Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Alanna White - Trinidad & Tobago

“My biggest challenge is people (mostly men) underestimating my ability to “handle it.” To this day before I even sit behind a drum, when they see that I am a female and I am always asked if I can handle the pace....a question like that is more than likely not asked to a male drummer....To me it doesn’t matter that I am a female.

“....I want them to understand is that pan is a world-class instrument that should be featured all year. I have seen situations where people would pay musicians well to come and play other instruments but as soon as you’re a “pan man” they tend to not want to pay you in the same way. In most cases they would just offer complimentary food and drinks.”

In an arena where only first names are needed to be instantly recognized  and associated with greatness like Max and Sheila E.  -- Alanna intends to add her name to the mix and  let her talent and drumming do her talking for full admission.  In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - Alanna White, drummer for Nadia Batson with SASS, also an award-wining steelpan musician and performing artist - shares her reflections, experiences and views on Pan, and the steelpan art form overall.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

 When Steel Talks Women Logo

WST - “Tell us about Alanna White?”

Alanna W. - “I am a very shy and quiet person who likes to laugh and enjoy spending time with positive people.”


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

Alanna W. “I have been around steel pan all my life since my mother had a family pan side called Family and Friends, and I started playing at the age of 4.”


WST - “You are an accomplished panist, instructor, a first-class drummer and a touring musician. Do you have a preference?”

Alanna W. - “Yes...Drumming.”


WST - “Although your present performance focus is as a drummer, what keeps your passion for the steelpan instrument, the art form and its music, going?”

Alanna W. - “Pan is where I started...it is my foundation, my first love, and the passion will always be there.”


WST - “Do you miss your earlier days when you played Pan more often, and is there any room for it in your present schedule?”

Alanna W. - “Yes. I do miss it every year when Panorama comes because I play drums, but I do play it in school at UWI (The University of the West Indies).”

Alanna White
Alanna White on drums

WST - “How and why did you make that transition to drums being your principal instrument?”

Alanna W. - “At a young age I realized that it was a rare thing to see females play drums on a high level. I was always interested in doing it and for me, it was never about being afraid because it was a male-dominated instrument; it was about my love for drums.”


WST - “What has been your biggest challenge as a female, Panorama-class drummer? Does it matter that you are female?”

Alanna W. - “My biggest challenge is people (mostly men) underestimating my ability to “handle it.” To this day before I even sit behind a drum, when they see that I am a female and I am always asked if I can handle the pace...a question like that is more than likely not asked to a male drummer....To me it doesn’t matter that I am a female.”


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

Alanna W. - “I am influenced by everyone and everything as it pertains to music”

WST - “Which drummers have inspired you? And what forms of music do you listen to?”

Alanna W. - “I am not limited to just a few, I listen to everybody....anywhere there is an interesting drum pattern or rhythm I am tuned into it. I spend a lot of time listening to and/or looking at videos of all types of drummers all over the world.

“With my music, however, I am what people call an “old soul”... I enjoy George Benson, Steel Pulse, some Earth Wind and Fire, Chuck Mangione. A not-so-normal playlist for the average 24 year old, LOL.”


WST - “Last year you performed in the International Panorama as drummer for Pan Elders Steel Orchestra. Describe that experience? And what are your thoughts on that event in general?”

Alanna W. - “My experience with Pan Elders was great. Talented musicians and great management. I had fun working with them. The event had the same exciting vibe as Panorama but personally, I was even more excited because it was the return of me playing in a major competition which was 5 years prior to that time.”


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

Alanna W. - “Nothing about the pan itself, the instrument is great. If I could change something it would be to change the way people see pan in this country. They see it as a seasonal showpiece, some people even describe it as noise; what I want them to understand is that pan is a world-class instrument that should be featured all year. I have seen situations where people would pay musicians well to come and play other instruments but as soon as you’re a “pan man” they tend to not want to pay you in the same way. In most cases they would just offer complimentary food and drinks.  

“Another example is during a major event, once it is not primarily pan-related, they always put the instrument to be played either as the patrons come in or as they go out. It can never seem to get a featured spot.”


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

Alanna W. - “Winning the Pan in Schools Music Festival Under-13 soloist competition in 2003, and also winning with Arima Golden Symphony their first 3 consecutive years as their drummer - are my proudest moments.”


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

Alanna W. - “The lack of willingness to upgrade the way they approach the steel pan movement. It is the same as it was when I started.”


WST - “What would be your advice to the thousands of young female panists all over the world who perhaps dream of becoming involved with the steelpan instrument as a career move, or even of following in footsteps such as yours overall?”

Alanna W. - “Perfect your craft to the point to where they can’t question your skill.”


WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Alanna W. - “Showcasing our musicianship on our national instrument at the highest level.”

Alanna White
Alanna White

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

Alanna W. - “A blessing.”


WST - “This year (2016) you performed in an-all women steel band for Panorama - Platinum Steel Orchestra. Described the experience and expectations? How was the franchise received by the other orchestras?”

Alanna W. - “This was a great achievement in pan...a pioneering move and I am honored to be a part of Platinum Steel’s first Panorama experience. We were welcomed and well-received by the other orchestras.”

WST - “Platinum Steel Orchestra represents a significant leap forward for women since the days of Hazel Henley and Girl Pat Steel Orchestra.  The contributions of women to the steelpan movement are undeniable. Do you believe women are finally getting that acknowledgment?”

Alanna W. - “Yes.”


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

Alanna W. - “Same sentiment as answer 11.”


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

Alanna W. - “My vision for steel pan is for there to be more information about the history of pan accessible to our youths. Let it not just be about the playing. The average youth pan player does not know about the history of pan, where it started from and the journey it has taken to where it is today. This is so that they would have a greater appreciation for our national instrument. You must know where it came from to know where it is going.”


photos provided by Alanna White



Alanna White with Pan Elders at the International Panorama in 2015


Sass at BEDROCK 2019. Alanna White on drums @ Nadia Batson's Cooler Fete

Alanna White plays Farmer Nappy's Abundance on Steel pan and Drums (COVER) Trinidad

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