Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


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Meet Clara Ozanne - France

“In France steelpan is quite unknown. Except with steelpan players, I have to explain quite every time what steelpan is. In general people are interested and don’t understand how we can play with that strange “pan.” I’m so passionate about steelpan that it’s a pleasure to share about Pan with people.” 

She fell in love with Pan as a child when Pan‘n’Co Steelband’s founding members visited her school in France.  There has been no looking back as her pan passion has only grown, and she is now unmistakable when playing her signature pink tenor. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks and ten years later, Clara Ozanne shares her feelings, experiences, and dreams relative to the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Clara Ozanne?”

Clara O. - “I’m 20 years old and I live in France. I’m currently following a master’s Degree in marketing. I fell in love with pan and Trinidad ten years ago. I play in two bands in France - Pan‘n’Co Steelband and Calyps’Atlantic Steelband - and I have a pink tenor pan!”

WST - “How and when did you first become involved with Pan?”

Clara O. - “I discovered Pan for the first time twelve years ago. I had a music teacher in junior high school who discovered the pan and wanted to share this instrument (quite unknown at that time in my town) with her students. So, that’s how everything started.

“During one lunch time in my school two guys came with tenors around the neck and played. [I was] very interested by that strange instrument. I tried to play a few notes on tenor and I never stopped! These two musicians were the creator of Pan‘n’Co Steelband (François Lattouf and Adrien Garrido). I played pan in my junior high school for four years with the school band. When I started senior high school, I joined Pan‘n’Co Steelband, my first band and forever my first love. So, everything starts with Pan‘n’Co Steelband!”

WST - “And which pan(s) do you play? Any reason for the preference?”

Clara O. - “I’m a tenor player! I always played tenor. I just love the feeling of this instrument. I can’t explain why. I love the vibes of the section. All the players are very close and can share many moments! For my eighteen birthday my family and my friends got me my first tenor! You can easily recognize it… I’ve a pink tenor! Nobody else has the same trust me!”

Clara Ozanne with Calyps’Atlantic Steeland
Clara Ozanne with Calyps'Atlantic Steeland

WST - “You are one of the “veteran” musicians with Calyps’Atlantic Steel band. Tell us about this steel band, its history?”

Clara O. - “Calyps’Atlantic just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017. This steel band was created by a few people strongly passionate about steelpan. One of our veterans is Mr. Mokhtar el Mokhtari. After a trip to Trinidad he decided to create Calyps’Atlantic. The band was strongly helped by Tommy Crichlow and Kenneth Ross.

“In 2002 the band played for the World Steelband Festival in Trinidad. As time passed the band grew and now we have about eighty players in Calyps’Atlantic. Children, beginners, everybody who loves music can find a place in Calyps’Atlantic.

“Our band has also had the chance to host arranger Duvone Stewart many times! We had the chance to work and learn many tunes with him. I’ve been part of Calyps’Atlantic for three years, so I’m not one of its veterans but I truly feel like I belong to this band! I still play with my original band Pan‘n’Co which is very important for me because my passion for pan started thanks to Pan‘n’Co Steelband.”

WST - “What is the repertoire of Calyps’Atlantic like?”

Clara O. - “We play various tunes. Of course, calypso! But also, Kompa soca funk. We have very energetic, danceable sets!”

WST - “Talk about some of your performances with Calyps’Atlantic?”

Clara O. - “We had a magical performance last year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band! It was in one of the best locations in Nantes. The vibes were so strong! I also very much like to play in festivals organized by another French band. It’s a very cool opportunity to see what other bands play, and to meet all the players. But one of my best concerts was with Pan‘n’Co. During a panyard party, Valley Harps Steel Orchestra [from Trinidad & Tobago] was with us in France. A few days before, Michelle Huggins-Watts taught [us] a tune. In the panyard some of the players joined us and we played the tune all together! Playing with Michelle was so intense I will never forget this moment!”

Clara Ozanne with Calyps’Atlantic Steelband
Clara Ozanne

WST - “You have been to Trinidad once for a workshop with Valley Harps Steel Orchestra. Were you part of a group?”

Clara O. - “I had the chance to go to Trinidad in 2013. I was part of a project put together by François Lattouf and Adrien Garrido with assistance from Mokhtar el Mokhtari. We were fifteen teenagers, part of the junior band of Pan‘n’Co and we spent ten days in Trinidad. We practiced pan with Valley Harps every day, and we learned two tunes. We also had the chance to sightsee and discovered many beautiful places.

“We went to the Savannah, Renegades panyard, Toco Beach, Maracas Bay, Trinity College, etc. We finished this workshop/trip by playing the two songs we learned, during a Panyard party organized by Valley Harps in their panyard in Petit Valley. It was a magical experience. All Valley Harps players were extremely kind, and we learned a lot with them! I have very fond memories about this trip.”

