Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Norzika Lewis - New York, USA

“Those ten minutes on stage to me are the best moments in my life every year that I perform. There is always this feeling like a rush of energy that I get when I perform. Because being a performer is part of me and what I love to do.” 

She is with no doubt a ‘culture baby.’  The performing arts is her forté. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks -  the multi-talented Norzika Lewis shares her encounters,  feelings, experiences, and insight into the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks ‘Celebration of Women in Pan’ logo

WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Norzika Lewis?”

Norzika L. - “Norzika Lewis is a twenty-year-old young woman. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. In a West Indian household.”

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

Norzika L. - “I first became aware of the steelpan instrument at the age of ten years old because my family would go to Panorama and record the bands playing and come home and show me the bands.”

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

Norzika L. - “My passion for music and dance is what keeps the music and the art form going for my passion for steelpan.”

Norzika Lewis with CrossFire Steel Orchestra
Norzika Lewis with CrossFire Steel Orchestra

WST - “You have played with a couple New York steel orchestras. Talk about some of those experiences in general through the years.”

Norzika L. - “My first official time playing with an actual New York steel orchestra was with CrossFire Steel Orchestra. My experience playing with them for three years was great. Playing with CrossFire and learning from Kendall Williams has taught me so much; I’ve become such a stronger player because of his drive for us to do better and become better. I have also played with CASYM Steel Orchestra for one year. It was great playing with them, got to see how they do things differently from CrossFire Steel Orchestra.”

WST - “Regarding Panorama specifically, what are those ten or so minutes competing on stage like, for you?”

Norzika L. - “Those ten minutes on stage to me are the best moments in my life every year that I perform. There is always this feeling, like a rush of energy that I get when I perform. Because being a performer is part of me and what I love to do.”

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

Norzika L. - “I feel so much more can be done - based on more acknowledgement of arrangers and the players for their hard work throughout the Panorama season, and the dedication they put into arranging and learning a ten-minute song.”

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

Norzika L. - “In my opinion Panorama is a blessing. Because it gives people with a musical ear [the opportunity] to show the world how talented and skilled they are, and be known by many [as] musical influences in the pan world.”

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

Norzika L. - “My musical influences are Marc Brooks and Kendall Williams. Because I see them accomplishing what they put their minds to. And it helps me to push myself and accomplish my goals in this generation of pan. And when they talk about their obstacles they had to face in pan, to get where they are at now, [it] just motivates me even [more] to keep pushing.”

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.”

Norzika L. - “My experience coming across people who didn’t understand what I mean when I say “I play pan” is their main question: “What is pan?” And they would say: “Is it a can?”  Which would confuse me because, why would a steel pan be a can? So I would have [to] explain to them that a steel pan is a musical instrument that is made from industrial drums.”

WST - “Are you involved in any other artistic/cultural activity? If so, talk about this.”

Norzika L. - “I am also involved in one [of] the most significant musical rituals on the island of Carriacou and the Grenadines called The Big Drum Dance.”

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

Norzika L. - “If I could change something in pan it would be that players should also get paid for their time, dedication to the arrangers and bands they play for.”

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

Norzika L. - “What I have been proud of most relating to pan is how strong of a player I have become in the past five years of me playing. I have so much confidence in my skills and in myself playing pan.”

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

Norzika L. - “What disappoints me the most in the steelpan movement is that as the years go by in Brooklyn, it seems as if people have lost their interest for pan. I’m not sure if it’s because of the lack of space for the bands to practice or if it’s because times are changing in the world we live in today. I would just like everybody in the steelpan community to come together and work as one.”

Norzika Lewis with CASYM Steel Orchestra
Norzika Lewis with CASYM Steel Orchestra

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

Norzika L. - “Because of his passion for music, [Kendall Williams]. Which is something that he shares not only worldwide but through his amazing arrangements that he gives to all his students and players. Kendall is also a great role model to us young pan players of this generation and I honestly admire him for all that he is doing.”

WST - “What is the greatest challenge facing this current generation of steelpan musicians from your perspective?”

Norzika L. - “The greatest challenge facing this current generation of steelpan musicians from my perspective is motivation.”

WST - “What would be your advice to young female panists all over the world who are dreaming of becoming involved with the steelpan instrument, following in footsteps such as yours?”

Norzika L. - “My advice to young female panists is to push yourself and never say you can’t learn something. You can do anything you set your mind to and conquer the pan world.”

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

Norzika L. - “My vision for the steelpan instrument along with others, is to see this art form on a larger scale. It’s amazing and I’m so grateful that it has hit every continent. But of course it’s for all of us to push it and make it grander.”

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

Norzika L. - “There are many issues that the steel pan community face but one that seems to be unspoken is the communication between management and players. Everyone needs to come together and work as a team.”

Norzika Lewis, at right
Norzika Lewis, at right

WST - “What is next for Norzika Lewis?”

Norzika L. - “The next thing for Norzika Lewis is to be a diverse female panist and be able to take my knowledge and skills of pan all over the world, and teach young ladies and men what I know so they can be great as well.”

   Norzika Lewis performs with CASYM Steel Orchestra during the orchestra’s 2017 Basement Recordings panyard session

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

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