Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Maurisha Potter - Antigua & Barbuda

“You gotta love what you do. It’s going to take a lot of practice, patience and dedication. You will make mistakes along the way but that’s the beauty about mistakes; you learn from them and if you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” 

Involved in Pan since the age of 12, she is part of the growing and committed group of panists committed to meeting the challenges of continued growth for the steelpan instrument and art form in Antigua and Barbuda. In  an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - panist Maurisha Potter shares her observations, insight and views on the Pan music art form and culture in Antigua and Barbuda.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks Celebration of Women in Pan Logo

WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Maurisha Potter, and how and when did you first become involved with Pan?”

Maurisha P. - “Though shy, I would describe myself as a friendly, caring and helpful young Antiguan woman with a bubbly personality. I first became involved with pan at the age of 12 when I attended the Christ The King High School, where it was mandatory for each student to do an extracurricular activity. I love music and I enjoy trying new things so I chose steel pan as my activity.”

WST - “You are part of Panache Steel Orchestra in Antigua. How did you become a member of the band?”

Maurisha P. - “I became a member of the Panache Steel Orchestra in January, 2016. I performed a solo piece at a church concert in December, 2015 and the Panache Steel Orchestra was present. After the concert, Mr. Robin Margetson approached me and commended me on my skills. He therefore extended an invitation for me to become a member of the band.”

WST - “Talk about your most memorable performance to date with Panache?”

Maurisha P. - “My most memorable performance to date with Panache was a few weeks ago on one of our Monday night gigs at the Jolly Beach Resort and Spa. We really had the guests (and staff) dancing the night away and seeing the audience happy, along with the positive energy from the members of the band, was my reward.”

WST - “You participate in Panorama, what is that experience like for you?”

Maurisha P. - “I have been participating in Panorama since 2010. During the period 2010 to 2015, I played with the FLOW Hells Gate Steel Orchestra and in 2016, I played with the West Side Symphony. Panorama practices are both fun and challenging, but I do enjoy the experience leading up to Panorama night. Being on stage with persons who love the art form as much as I do, and the energy from the audience is an amazing feeling! I will go as far as to say that I've never lost a Panorama (always in the top 3).”

Maurisha Potter
Maurisha Potter

WST - “In the steelband family, there are generally bands where females outnumber males; presently, this appears to be the reverse in Panache. Talk about your interactions within this dynamic in Panache?”

Maurisha P. - “I must admit that it took a while for me to settle down in the band being the only female (and the youngest member) but this eventually gave me another level of confidence I never knew I had. Even though we would still be outnumbered, I’m happy to announce that there are currently other females joining the band.”

WST - “Describe the pan scene, year round, in Antigua & Barbuda?”

Maurisha Potter with Robin Margetson
Maurisha Potter with Robin Margetson

Maurisha P. - “Though it is evident that the art form is growing, my wish is to witness more annual events revolving around steel pan and for pan musicians to explore more genres in music.”

WST - “Who are your music inspirations and influences - not only relative to Pan, but also in wider music genres?”

Maurisha P. - “I absolutely love listening to music from the 70s/80s. I’m not your average 25-year-old. The Spinners, Anita Baker, James Ingram, Elton John, Chicago and Journey are just a few of the many musicians that I love but relative to pan, my inspirations and influences come from amazing arrangers and friends right here in Antigua such as Zahra Lake, Khan Cordice and Gavin Francis who also encourages me along the way.”

WST - “What do your family members think of your involvement in the steelband art form?”

Maurisha P. - “Being the only daughter and youngest, my parents often thought long and hard about me getting involved and playing for Panorama because pan was viewed as male-dominant (plus the long hours of practice). After witnessing my passion for the steel pan, they had a change of heart. They are absolutely my biggest supporters along with my godfather who resides in Trinidad. He bought me a pan when I was 13 years old after they realized how much I loved the instrument.”

WST - “What would you say to young women who are thinking about becoming pan musicians?”

Maurisha P. - “My advice to young women aspiring to become pan musicians is simple: You gotta love what you do. It’s going to take a lot of practice, patience and dedication. You will make mistakes along the way but that’s the beauty about mistakes; you learn from them and if you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”

WST - “What is the biggest challenge regarding the steelband art form, from your perspective?”

Maurisha P. - “The biggest challenge regarding the steelband art form from my perspective, more so in Antigua is the tension between bands from time to time. We tend to lack respect for one another, especially during Panorama season. Though it is a competition, we need to remember that we are all one, win or lose.”

WST - “Do you think the steelband community and its musicians are regarded/respected in Antigua & Barbuda?”

Maurisha P. - “Honestly, from my years of experience, we do not receive the amount of respect we deserve. We work very hard, from building/tuning pans to arranging and long hours of practice. Sometimes we face a lot of unnecessary challenges but I am hopeful that things will change in the future.”

WST - “Is there any social stigmatization for pan players in Antigua & Barbuda, and for women in particular?”

Maurisha P. - “When I first began playing steel pan, social stigmatization was evident. I’ve had individuals, more so men, questioning me about my involvement in the art form. In Antigua, you would always hear a male’s name being called as an arranger or soloist - but that is about to change very soon as more young women are studying music here and abroad.”

WST - “Is there anything that causes you concern/disappoints you about the steelpan movement?”

Maurisha Potter
Maurisha Potter

Maurisha P. - “I wish that the Government would realize the importance of advancing and preserving our culture and invest more in the art form. We are doing better than we did in the past but in my opinion, we are not at the level that we ought to be as yet.”

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

Maurisha P. - “I have been and still am very proud of the number of young persons here (as young as 5 years old) who have taken an interest in the art form. Let me add that they display a lot of potential. It is important that we continue to mold the future.”

WST - “If there was one thing Pan you could change immediately, especially in (but not limited to) Antigua & Barbuda - what would that be?”

Maurisha P. - “The instrument is beautiful, no doubt about it but one thing that needs to be changed immediately is our mentality as pan musicians. If we join together with positive mindsets, we’d be surprised at how many obstacles we can overcome. It begins with us to make a change.”

WST - “Where would you like to see the art form, a decade from now?”

Maurisha P. - “A decade from now, I’d like to see the art form at a higher level. More programmes and facilities are needed to be put in place, especially for future aspiring musicians because education is vitally important in order for us to advance.”

photos provided by M. Potter

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