Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Ke Shari J’knysa Caesar - Trinidad & Tobago

“My vision is for Trinidad & Tobago to embrace the steelpan instrument and we can make the steelpan industry become as lucrative or more so than the oil industry.” 

And when it comes to Pan she is keeping it 100. No doubt it is a lifetime love affair.  The “Pan Jumbie” lives in her 24-7-365 days a year. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, the immensely multitalented Ke Shari J’knysa Caesar shares her deeply personal feelings and insight into her relationship with the Steelband music art form and culture.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Who is Ke Shari Caesar - tell us about yourself?”

Ke Shari C. - “I am 27 years old and I have lived in Siparia [South Trinidad] my whole life. I am an outspoken, fun-loving and determined individual. I come from a very music-oriented family. My father was an amazing musician who taught all of his children to play multiple instruments and to sing. I fell in love with the steelpan instrument in 2009 and we have been in a very committed and demanding relationship ever since. I favor the bass pan but I do love and appreciate all forms of our National instrument.”

WST - “When and how did you first become aware of the steelpan instrument?”

Ke Shari C. - “I first became aware of the steelpan instrument when my two older siblings began playing for Siparia Deltones in 2001. I was only allowed to begin playing in 2009.”

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

Ke Shari C. - “My love and appreciation of the uniqueness and versatility of our National instrument and our Trinidadian culture has kept my passion going. Some may even refer to it as “D Pan Jumbie” since I play pan all year round.”

Ke Shari J’knysa Caesar
Ke Shari J'knysa Caesar

WST - “Are there any other instruments you play?”

Ke Shari C. - “When I was younger, my father taught me to play the piano and the guitar.”

WST - “Are any of your family members involved in pan?”

Ke Shari C. - “My two older brothers, Ian and George Caesar, are members of Siparia Deltones.”

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

Ke Shari C. - “Of course I was. My mother was overly protective of me since I was her only girl child, so I was not allowed to play pan until I finished A Levels.”

WST - “In general, what is Panorama to you?”

Ke Shari C. - “Panorama to me is the greatest showcase of our National instrument and is supposed to be the biggest platform for us (Trinidad & Tobago) to promote and market this instrument to the world.”

WST - “Tell us about performing with Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra and Phase II Pan Groove?”

Ke Shari

Ke Shari C. - “My love for steelpan was brought about by the joy (a.k.a. vibes) I felt when performing with my fellow musicians. I developed as a musician when I began playing with Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra because of the difficulty and intricacy of the arrangements we grew accustomed to playing. Performing with Phase II Pan Groove has been a joy and a learning experience thanks to the very talented Len “Boogsie” Sharpe.”

WST - “What are those eight/ten minutes like on stage for you, performing in Panorama - how do you feel?”

Ke Shari C. - “Honestly, when performing in Panorama on stage I usually feel proud because of all the hard work that was put in and most of all it is a very ecstatic experience.”

WST - “What is your involvement with pan like outside of the Panorama season?”

Ke Shari C. - “I play pan all year round on Phase II’s stage side and I am also a member of Southern Stars Steel Orchestra in my hometown of Siparia.”

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

Ke Shari C. - “It is both. It is a curse for the musicians because sadly, it is the only competition to look forward to and we have always been under-appreciated and under-compensated. It is more a blessing to the patrons and the few people who make a profit from its proceedings.”

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

Ke Shari C. - Carlton Alexander. I like to think that because he is an architect by trade, his music sounds like well-crafted architecture. He has a way with phrasings and rhythms that can make you feel to literally ‘bawl’.”

Ke Shari J’knysa Caesar
Ke Shari J'knysa Caesar

WST - “Overall - who, and what are you musical influences?”

Ke Shari C. - “My father was a big reason why I grew up loving music so much. He taught me to play instruments, sing and also how to read music.”

WST - “Do you favor any particular genre of music to perform on pan?”

Ke Shari C. - “No I don’t. Steelpan is versatile and I love all genres of music.”

WST - “What is your opinion on the state of the steelband art form in Trinidad & Tobago?”

Ke Shari C. - “It is that there isn’t a nationwide appreciation for the art form and that the governing body of pan is too wrapped up in controversy to do anything for furthering of the steelband movement.”

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

Ke Shari C. - “Honestly, I do not think so.”

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

Ke Shari C. - “I have been most proud that steelpan has been an avenue to help keep our youth away from criminal activity.”

Ke Shari J’knysa Caesar
Ke Shari J'knysa Caesar

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

Ke Shari C. - “I am most disappointed that there are very few events and competitions to keep musicians excited and give them something to look forward to during the year. More so, that the governing body of pan has done little to nothing to further the art form.”

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

Ke Shari C. - “If I could, I would love to have a governing body of steelpan that is invested in the furthering of the steelpan movement and the well-being of pan musicians, and not in personal gain.”

WST - “What would be your advice to young female panists who are dreaming of becoming involved with the steelpan instrument as a career move?”

Ke Shari C. - “Follow your dream but ensure that your education comes first and foremost.”

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

Ke Shari C. - “My vision is for Trinidad & Tobago to embrace the steelpan instrument, and we can make the steelpan industry become as lucrative or more so than the oil industry.”

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

Ke Shari C. - “What can be done to remove politics from steelpan?”

WST - “What is next for Ke Shari J’knysa Caesar?”

Ke Shari C. - “Currently, I am in the preparation stage for our (Southern Stars Steel Orchestra) anniversary celebration on April 14th 2018.  Less specifically, I will continue to search for avenues to create a greater appreciation for the artform as we strive to bring steelpan to the world.”

photos provided by K. Caesar

   Ke Shari J’knysa Caesar performs with Phase II Pan Groove during the orchestra’s 2018 Panorama Finals Performance

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