Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Heidi Paul - New York

“What disappoints me the most about the steel pan movement is exactly that, the lack of a movement. There doesn’t seem to be a “movement.” There seems to be plenty of different entities trying to get ahead by themselves without realizing that it might be easier to move together.”

She is young, multi-talented and professional. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - panist, MBA candidate and scholar Heidi Paul shares her reflections, experiences and views on Pan, and the steelpan art form overall.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks ‘Celebration of Women in Pan’ logo

WST - “Tell us about Heidi Paul?”

Heidi P. - “Heidi Paul is a hardworking woman that loves her culture immensely. I work full-time in the healthcare industry, I’m full-time MBA student as well as a professional makeup artist.”

WST - “When and how did you first become aware of the steelpan instrument?”

Heidi P. “I was born in Trinidad so I have always known pan. Renegades and All Stars were walking distance from the house I grew up in. I first began playing steel pan when I was 9. My mother went into a Caribbean restaurant and on the counter were business cards for ADLIB. The next week my mother took my older brother Quacy, my best friend Lashera and I to the panyard, and the rest is history.”

WST - “The contributions of women to the steelpan movement are undeniable. Do you believe women are finally getting that acknowledgment”

Heidi P. - “Yes, I believe that women are finally getting a voice in the steelpan movement. Years ago, women had much smaller presence in the steelpan world. Today, I’m sure many of us can name plenty of women arrangers, captains, board members and players.”

WST - “Who is your favorite arranger and why?”

Heidi P. - “My favorite arranger would definitely have to be Clive Bradley. I can remember vividly listening to Pantonic play Stranger on Panorama night in 2001 and falling in love with the tune. It’s still one of my favorite songs to hum along to.”

Heidi Paul
Heidi Paul
photo provided by H. Paul

WST - “What is your favorite Pan piece?”

Heidi P. - “My favorite pan piece to play would probably be ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. My favorite pan piece to listen to would probably be Stranger that Clive Bradley arranged for Pantonic. Something about that song gets me excited every time I hear it.”

WST - “When you are not listening to pan music what are you listening to?”

Heidi P. - “I listen to almost any type of music. Other than pan I listen to Soca, Gospel, Reggae and Afrobeat.”

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

Heidi P. - “ADLIB is family. ADLIB is the only band I have ever played with in New York. ADLIB is home to me. No matter how busy I am I always find the time to at least play for Panorama. I’ve been playing with ADLIB since I was young so you can say I grew up with the band.”

WST - “What is the greatest challenge facing this current generation of steelpan musicians?”

Heidi P. - “I believe that one of the greatest challenges facing this current generation of steelpan musicians is that they are fighting for a voice and the respect that they deserve. With many of the board members, judges, and pan community being older, it’s hard for them to introduce new elements of pan to the world.

“This generation is very creative and sometimes they feel limited to the norm in order to be accepted. Of course there are plenty of young musicians and arrangers that are trying to take steelpan to the next level, but unfortunately without the support of the-powers-that-be the process is that much harder.”

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

Heidi P. - “My passion for the steelpan comes for my live for the culture. I also love my band as well as the feeling I get when I play pan.”

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?”

Heidi Paul
Heidi Paul

Heidi P. - “As an adult you learn to appreciate all the hard work that goes into keeping this culture alive, especially in New York where it’s always understood. There is so much that people have going on in their lives, that it truly takes a serious level of commitment, dedication and love for the culture to keep it going -  especially since often times there is little to no reward or compensation. We have to be thankful for the band leaders, captains, board members who continue to keep the steel pan alive.”

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

Heidi P. - “If I had the power to change something about Pan immediately it would definitely be to have it being pushed to a wider audience. I would like for there to be more unity within the community. It’s definitely gotten better over the years but there is still plenty of work to be done in order to get to the next level.”

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

Heidi P. - “I was most proud to see my band rise to the top as one of the best bands in New York. Every band practices and works hard and it’s very rewarding when your band gets the recognition that it deserves.”

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

Heidi P. - “What disappoints me the most about the steel pan movement is exactly that, the lack of a movement. There doesn’t seem to be a “movement.” There seems to be plenty of different entities trying to get ahead by themselves without realizing that it might be easier to move together. There have been talks about a union being formed and that honestly is a great idea and I hope that it can come to fruition very soon.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Heidi P. - “Panorama to me is “go-time.” It’s the time to “get it done,” and “winner takes all.” It pushes players and arrangers alike to their limits, and it’s an exciting time of year.”

Heidi Paul
Heidi Paul

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

Heidi P. - “Panorama is both a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse because with Panorama comes the worst part of the pan known as “politics.” Panorama brings out the worst in some people especially since there is bias involved. Anytime there is a judging for any competition you will find bias and often times unfairness. I’ve also realized that for some people it’s the only time they ever listen to pan. Sometimes a band’s best pieces are in its stage side catalog which often times goes unheard by many.

“It’s a blessing of course because it brings out the competitiveness in people. You will see people shed blood, sweat and tears during Panorama season to be on the big stage which is amazing. Arrangers are expected to use their creative expertise to impress the judges and crowd. I just wish that the same enthusiasm can be seen throughout the year and not just a 2-month span.”

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

Heidi P. - “My vision for the steelpan is that someday it can be appreciated for its true value. I would love for steel pan players and arrangers to be household names just like Kenny G. It would be great to see it on the music charts.”

Heidi Paul with ADLIB  Steel Orchestra performing “Like Ah Boss”

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