from your perspective?”

Jenessa B. - “The need for more Steel Orchestras with well trained tutors  in schools throughout Trinidad and Tobago. Poor Marketing and Financial accountability amounts bands/groups outside Carnival. Old ideas keep resurfacing, The management of Steel bands are like a deck of playing cards they are just shuffled, too much  "bad blood" in the pan world... I have a big problem with that..... When participating in any competition, someone has to win and some has to lose.”

WST - “What is good in Pan?”

Jenessa B. - “The best aspects of pan besides learning various genres of music is that Pans have started to be standardized, the introduction of more Tuners, more women are getting involved in the management of Steel Orchestras, panorama arrangement are being recorded by UTT and archived digitally, pan has also reached in parts of African and Asian continents. To perform on an instrument invented right here in Trinidad and Tobago and finally to see the performances of other bands and meet fellow musicians to form genuine friendships and relationships that can be gained out of pan.”

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

Jenessa B. - “What I would  try to change is the way "management" value their players. Tired of hearing bands and players complain of feeling unappreciated. Some Pan Musicians travel/great distances to attend rehearsals and shows.

WST - “What has been your proudest moment in Pan?”

Jenessa B. - “Playing with Phase II back in 2005, winning the semi finals heading straight to finals with only one addition which was a vocal line in the minor and placing first by 20 points clear ahead of the second place band in my very first panorama final performance... "Trini gone wild" - one of my favorites up to this day.”

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

Jenessa B. - “The cruelty of management and friction that supporters and players can cause within the movement.”

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

Jenessa B. - “As I mentioned before my friends and family support me  and well we have our little ole talk when it comes to bands and favoritism...it's good for the soul.”

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

Jenessa B. - “Personal practice is important, enjoy playing because it makes it so easy, jam and groove the music, stand up for what is right, support and listen to others fellow musicians.”

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

Jenessa B. - “I don't have any one person I can pin point but I love the songs from yester year. Music of any genre and my local music all the time whether be it soca, chutney, calypso, parang and everything else.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you? ”

Jenessa B. - “Panorama is just 8 minutes on a stage to execute the bands performance and enjoy myself each and every time I hit that stage.”

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

Jenessa B. - “It's a blessing because it's world renowned but if the people in charge don't seriously take a look at what's going on then it may eventually become a curse.”

WST - “You have felt the joy winning Panorama - and the pain from losing. Why do you continue to participate in it?”

Jenessa B. - “I continue to participate because I love to perform and free up myself through my enjoyment, music in meh blood.”

WST - “How many Phase II Pan Groove championships have you performed in? If more than one, was there any difference in your journey to that point - i.e. the 'road to the championship'?”

Jenessa B. - “Five out of seven each and every time it's different because it's never the same tune and I don't just mean the music or song...as I said I'm a section leader so I try take that seriously in terms of being there for the players in my section and going through the motions of practice and then my life outside of pan contributes to my already hectic season.”

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

Jenessa B. - “In a business there will always be challenges. Lack of technical expertise amongst the various bands to record produce new music and keep ahead with trends during the year. Lack of proper management expertise and many other challenges that we may not have the time to discuss at this time.”

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

Jenessa B. - “For all of us to come together as one and have the instrument in every home, school, more community concerts streamed live on the internet to the world. The production of steel band Fake books with music comprising works of the steel band composers. Festival concerts featuring the compositions works of the masters (Dr. Jit Samaroo, Ray Holman, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. Andy Narell etc.) and get love and appreciation just like any other.” 

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