Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Mika Yoshida - Japan

“Pan has turned a new page in my life. Coming to Trinidad made a pretty big impact on my way of thinking and lifestyle...”

In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - Mika Yoshida shares her personal journey and perspective on the global reach and influence of the Steel Pan instrument, its music, and the art form on bridging cultures and enhancing the human experience.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks ‘Celebration of Women in Pan’ logo

WST - “Tell us about Mika Yoshida?”

Mika Y. - “I’m from Tokyo, Japan. I’ve been visiting Trinidad and Tobago once a year for Carnival since 2014. While in Trinidad, I play pan with Desperadoes Steel Orchestra for Panorama.”

WST - “How were you introduced to the steelpan instrument; what pan do you play?”

Mika Y. - “I didn’t know of this wonderful instrument before but I was introduced to it by a friend who I took a class with. After that I started to take lessons with a friend who invited me to take classes. I normally play tenor but on occasions I play other pans.”

WST - “What is it about steelpan that attracts you so?”

Mika Y. - “The sound makes me happy. When I play by myself it is very calming and peaceful. Playing together with my friends is lots of fun. I’ve met many people and made a lot of new friends.”

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

Mika Y. - “Actually I don’t know but I just love music, Steelpan and Trinidad and Tobago.”

WST - “How long have you been playing pan? Do you play any other instruments?”

Mika Y. - “I have been playing the pan for about 8 years. My first instrument however was the violin which I started to play when I was 4 years old. Next was the piano. I also played the cornet at elementary school but I haven’t picked it up in a long while. Even now I sometimes play the violin with my friends in orchestra or in small bands. ”

WST - “Last year you won Panorama in Trinidad with Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. What was that experience like?”

Mika Yoshida
Mika Yoshida

Mika Y. - “Firstly, I just want to thank all of “Desperadoes.” It’s awesome. The experience was a memorable one and I was really happy to be able to be there for the band’s 11th victory. Everyone was full of joy and that made me happy too.”

WST - “What Pan did you play in Desperadoes this year?”

Mika Y. - “I usually play tenor but I didn’t play with them for Panorama this year. I was only able to go to Trinidad for 5 days from Wednesday night before finals because of work. So I came to watch and support. I played with the band on J’Ouvert morning.”

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

Mika Y. - “I would separate the finals into two events, one for the medium bands and the other for the large bands. If this is done I would be able to see the medium bands final. Normally, I don’t get the chance to see the medium bands on stage since I’m busy preparing to go on stage as well.”

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

Mika Y. - “I’m most proud of the country Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) which created this instrument for the world to enjoy. Through the steelpan, many Japanese people have learnt about Trinbagonian culture; T&T is such a wonderful country.”

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

Mika Y. - “Dangerous neighborhoods. A lot of panyards are located in crime hot spots. It is not because of pan however. I would like to visit various panyards but it’s difficult especially during the night time.”

WST - “How has Pan changed your life?”

Mika Y. - “Pan has turned a new page in my life. Coming to Trinidad made a pretty big impact on my way of thinking and lifestyle.”

Mika Yoshida
Mika Yoshida

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?”

Mika Y. - “We have only got one life to live. If there is something you want to try, try it. It is better to try and fail than regret not trying at all.”

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

Mika Y. - “My mother is my musical influence. She is a music teacher and she has shown me how wonderful music is and that music goes beyond borders.”

WST - “Who is your favorite arranger?”

Mika Y. - “Mr. Carlton “Zanda” Alexander.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Mika Y. - “Special. I take time off from work for it and come to Trinidad from Japan although it’s a very long journey. I make it for Panorama’s sake and to see my friends . I will never forget the first impact it had on me when I came into the band for practice. The music hit me like a wave, it was full of music and vibes.”

WST - “What is the greatest challenge the steelpan music art form faces in Japan today?”

Mika Y. - “Steelpan is becoming  more and more known recently in Japan. However it still is not as popular as other instruments because there is little corporate sponsorship to aid in its promotion.”

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

Mika Y. - “In Japan, piano is the most popular instrument to play for children. And at the school we play recorders for music class. I wish steelpan will be as popular as these instruments in my country.”

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

Mika Y. - “There are two moderate pan events in Japan, “Yokohama Steelpan Festa” and “Kobe Steelpan Carnival.” Kobe’s was started as a symbol of the recovery from a big earthquake in 1995. Steelpan has the power to uplift people’s spirits even if it is far from Trinidad. I would like many more people to come and visit Japan.”

Mika Yoshida
Mika Yoshida

photos provided by M. Yoshida

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

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