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Meet Teneisha Campbell - Trinidad & Tobago

“I will always have a passion for steelpan because it is engrained in my DNA. It is an incredible art that was created out of brilliance.” 

Teneisha Campbell surely knows a thing or two about greatness. Long before  her role in the movie Black Panther - one of the great box-office smashes of all time, she was a performing panist for the great Panorama Champions Renegades Steel Orchestra during their three-peat years.

She is a multi-talented musician, screen-writer, actor and performing artist. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - panist Teneisha Campbell shares her thoughts, experiences, opinions and viewpoints on the Steel Pan music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Teneisha Campbell, and how and when did you first become involved with Pan?”

Teneisha C. - “I am the daughter of Jacqueline John and Alister Campbell. I grew up in Harpe Place and migrated to Virginia Beach, Virginia at the age of fifteen. I became involved with Pan from my mother’s womb. I come from a historical family that has a legacy within Renegades Steel Orchestra. My uncles are Micheal aka “Smiling,” Allan aka “Alfredo,” Oscar, Carlton, and Selwyn John. The John family has their own contribution to the legacy of Renegades.”

WST - “When did you join Renegades Steel Orchestra?”

Teneisha C. - “I officially joined Renegades at the age of thirteen.”

WST - “Do you still have passion for the steelpan instrument and art form?”

Teneisha C. - “I will always have a passion for steelpan because it is engrained in my DNA. It is an incredible art that was created out of brilliance.”

Teneisha Campbell
Teneisha Campbell

WST - “Do you miss playing pan?”

Teneisha C. - “I miss playing pan when it gets close to the beginning of Panorama season.”

WST - “What voice(s) of steelpan did you play in the orchestra?”

Teneisha C. - “I played the Tenor Bass.”

WST - “What did your parents, relatives say, how did they feel, about you playing Pan?”

Teneisha C. - “My family was supportive, but my uncles were very protective whenever I went to practice. I was the youngest player during the 1996 and 1997 Panorama competition so they made sure I was not overlooked by older players. My godfather Rudolph Grant was also over the bass section, so I was overly protected.”

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

Teneisha C. - “I am proud that steelpan has been expanded to a lot of youths to learn the art so they can pass it on to future generations.”

WST - “You were the youngest player in Renegades when they won their 1996/1997 Panorama championships; how was that experience?”

Teneisha C. - “I was honored to be the youngest player during the 1996/1997 Panorama championships. It was a lot of dedication and hard work. I was elated with joy when we won because it was validation that my time spent in the panyard after school was rewarded.”

WST - “When you won 1996 and 1997 did you ever think that it would take 21 years before another championship for Renegades? And do you think you would return to play with the orchestra in the future?”

Teneisha C. - “I can’t believe twenty-one years have passed since our last championship. I jokingly think because I left that’s why it took so long for us to win. I am truly happy we are champs again despite it taking so long to celebrate victory again. I wish I was home to celebrate with them.

“I don’t know when I will play again, but I hope to one day.”

WST - “How did you balance school, and evening practice sessions with the band back then?”

Teneisha C. - “My uncle Selwyn made sure I only showed up to practice after I completed my school work first. During that season I had pan fever and all I wanted to do was play pan.”

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

Teneisha C. - “Dream big and do not put limits on your dreams.”

Teneisha Campbell with Renegades Steel Orchestra in 1996
Teneisha Campbell with Renegades Steel Orchestra on Tenor Bass in 1996

WST - “Is there anything from Pan that helped you in your acting career?”

Teneisha C. - “Playing pan has helped me greatly with memorization. I remember the late Jit Samaroo giving us long runs and we had to memorize it quickly to move onto the next part of the song.”

WST - “Would you share your thoughts on the movie Black Panther, your participation and how it came about, talk about your experiences on set, and anything else you wish to?”

Teneisha C. - “Black Panther movie is the first predominantly black cast for a superhero film. This is an amazing time for the history of Film because we get to see ourselves as superheroes. I had an amazing time being apart of the production. I got to watch legends such as Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker work on set. I played a Border Tribewoman which is part of the five tribes of Wakanda.”

WST - “Have you ever had challenges in illustrating/explaining the actual concept of the steel orchestra, and/or your own role in it - to co-workers or friends?”

Teneisha C. - “I used to have a hard time explaining that our instrument is made from an oil drum, but now I can just pull up pictures online.

“I just recently started talking about my role in steel pan history with Renegades because of my Black Panther interviews. I was really hurt when I found out my name was left out of Renegades’ book that listed all the names of players that helped make history by being the first steelband to win Panorama three years straight. I can now share my story because I have forgiven the people that forget about my contribution in making that history.”

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

Teneisha C. - “My musical influences are artists such as Bob Marley, Lord Kitchener, Sparrow, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Beenie Man to name a few.”

WST - “What did/does Panorama mean to you?”

Teneisha C. - “Panorama to me means working towards a goal and achieving it. It also means the beginning of Carnival and I love Carnival. I worked really hard to earn a spot during Panorama and I did not want to be overlooked because of my age.”

WST - “Do you have a vision for the steelpan instrument, and if so, what is it?”

Teneisha C. - “My vision for steelpan is global recognition. I want the world to know steelpan just as they are familiar with the piano.”

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

Teneisha C. - “My late uncle Micheal aka “Smiling.” I just learned during his eulogy that he arranged four Christmas Carols for Renegades to play in order to keep their sponsorship which at that time was Amoco.”

Teneisha Campbell plays a Border Tribewoman in the movie Black Panther
Teneisha Campbell plays a Border Tribewoman in the movie Black Panther

WST - “Do you still listen to Pan music?”

Teneisha C. - “I still listen, but not as often as I would like.”

WST - “What is next for Teneisha Campbell?”

Teneisha C. - “I am writing, so look out for my movies. I am hoping to get a green light for a TV show I created. I am currently auditioning for new projects as well.”

   Teneisha Campbell performing with Champion Renegades Steel Orchestra on Tenor Bass -1996 Trinidad  & Tobago National Panorama competition @ 2:13

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

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