Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


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Meet Nandia Hamilton - New York, USA

“What disappoints me is when people think pan is just a set of noise rather than hearing the beauty in the music.” 

She is focused, has a vision for the future, has talent & skills and values her independence. “I want to be my own boss.” In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks Nandia Hamilton  shares her feelings, experiences, and insight into what drives her passion for the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Nandia Hamilton?”

Nandia H. - “Nandia Hamilton is 19 years young with a great future ahead of her. She has goals, a love and passion for music, and a very creative mindset that gets her going.”

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

Nandia H. - “Ever since I was younger my mom always had me in dance and gave me the opportunity to learn my culture and different styles of music. I first became involved with pan in 2012. I used to live around the corner from Pantonic Steel Orchestra and my sister invited us to come listen, and that experience made me want to grow closer to music which gave me an entrance into steel pan.”

WST - “You are one of the ace musicians on the New York Pan scene - performing in recent years with Despers USA Steel Orchestra. Tell us about being a player with Despers USA?”

Nandia H. - “Thanks! Being apart of Despers USA is great! The band is very family-oriented so you always feel welcomed, safe, and secured! Being one of the players in the band I have definitely gained knowledge, grown as a player, and had good vibes.”

Nandia Hamilton with Despers USA
Nandia Hamilton with Despers USA

WST - “You played bass in Despers; do you play any other pans?”

Nandia H. - “Yes I also play Tenor which was my first pan and guitar.”

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

Nandia H. - “What keeps my passion going is the significance of the notes, technique, and the vibes.”

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

Nandia H. - “My musical influences would have to be Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill mainly because of the way they bring life into their music. Pan-related, I would have to say Odie Franklin, Marc Brooks and Kendall Williams because they show us that with hard work comes success once you put your mind to it.”

WST - “What is your favorite Panorama arrangement?”

Nandia H. - “Well I don’t have a favorite arrangement to be honest. I listen to different Panorama arrangements and vibe with different sections of the music. But if I was to choose some, it would be Buss Head by Despers USA and Hello by Skiffle Steel Orchestra.”

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

Nandia H. - “My favorite arranger is Odie Franklin! He is one arranger that pushed me towards my goals. I remember when I would tell Odie that I couldn’t get it or play it as fast and fluently as others, and he would always tell me that I got this, just to push myself and practice, which always boosted my self confidence. Odie was always someone I could look to if I needed help in a situation, technique, or a quick laugh. Being in Trinidad he was one person that helped me to understand how much I have to learn and how I can be a better player. One thing he always told me was, “Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong!” and that stuck with me ever since.”

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

Nandia H. - “No.”

WST - “Do any of your family members play?”

Nandia H. - “No; however my mother used to play when she was younger.”

Nandia Hamilton with Despers USANandia Hamilton with Despers USA

WST - “What is your opinion on the current state of Pan in New York?”

Nandia H. - “Pan in New York is out of control. We need to do better as a whole to properly push steelpan to gain its respect and move on to bigger and better things.”

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

Nandia H. - “I would change the understanding and significance of pan only because not many people understand what pan is.”

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

Nandia H. - “I have been most proud of seeing the development of bands and the growth in players.”

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

Nandia H. - “What disappoints me is when people think pan is just a set of noise rather than hearing the beauty in the music.”

‘Styles By Nandi’  (Nandia Hamilton)
Nandia Hamilton
(image provided by Nandia)
WST - “Recently you performed with Skiffle Steel Orchestra in Trinidad; describe that experience?”

Nandia H. - “That experience was the best experience in my life and I would have to continuously do it again. I learned a lot playing with them and what it takes as a band to reach to the top no matter what may bring you down. It taught me to be humble and to push myself.”

WST - “Compare preparing for Panorama in New York, with practicing for the Trinidad & Tobago National Panorama?”

Nandia H. - “Preparing for Panorama in New York and practicing for Panorama in Trinidad and Tobago is completely different. In New York, it's very populated and most people don’t understand pan - so the times that we need to practice - those who don't understand, end up making it harder for us by calling police and cutting practice short. They don’t help us with getting new yards and equipment to keep the bands going.

“However in Trinidad it’s their national instrument, so practice is held to whatever time they decide, everyone takes practice seriously - so we would run over a part so many times until each person has it super clean. Everyone caught music very fast which helped with practice because we were able to focus on execution as well as performance.”

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

Nandia H. - “On stage is one of the best feelings I ever encountered. The vibes are always on point and it brings me great happiness.”

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

Nandia H. - “Panorama is definitely a blessing because it’s where different arrangers showcase their talents of creating beautiful music and giving people insight on their views of a song, and how they interpret it.”

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

Nandia H. - “My advice would be to NEVER GIVE UP! Being a female in this pan community is really hard. People expect so little from us. For example everyone always expects to hear a male arranging for a band or see a male drummer. It’s less likely you see a female doing either one, and due to politics we don’t get the respect for it. We as females need to show love and push one another to be better.”

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

Nandia H. - “My vision is to see pan given the respect it deserves all over the country.”

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

Nandia H. - “No.”

WST - “You are an up-and-coming hair stylist (Styles By Nandi) - talk about this - this area of your life?”

‘Styles By Nandi’  (Nandia Hamilton)

Nandia H. - “Well this area of my life is called development. I’ve always wanted to do hair every since I was younger. I would always practice different hairstyles in my hair and was never afraid of color. So since my passion kept growing I finally decided around high school that I wanted to start my own hair business. Day by day I would see my business grow and I would practice every chance I get. I love doing hair because it’s where I can show my creativity and give that self confidence to those who lost it. My dream for this business is to open up my own hair salon and build on top of that because I want to be my own boss and on top of my game so I can be set for life.”

WST - “What is next for Nandia Hamilton?”

Nandia H. - “I can’t really say what’s next for me. I honestly am waiting for blessings upon blessings and just be the best me I can be.”

   Nandia Hamilton performs with Skiffle Steel Orchestra during the orchestra’s 2018 Panorama Finals Performance

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

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