WST - “How did this workshop arrangement come about, what was the experience like and how did you benefit?”

Clara O. - “Pan‘n’Co’s two captains (François and Adrien) of our junior band really wanted to share their passion for Trinidad with us. They organized this workshop to give us the opportunity to discover Trinidad and to learn pan with Valley Harps. During the ten days, every morning we had rehearsal with Valley Harps. We learned two beautiful tunes arranged by Clive Bradley!

“During the rest of the day we spent time in Port of Spain, and also visited different places. It was very intense, but it was a very good experience. I learned a lot about steel band and music during this experience. Everybody was very helpful with us. I will never forget this moment!”

WST - “Do you have any future plans to be in Trinidad & Tobago to play, maybe for Panorama?”

Clara O. - “Of course, I want to play for Panorama! I never went to Trinidad during carnival! It’s one of my biggest dreams! It’s difficult for me to plan anything because of my studies. But I will go (soon I hope!). Some players from Pan‘n’Co went for Carnival 2017 and played with Valley Harps Steel Orchestra. I hope I will be part of the next trip!”

WST - “You were in Japan and met Sonics-Tokyo Steel Orchestra there. What was the overall trip like and how did it come together? Share on your thoughts and experiences?”

Clara O. - “I spent five months studying in Seoul (South Korea) as an abroad student in 2017. It was an exchange with my school. During these 5 months I planned a trip to Japan. I knew that Japan has famous steel bands. So, thanks to Michelle Huggins-Watts, I contacted the captain of Sonics, Tomoe Robinson. So, I had the great opportunity to see them during rehearsals. I talk a lot with the band. It was so good to feel pan ‘vibes’ after four months without practicing! It’s clearly one of my best memories of Japan! Pan connections are all over the world! I still have contact with them [Sonic-Tokyo] and I hope to see them again!”

WST - “What keeps your passion for the steel band instrument and art form going?”

Clara O. - “Pan is part of my life. I just fell in love with the instrument. Steelbands are very original compared to classical music bands. I also fell in love with the spirit of steelpan and steel band! I grew up with Pan‘n’Co, so the band is like my family. Thanks to them I went to Trinidad. When I moved from my hometown, I was also in Nantes. Calyps’Atlantic welcomed me and really helped me. Pan has so much meaning for me! It’s about music, peoples, history, vibes!”

WST - “You may have come across from time to time, people who did not understand what you mean when you say you ‘play pan’ - if this has ever been the case, talk about how you shared your steel band experiences, and their reactions.”

Clara O. - “In France steelpan is quite unknown. Except with steelpan players, I have to explain quite every time what steelpan is. In general people are interesting and don’t understand how we can play with that strange “pan.” I’m so passionate about steelpan that it’s a pleasure to share about pan with people.”

WST - “Do you have a favorite Panorama arrangement?”

Clara O. - “‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ [by] Clive Bradley, but ‘Year For Love’ by Duvone Stewart for Renegades was gorgeous!”

Clara Ozanne
Clara Ozanne on tenor

WST - “Who is your favorite arranger and why?”

Clara O. - “I’m very impressed about Michelle Huggins–Watts! She is the first woman who won Panorama! I had the chance to meet her in France. She is a wonderful person! After of course I love what Duvone does! He is incredible! But Trinidad has so many talented arrangers it’s very difficult to choose one!”

WST - “Being female, were you ever cautioned or perhaps even dissuaded in any way, from becoming involved in steel band?”

Clara O. - “It never dissuaded me to play pan! I’ve the chance to meet people very open-minded in my two bands! In France women are very independent and can play the music instrument that they want! Music is not about gender!”

WST - “What do your friends, and family, think of your involvement with steel band?”

Clara O. - “My friends play pan also, so I guess they totally understand my involvement in pan! My mother used to play tenor also! We share very cool moments playing together!”

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

Clara O. - “For Pan to be more recognized in France and in Europe in general! Spread Pan as much as is possible! Share some vibes!”

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

Clara O. - “I’m very thankful for everybody who helped me to play pan, who trusted in me, who took time to teach [me] pan. A special thanks to my captains of Pan‘n’Co who taught me steelpan at a very young age and gave me their passions. I’m so proud of my bands.”

Clara Ozanne
Clara Ozanne on tenor

WST - “What would be your advice to the female players all over the world who are dreaming of following in footsteps such as yours?”

Clara O. - “DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT! Don’t let people tell you what you must do! Take the risk of doing what you want! Steelpan doesn’t have gender! Women are not less talented than Men!”

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

Clara O. - “Love, people and vibes! In Pan We Trust!”

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

Clara O. - “Special big-up to all Valley Harps Steel Orchestra players! This is the ‘Year For Love!’”

photos provided by Clara Ozanne

   Clara Ozanne performs with fellow pan players in 2014

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