Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Jossane Kerrice Felix - Trinidad & Tobago

“At 5 years old, my parents took me to Renegades’ panyard and I was totally mesmerized by the level of complexity and difficulty of Dr. Jit Sukha Samaroo’s music. This compelled me to want to grow up to become a Renegade to be able to play his music and, I did just that! I have always been a real die-hard Renegade.” 

She is an infectious spirit who leaps off the page and delivers breaths of unadulterated enthusiasm into the reader/listener for her story and the magic of the steelpan art form. She is forward-thinking with an open-the-door and “let’s do this - let me at it” attitude. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks -  multi-talented panist, author and performing artist Jossane Kerrice Felix shares her vision, experiences, and feelings for the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “How and when were you first introduced to the steelpan instrument?”

Jossane F. - “From a very young age, around 5 years old, I told my parents that I wanted to learn to play the steelpan. They insisted that they did not want to raise a musically illiterate pan woman and so they enrolled me in Louise Mc Intosh’s Pan Pipers Music School where Chantal Esdelle, Harold Headley and Sat Sharma were my first music and steelpan teachers.

“I started off learning the double tenor and the double guitar pans, and then at the age of 11, I switched to the 4ths and 5ths high tenor pan when I joined Success Stars Pan Sounds.”

WST - “What made you fall in love with the steelpan instrument and its music?”

Jossane F. - “At 5 years old, my parents took me to Renegades’ panyard and I was totally mesmerized by the level of complexity and difficulty of Dr. Jit Sukha Samaroo’s music. This compelled me to want to grow up to become a Renegade to be able to play his music and, I did just that! I have always been a real die-hard Renegade.”

On the Track with bp Renegades at Panorama Finals 2016.jpg
On the Track with Renegades Steel Orchestra at Panorama Finals 2016

WST - “What keeps you so passionate about Pan?”

Jossane F. - “When I was less than 10 years old, my mum would take me to the Pan is Beautiful competitions which used to be held at the Jean Pierre Complex and, what really intrigues me is hearing music come to life from a music score. In the 1990s, Pan is Beautiful was held every year, one year for Seniors then the next year for the Juniors and so, I would always be intrigued by the test piece compositions and also hearing tunes of choice like John Williams’ theme music of Star Wars come to life and looking at the conductor take command of the orchestra.

“When I started to play with my first big band, Solo Pan Knights, as a teenager, I was one of about two persons who could have read music in the band. I always longed to see the day when pan men and women could read music and operate just like musicians from the traditional symphony orchestras. Thank goodness, I have lived to see the day when this has come to pass, especially with the advent of numerous music schools and both the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) which have created avenues for this to be achieved.

“What keeps me passionate about the Pan is stressing on sound quality, artist management, logistics and the quality of the orchestra’s general performance. I consider myself the Loretha “Cookie Lyon” of Pan. Taraji P. Henson plays this role in the popular American musical drama, “Empire.” We need more “Cookie” Lyon types in the industry. 

“I have done tours and experienced how professionally we have been treated while abroad, that I have always longed to see the bar risen and musicians and management operating at such a high level right here in Trinidad and Tobago. The possibilities of just how far the art form could be taken in terms of global reach, also keeps me passionate and quite driven.”

WST - “You are a valued veteran member for Renegade Steel Orchestra. Tell us about some of your global travel through Pan over the years.”

Jossane F. - “Thank you kindly, I am honoured to be considered as such. Some of my travels through pan over the years have been with:

Representing Trinidad and Tobago with Success Stars Pan Sounds in Aberdeen Scotland for the Aberdeen International Youth Festival - 1996
Representing Trinidad and Tobago with Success Stars Pan Sounds in Aberdeen Scotland for the Aberdeen International Youth Festival - 1996
  • Performing at various shows and we even created history, performing with Awakening Theatre Dance Company, Bronx, New York at a sold-out show at His Majesty’s Theatre. It was the first time the theatre was sold out and also, we got to perform alongside American Tap Dancer Tarik Winston who owned Awakening Theatre Dance Company.  Tarik was already famous as he was one of the American Tap Dancers in the world-renowned Irish Tap show “Riverdance.”

WST - “Renegades is one of the Trinidad & Tobago music gems. What is it that makes Renegades so special?”

Jossane F. - “First and foremost, Renegades is not just any ordinary orchestra. Renegades is a family. Once a Renegade, always a Renegade. I grew up from since my teenaged years under the watchful eyes of Mr. Michael Marcano, Mr. Duncan, past Captain Mr. Gibbs, Redman, our current Captain Mrs. Candice Andrews-Brumant, Andrew Brumant, Selwyn “Snail” John, Robert “Swaggy” Alleyne, Tony “Cocoa,” “Chinee,” Trevor, Mr. Brandt Speede, Tony “Soul” Yeates, Anthony “Tucker” Ward, Mario Joseph, Obasi Farai and Kelly Ramlal to name a few. Some are still with the band and some have moved on to pursue other endeavours, but, these are some of the persons who took great care of me as a young female in the orchestra and up to this day, those who are still with the band, still do take very great care of not only me but everyone else in the band. Those traits have passed on to the younger ones who are instrumental within the orchestra, they always take care of one another by making sure that everyone is alright, comfortable and safe. Mr. Duvone Stewart, has also ensured to continue fostering and nurturing that culture within the band. The band’s precedent is set very highly and we are welcoming, down to earth, friendly and humble.

“From a musical perspective, not only has the band created records to go down in the annals of history, but also from the first bar of music, Renegades lets you know that we are here and that we are a force to contend with. Luckily for me, I have been fortunate to have experienced the musical arrangements of the different arrangers who have worked with bp Renegades, Dr. Jit Sukha Samaroo, Mr. Amrit Samaroo, Mr. Kenneth Guppy and now Mr. Duvone Stewart, all of whom have been homegrown and have always maintained Renegades’ elite signature sound.

