Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Sadé Constantine - New York

“My passion is the music, and the instrument and the art form, so it’s difficult to walk away from an instrument that I’ve grown up with. But I appreciate the versatility of the instrument. Where it can take you, all of the things you can do with it, it’s just all of these things intertwined that are my drive to keep me in this music. That is my passion.”

 She is talented beyond words - dynamic, passionate, thoughtful and a successful leader. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - panist, manager, performing artist, educator and arranger Sadé Constantine shares her reflections, experiences and views on Pan, and the steelpan art form overall.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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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?”

Sadé C. - “The experience is definitely different. When I was younger, I used to just play. So everything was the same for me musically. Everything sounded good. As I got older, it became more than just playing the instrument. Now I was actually listening to the music, basically tried to involve myself in all the aspects that pan is made up of. The way the music sounds compared to back then, the way the instrument is portrayed, the way it is valued is all different. But in the end it’s just playing pan. You don’t really think about all of those things.”

WST - “It’s been 11 years since we first interviewed you. What keeps your passion for the instrument, music and art form going?”

Sadé C. “My passion is the music, and the instrument and the art form, so it’s difficult to walk away from an instrument that I’ve grown up with. But I appreciate the versatility of the instrument. Where it can take you, all of the things you can do with it, it’s just all of these things intertwined that are my drive to keep me in this music. That is my passion.”

WST - “You are an organizer, performing artist, educator, steelpan player and band Captain. How do they complement each other, and which role do you cherish the most?”

Sadé C. - “At some point if you do one role, it’s easy for you to begin to understand another. Being a steelpan player, I understood what it was to play, so I could teach, be an educator. With the educator role, you learn how to organize things. Doing one thing and getting more involved makes it easier to wear all of those hats and have all of those experiences. I truly love all of the roles, but if I really have to choose I would say that I cherish the role of a performing artist the most. However, I would rather people perform my works than perform it myself. I like to hear my work come to life at the hands of others.”

Sade Constantine
Sadé Constantine

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

Sadé C. - “I feel like there is always that sense of questioning. Meaning, what is Sonatas doing? What are they coming with? Whether it’s Panorama or stage side. It’s a band that had a lot of success. So even in rough times, people still wonder what’s going on with them.”

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

Sadé C. - “Go for it! For me, it’s not as bad as it used to be. It used to be a struggle for a woman to arrange and be a top-notch player. Now it’s a respectable thing. So even if you’re a woman, you should go for it. If that’s what you want to do. The opportunity is there for women to become involved in it.”

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

Sadé C. - “I’d like to say that it could be a lot more organized. Not to say that the men can’t have it under control, but I think we have that down.”

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

Sadé C. - “It depends on the type of discrimination. In terms of gender, yes, the women are basically right up there with the men. The woman can play, solo and arrange just as well as a man. So yea, that’s a thing of the past. But if we’re talking about cultural discrimination, it’s still an underlying situation. There’s definitely some cultural discrimination that makes you feel as though if you aren’t directly from Trinidad, you have to go the extra mile or give that extra something to prove yourself.”

WST - “What is your favorite Panorama piece?”

Sadé C. - “There are too many, but in Trinidad Panorama, it’s a close tie between Pan In A Rage by Renegades, Pan In Harmony by Desperadoes and High Mas by Nu Tones. As for New York Panorama it would be, Action by Pantonic, not that there aren’t many more great ones. These are the ones I can listen to every day, all day.”

WST - “Who is your favorite arranger?”

Sadé C. - “If I feel like I’ve learned anything musically from you and enjoyed your music, then you’re a favorite of mine. But, most of all, Clive Bradley would be my overall favorite.”

Sade Constantine
Sadé Constantine

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

Sadé C. - “It’s a little bit of both. It’s a blessing because it’s constantly a great way that the instrument keeps its exposure. And not just in Trinidad, but everywhere. It’s a curse, because it can take a lot out of you.”

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

Sadé C. - “I’m pretty sure I would like to change how we advocate for the instrument because it isn’t enough. There could be so much more done in the way we expose this music. If we could just think about different ways to make this instrument grow even more internationally, it would be great.”

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

Sadé C. - “That would be the first time I went to Trinidad to play in Panorama. It’s such a big difference in feeling. You play a lot of Panoramas in NY, but that first time playing in Trinidad, it was a moment that I was just in awe of that time and being in that environment.”

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

Sadé C. - “This would be two things. First, I feel like we don’t value the instrument as much as we should. It’s like we don’t understand the versatility of the instrument. And outside of Panorama we don’t value that all the time and so we lose sight of it. Secondly, there’s that way of thinking that it’s okay to treat certain bands and organizations a certain way. If you’re an advocate for the whole steelpan community, then you should act in such a way. I feel like there is a disconnect between the organizations that the bands are under and the bands themselves. The organizations sometimes don’t even listen to the needs of the bands themselves.”

Sade Constantine
Sadé Constantine

WST - “What is the greatest challenge facing the Pan in the near future?”

Sadé C. - “Ourselves would be the greatest challenge. The only thing blocking the instrument from being what it should be is ourselves. It should be greatly recognized, and the only way we can do that is treat the instrument correctly, and promote and showcase and leave room for it to flourish. If not it will stay right where it is and not get to where it could be.”

WST - “What is your vision for Pan in New York and the USA?”

Sadé C. - “If you think of it this way, Trinidad is the mecca of pan, where people KNOW pan. I would like it to be like that in NY. There are so many arrangers, performers and pan players, and you can still have that full-blown experience. And it should be all of the time, not just during Panorama.”

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

Sadé C. - “I just hope that we all can just do better for the instrument. Let’s show what this instrument can really do and give it the representation it deserves.”

Sadé with Sonatas Steel Orchestra

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

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