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Meet Isoke Noel - Trinidad & Tobago

“....I love to teach. That feeling of accomplishment you get when your student excels solidifies why I love it so much. But on the other hand, something about the lights that hit you while you are on stage. You get this blissful feeling that lasts a lifetime.”

She is currently working on her BFA in Performing Arts - and there is no doubt that her passion for Pan is off the charts. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - the immensely talented Isoke Noel 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 Isoke Noel?”

Isoke N. - Isoke Noel. Born Dec 20, 1991 -- “I’m just a humble girl who has been surrounded by culture my entire life. Pan and Music turned out to be the root of everything I do. Apart from my ability to play pan, I am a flautist, pianist and a vocalist. I am also an amazing swimmer. I am currently pursuing a BFA in Performing Arts (Music) at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Anything cultural that pushes the brand of my country Trinidad and Tobago in a positive light, I support 100%.”

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

Isoke N. - “I would say since in my mother’s womb, seeing that both my parents play pan (LOL). But if I could recall the first time I actually fell in love with the instrument that would have to be when I was 9 years of age. I was a member of birdsong Academy, and if I remember correctly the song was ‘High Mas’ by David Rudder.”

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

Isoke N. - “The way I feel when I play pan is none like any other. It’s simply euphoric. Music is the only thing that keeps me happy. My passion stems from my involvement in culture from an early age.”

WST - “You are a musician, manager, instructor, arranger, performing artist. Which role do you like best?”

Isoke Noel
Isoke Noel

Isoke N. - “Being an instructor and a performing artist would definitely be fighting for that top spot. I love to teach. That feeling of accomplishment you get when your student excels solidifies why I love it so much. But on the other hand, something about the lights that hit you while you are on stage. You get this blissful feeling that lasts a lifetime.”

WST - “Are you a member of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO)?”

Isoke N. - “I am not a member of NSSO, but I would like to be. I admire the level of musicianship the members possess. Because I can tell you first hand, sight-reading music and playing pan is not an easy task. It takes diligence and hard work to get to that level. I take great pride in my ability to sight-read music.”

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

Isoke N. - “I would try to change the mentality of today’s society In Trinidad and Tobago. To most pan is a seasonal instrument. After Ash Wednesday they don’t want to hear pan. Whilst, the rest of the world appreciates our instrument, more than we do.”

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

Isoke N. - “It’s great to see more young people involved. Being involved in a panyard, keeps the youth out of trouble. I happen to know quite a few youngsters that use pan as a way to stay away from negativity. A steelband is more than a ‘band,’ it’s a ‘family’.”

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

Isoke N. - “The lack of respect players have for each other. It is always a competition. Your playing style is always compared to someone else’s. To me everyone is unique in their own way.”

WST - “This year you successfully took on the challenge of playing the Ying Yang (Rocket) pan in Desperadoes. Describe your experience.”

Isoke N. - “It was indeed a challenge. Especially since I normally play double seconds and 4 cello. This year I was given the opportunity to play this magnificent pan. The first two weeks were the most challenging, seeing that I had to learn the nuances and quirks of the pan. But after the two weeks passed, it felt as though I’ve been playing it my entire life. My section leader, Nathaniel Flemming was an amazing teacher. He made the task easier. I fell in love with the tone and wide range of the pan. I would not lie; playing the Rocket pan is a full-body workout. It takes a toll on your muscles after a while. But after all that I would definitely play it again if given the chance.”

WST - “What would be your advice to the thousands of young female panists all over the world who are dreaming of following in your footsteps?”

Isoke N. - “Seize the moment. When opportunity is knocking; open the door. Embrace it with an open mind.”

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

Isoke N. - “As a past member of birdsong Steel Orchestra, I was exposed to exceptional talents, such as Rudy “Two Lef” Smith and Ray Holman - just to name two. But topping the list would have to be the late Mr. Rafael Robertson. He was the most influential mentor I ever had.”

WST - “Who is your favorite arranger?”

Isoke N. - “Mr. Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. His music speaks to my soul.”

Isoke Noel
Isoke Noel

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Isoke N. - “They say Trinidad Carnival is the greatest show on earth. I am going to have to disagree; because to me Panorama is the greatest show on earth. The lights, the people, the uniforms, the MUSIC!!!. One word describes this. EUPHORIC.”

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

Isoke N. - “I think it’s a blessing, because it brings the young and old together.”

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

Isoke N. - “The young and upcoming arrangers rarely get the chance to showcase their talent, because most steelband leaders don’t have faith in them.”

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

Isoke N. - “I want to see pan accepted locally. It’s already accepted internationally. I think it is time Trinbagonians learn to appreciate their own.”

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

Isoke N. - “I would like more steelbands to get involved with the youth. Coming from birdsong, I’m thankful for all the things I was exposed to. I am particularly grateful for the theoretical knowledge of music I was able to gain. If more steelbands had a program like birdsong Academy, I can see that Pan can go very far.”

photos provided by Isoke Noel


Isoke Noel performing at Panorama Finals 2017

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