“I must say that some players were born to be Renegades. We have similar characteristics which we can recognize within young players when they approach the band. Most times, from young, players just know that they ultimately want to be a Renegade.”

WST - “In addition to it being the band’s seventieth anniversary, 2018 is a very special year for Renegades; how does it feel to be champions again?”

Jossane F. - “It is an absolutely wonderful feeling for the band to be champions again, to have brought it home and restored glory to our pan yard. There is a whole generation of us who have been with the band for 19-20 years, who had never won a Panorama competition with bp Renegades. We have remained disciplined, dedicated and never gave up on our band. Even during the years when we did not win, we always felt like champions. We have always seen ourselves as world-class and as nothing less than the best.”

WST - “Is the support for the arts to your liking in Trinidad and Tobago?”

Jossane F. - “Support for the arts is only now striving to come along. We are creeping to come up to par with ideas which I have noticed when I travel abroad to places like Toronto, Canada. The measure of support is not to my liking just yet but I can see little dents and punches being made in the short run, in order to impact the creative industries in the medium to long run.”

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

Jossane F. - “Well there are a few things which I am most proud about as it relates to my beloved steelpan instrument. Besides winning various competitions throughout the years, I have been most proud of the fact that I feel happy to know that our culture is in safe hands. The number of pan men and women who can now read music scores is one I am so very happy to see as musicians keep progressing in this regard. I have seen the development of young and very skilled musicians branch off to become pan makers, pan tuners, musical arrangers, musical conductors, producers and drill masters. It also warms my heart to see the youth involved in the orchestras and loving up our culture.”

WST - “What causes you the most concern about the art form?”

Jossane Kerrice Felix
Jossane Kerrice Felix

Jossane F. - “What causes me the most concern is the state of affairs in which the smaller bands have found themselves. They are essentially dying or hanging on by a lifeline. They hardly have players and they really struggle when the Panorama season rolls around due not only to lack of funding but also lack of players.

“I am also concerned that things could be lost due to the hustle rather than players playing for the love of pan. It is a bit of a paradox because a lot of players are now professional musicians and so they make their living off the music. As a result, these musicians tend to showcase their skills by becoming musicians for hire at different bands especially during the Panorama season. Technically, I see nothing wrong with that, because in other countries, being a Musician is a profession and is very serious business which is regulated, however every band needs its share of “die-hard” members in order to keep the fire burning by being a positive light within its community.”

WST - “What is your vision for pan in Trinidad and Tobago a decade from now?”

Jossane F. - “My vision for pan a decade from now includes:

WST - “If you could change one thing about pan what would that be?”

Jossane F. - “I know that my suggestions would be contingent upon funding but if I could change one thing about pan, I would bring back the kinds of activities we had in the 1990s, adding them to the annual calendar of events. Bring back Pan is Beautiful for Juniors and Seniors, Pan Chutney Competition and Pan on Broadway. These events were staples on the annual calendar. Such types of events also expose the panists to different genres of music, only widening their scope, experience and increasing their levels of discipline to learn and execute the music as skilled musicians.”

WST - “Being female, were you cautioned or perhaps even dissuaded in any way, from becoming involved in the steelband art form?”

Jossane F. - “Oh no, not at all! I have never experienced that issue. Luckily for me, my parents always knew that one of their children would end up loving the steel pan. It turned out to be me, and so they understood that I loved steelband music and I have always wanted to be involved not only as a musician but also by being involved behind the scenes in the business of the steel pan. Too besides, in the past, my father was a Bass man with Solo Harmonites and some of my maternal uncles also played with Solo Harmonites so there were no issues. My cousins and the rest of the family actually laud me for loving the art form and really sticking with it throughout the years.”

WST - “What advice would give to young and upcoming females who would like to follow in your footsteps?”

Jossane F. - “As my musical director, Mr. Ben Jackson always told us, “Always give your best, because you never know who is watching and which opportunities may come your way.”

“Practice makes perfect but you can always better your perfect.” Ben Jackson

“Turn your light on brighter, never dim your light. You will find people who can’t handle your light. You don’t dare dim your light. If you disrupt some people who keep telling you your light’s too bright, just offer them a pair of shades.” Lisa Nichols, Motivational Speaker

“Never forget where you came from and the people who helped you along the way, especially the people who used to drop you home safely at night after practice.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Jossane F. - “I consider Panorama to be the Olympics of Pan and, I approach it as such. Panorama to me is about the experience of the season, ensuring that the quality controls are in place. The eco-system which allows the organization to be run like a well-oiled machine so that the arranger could focus on arranging, the players could focus on playing and all the other logistics are handled properly by the other arms of the organization.

“It is also about the camaraderie within the fraternity, enjoying great works, playing pan with my friends who are family both local and foreign who fly down to play, executing the music given to our orchestra to the best of our ability, witnessing the arrangers and producers at work, pure genius.

“Fighting the good, musical fight.”

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

Jossane F. - “Yes there are three matters in particular I would like to bring forward -

Check out just released publication by Jossane Kerrice Felix - now on Amazon. Jossane Kerrice Felix new book


Jossane with bp Renegades at Panorama Finals 2012
Jossane with bp Renegades at Panorama Finals 2012.

all photos provided by Jossane Kerrice Felix


   Jossane Kerrice Felix performing with the soon-to-be-crowned Champion Renegades Steel Orchestra on Tenor at the 2018 Trinidad  & Tobago National Panorama Finals competition

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

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