Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Cherelle Greaves-Bernard - Trinidad & Tobago

“My passion for Panorama, Pan and culture starts with my love for my country...  I am extremely proud to be an ambassador for the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century.”

With a background in and love for the performing arts, Pan captivated her and is the chosen path of her self-expression.  In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - proud panist and performing artist Cherelle Greaves shares her reflections, experiences and views on Pan, and the steelpan art form overall.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself; how did you first become involved in pan?”

Cherelle G. - “My family’s background in Arts and Drama has a strong influence on my own introduction to the Steelpan. My personal involvement in Pan started at the age of nineteen. I attended a Summer Pan Workshop at the Pan Elders Steel Orchestra and joined their stage side group soon after. After sometime performing with them, I made the decision to join a large band, Skiffle Bunch located on Coffee Street in San Fernando which later became my ‘second home.’”

WST - “Every year you and many other young people sacrifice and invest a good portion of their time towards Panorama. What keeps your passion for Panorama, Pan and the culture going?”

Cherelle G. “My passion for Panorama, Pan and culture starts with my love for my country... I am extremely proud to be an ambassador for the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century. I believe that any sacrifice that I have made, goes towards the benefit of future generations ahead, especially my own children and I am simply continuing a legacy....”

WST - “What, if anything, do you dislike about Pan, and why?”

Cherelle G. - “What I truly dislike about Pan is that not enough is being done to recognize the pioneers of the national instrument. Also even throughout Trinidad & Tobago, the steelpan is not given enough airplay on many of the popular radio stations which is something I cannot understand.”

Cherelle Greaves
Cherelle Greaves

WST - “You have grown up in and around Pan; what do you find most different now as an adult, as compared to when you were very much younger, in the art form?”

Cherelle G. - “Compared to when I was much younger, the social acceptance of the Steelpan has changed tremendously, the negative stigma associated with the steelpan has almost dissipated, pan is no longer a ‘ghetto thing.’ Many persons are now involved in courses and even University programs [are] associated with Steelpan, as it is a widely accepted art form.”

WST - “You are a valued member of one of the most respected steel orchestras in Trinidad. What is it that makes Skiffle Steel Orchestra different?”

Cherelle G. - “Skiffle Steel Orchestra is a very unique band! As I said earlier, it is my ‘second home.’ Not only is Skiffle focused on bringing persons in to enter Panorama each year, but each player is individually valued for whatever contribution he or she makes to the organization. Skiffle treats you like family, they look after your well-being and you are respected and treated equally as any other player in the organization. This is something I truly admire about my band.”

Cherelle Greaves
Cherelle Greaves

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

Cherelle G. - “I strongly believe that Women are becoming more dominant in many of the Steelbands worldwide. With continued perseverance, we women can help strengthen and diversify the way forward for the Steelpan in the near future. Take up the challenge, ladies and let’s make it happen!”

WST - “If women controlled many more aspects of Pan, what would be different?”

Cherelle G. - “Women possess unique characteristics such as being more nurturing, empathetic and strategic. With women at the helm of the steelpan, the traits that are used to help keep families together can in turn be used to make positive changes beginning at the panyards and therefore enhance the steelpan industry which in turn, could take it to another level.”

WST - “Have all aspects of discrimination towards the steelpan musicians in general, become a thing of the past, among your generation?”

Cherelle G. - “I strongly believe that discrimination towards the steelpan musician has indeed become a thing of the past amongst my generation. The respect and admiration you gain now as steelpan musician has changed and steelpan playing even as career, has become more acceptable.”

WST - “What is your favorite Panorama piece?”

Cherelle G. - “Wow! ...Kinda of a tough question ...But I must admit that my favourite Panorama piece is ‘Rainorama - 1973 winning Panorama performance of Trinidad All Stars, arranged by Rudy Wells. ...‘Rain come and wash out Mas in May!!!’”

WST - “Who is your favorite arranger?”

Cherelle G. - “My favourite arranger is Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe, I simply love his ability to arrange and even perform beautiful pieces. He is truly a steelpan virtuoso, a genius of pan!”

WST - “Is Panorama a blessing or a curse?”

Cherelle G. - “I think Panorama is indeed a blessing! Many can relate to the creativity and even unconventional pieces heard at Panorama by all the Steelbands who really work hard each year. I really enjoy being a part of it!”

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

Cherelle G. - “I think that the advancement of the steelpan from a national perspective is severely under-looked and this needs to be changed immediately. The governing body in charge, should place more emphasis on the steelpan, and invest a lot more -create programs, year-round concerts/shows to showcase this beautiful instrument, not only countrywide but globally.”

Cherelle Greaves
Cherelle Greaves

WST - “What is your fondest memory with Pan?”

Cherelle G. - “My fondest memory with Pan would have been performing with Skiffle Bunch at Madison Square Gardens, New York for the World Steelband Festival in 2005. It was an electrifying and memorable performance!”

WST - “What is your vision for Pan in Trinidad & Tobago?”

Cherelle G. - “My vision for Pan is for the formation of a network of public-private partnerships in order to create a wider variety of programs and activities related to the steelpan in T&T. There should be at least one institution committed not only to training persons in the basic elements of professional pan playing but also educating persons on Steel pan making, tuning, chroming, arranging and also, even the marketing of the National instrument should be looked at.”

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

Cherelle G. - “No... none at this time.”

photos provided by Cherelle Greaves

Cherelle Greaves with Skiffle Steel Orchestra at Moods of Pan Festival in Antigua

Their Story, Their Voice, Their Life, Their Dreams - click for more stories

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