Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


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Meet Khyah Judah - Brooklyn, New York

“Music has always been a major part of my life and I see playing Steelpan as a way of getting deeper into that form of self-expression....I feel like when I’m behind a Pan, nothing matters but me and the music.”  She is multi-talented, reflective and experienced...  In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks -  panist, musician, dancer, performing artist Khyah Judah shares her experiences and views on Pan, and the steelpan art form.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about Khyah Judah?”

Khyah J. - “Well, for starters, I am 17 years old. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, and outside of playing Pan, I enjoy dancing and playing piano.”

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

Khyah J. “Sometime around spring of 2012. I only knew a little about Pan before that, like what it sounded like and a bit of what it looked like. My grandfather, Martin Douglas, the manager of Crossfire Steel Orchestra, told me that he wanted me to come play for the band’s stage side. They practiced on the weekends, and at that point in time I didn’t really have any extracurricular activities so I thought, “Why not?””

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

Khyah J. - “Music has always been a major part of my life and I see playing Steelpan as a way of getting deeper into that form of self-expression. I also think of it as an escape in a way. I feel like when I’m behind a Pan, nothing matters but me and the music.”

Kyah Judah on stage at NYU's Frederick Loewe's Theatre
Khyah Judah on stage at NYU’s Frederick Loewe Theatre

WST - “What does your family think about your involvement in Pan?”

Khyah J. - “My family thinks of my involvement in Pan as a very good thing. In their eyes, it opened me up to a lot of things that I would have never even thought of trying.”

Khyah Judah
Khyah Judah

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

Khyah J. - “I would have to say finding practice space. I feel like it is really hard nowadays to find and be able to keep a place to practice without some kind of complaint.”

WST - “Describe your most memorable steelpan musical experience?”

Khyah J. - “Playing and winning my first Panorama in Trinidad with Phase II. I don’t think that I will ever forget the rush of emotions that I felt and how excited I was for actually allowing myself to be a part of that.”

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

Khyah J. - “My growth and increasing love for it. When I started playing, I didn’t like Pan at all, and I would look for any excuse not to go to practice. At the time I would honestly have much rather been at home doing nothing. So I’m proud of myself for getting past that initial shock of trying something new.”

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

Khyah J. - “The lack of respect for steelbands. I feel like too many people see steelbands as too much noise rather than seeing it as any other orchestral instrument like a violin.”

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

Khyah J. - “The so-called “Pan politics.” I feel like, especially with Panorama, the history of a band or the drama behind should have nothing to do with how well their Panorama performance is. What I’ve noticed in the short amount of time I have been playing for Panorama is that bands get placed just because of who they are and how popular or unpopular they might be, but they barely ever get placed because of their effort, quality of performance, and the quality of the music.”

WST - “How was your experience at the International Panorama?”

Khyah J. - “One of the best experiences of my life. It was really fun to compete against steelbands from all over the world, and to place fourth out of 24 bands is definitely something I will never forget.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Khyah J. - “Panorama is something I look forward to every year, whether it’s in Trinidad or right here in Brooklyn. Granted there are still some things that need to be fixed about it, I doubt that I will ever not want to play for a Panorama, simply because I just love to do it.”

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

Khyah J. - “A blessing. I can’t think of anything I would rather spend my summer doing.”

Kyah Judah
Khyah Judah, at right

WST - “What type of music do you listen to outside of Pan?”

Khyah J. - “I listen to all types of music. Pop, alternative, jazz, pretty much everything except dubstep.”

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

Khyah J. - “I see Steelpan as something that can or will be played at prestigious ceremonies where you see orchestras and such, like the Oscars and other Academy award ceremonies.”

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