Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Crystalann Timothy - Trinidad & Tobago

“....when I get behind those drums I’m already in performance mode (I just love it). Organising is really my thing, I take pride in doing what I have to do and what needs to be done... Making it happen is my password! In a nutshell.” 

A key part of her chosen mandate is to bring the legacy of Harmonites Steel Orchestra to life once more. And she has the belief, determination and grit to do just that. Crystalann Timothy bonded with the steelpan instrument and artform since childhood, and it completes her existence in tandem with her beloved family. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - the panist shares on her mindset and vision for Harmonites, the steelband artform, the place of women in it, and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

WST - “Tell us about Crystalann Timothy?”

Crystalann T. - “Crystalann is that very straightforward individual that is filled with infinite love and a different sense of humor, very observant and always willing to learn things that I don’t [know] or have  little knowledge of. Proud Mother of four kids - two of each gender - ages 15, 13, 6, and 1 year and 7 months. I’m currently a self-employed Hairdresser/Nail Tech who believes in living a stress-free, happy life.”

WST - “When and how were you first introduced to the steelpan instrument?”

Crystalann T. - “The very first time of introduction to the steelpan was actually done by myself. I resided in Curepe as a child where Sforzata was mere metres away from where I lived; I currently still live there. I would hear them rehearse and always got the urge to go see what it looks like. One day I was going to the grocery with my mom and I asked to go in and see. That was it!! I played around on a Tenor Pan until I was managed to learn a song called “Gangalee Baboo” (not sure if that’s the name) LOL!!! Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to play for Panorama with the band but I would go eagerly some days just to play that one song I learned, 🙈until some years after I was introduced to Harmonites and that’s where I got to play in my first competition in Junior Panorama.😉

Crystalann Timothy
Crystalann Timothy

WST - “You are the vice captain for the iconic Harmonites Steel Orchestra. What are your immediate goals for the franchise?”

Crystalann T. - “(Takes deep breath) I wouldn’t call it immediate goals but goals that have to be achieved. Seeing from where the band was to where it is at the moment - it’s a huge difference and to get back to that level requires a level of a lot of things (LOL). So Im’ma take it step by step with other persons walking hand-in-hand with me to make it happen... The most important goal is to either win a Panorama or at least get back in that 1, 2, 3 triangle no matter how long it takes, always have a practicing stageside and to become a professional orchestra... Who wouldn’t want the best for their band?  (LOL)”

WST - “Can pan lovers expect to see Harmonites return next year to the Panorama stage?”

Crystalann T. - “Most definitely!! That is our number one priority on the checklist; hoping that the detractors stay clear of me... I need to focus.”

WST - “You are an organizer, performing artist, and steelpan player. Which role defines you best? And which do you like the most?”

Crystalann Timothy
Crystalann Timothy

Crystalann T. - “Hahahahaha!! Which role really defines me really??? I would say performing artist because I’m really a kind of silly, jovial free-spirited individual and everybody around me or close to me must, must, must laugh (LOL). On the other hand of that, yes, playing my 7-bass requires performance so when I get behind those drums I’m already in performance mode (I just love it). Organising is really my thing, I take pride in doing what I have to do and what needs to be done... Making it happen is my password! In a nutshell.”

WST - “Harmonites Steel Orchestra is an orchestra with much history. Is anything being done to preserve that history?”

Crystalann T. - “Now, things were being done to preserve the history, but for some reason as the progression starts, the negatives step in and just like that, boom! Destroy everything. And I always say that whoever is in control at the time seems not to, or can’t do anything about it with regards to putting them at a halt. One thing I wanna say is that I hope these negative elements know that this is me, and I surely wasn’t cut from that bolt of “See nonsense and leave it” cloth! So yes, the journey is on to preserving the history of Harmonites.”

WST - “There are now more women this year than ever before in key positions of leadership within the overall steelband movement in Trinidad and Tobago. What are your expectations in this regard?”

Crystalann T. - “With strong belief I know women will do the job, and a tremendous job, so to speak. It’s just something about women (some) that they just manage to conquer it and just get through even though the l’il hurdles step in at times... Women leadership is becoming a common factor in pan but I would bless the day and expect to see more women arrangers gracing the big stage.... Now that will be an interest to steelpan lovers... Jump high jump low “Woman Is Boss”.....giggles!”

WST - “Were there any obstacles along the way, or were you ever cautioned or perhaps dissuaded from becoming involved with the steelband art form?”

Crystalann T. - “Obstacles?? If my kids never got in the way of this I don’t think anything can, not even my job and everyone knows how demanding this job is... any number could play, you can either finish work early or extremely late... NOT ME! I grease my own engine with regards to that... I must be in the panyard at a certain time to welcome my people. NO OBSTACLES!”

WST - “As vice captain what do you expect from your players?”

Crystalann T. - “Hmmm! SMH! I treat all the players as family, they know what to expect from me and vice versa, however I expect them to portray discipline, dedication and be passionate about being a part of the Steelband artform.”

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

Crystalann T. - “Wowww!! (Takes deep breath) I would have to say Carlton “Zanda” Alexander since he did that “I’m Not Drunk” with Siparia Deltones amongst other tunes, but this one in particular - and then “Different Me” with Desperadoes. Something about those two arrangements I love bad bad bad...”

Crystalann Timothy
Crystalann Timothy

WST - “Who are your musical influences?”

Crystalann T. - “My musical influence is not a pan player but was a great songwriter of pan tunes.... “D Original DeFosto Himself.” He always called me or came at my home for anything new that came to his mind. I miss him so much. He’s what you call a true friend and musical partner, and the way he build those songs was something outta this world for me hearing and getting it first hand. He was a good, talented, down-to-earth brethren.

“Another is Duvone Stewart, another one of [my] close-to my-heart friends, know him for over 15 years and always knew he would turn out to be a reallllllllll monster (d guy ill). His humbleness has a lot to do with what he produces because reality is when you’re humble it allows your mind to go places and find jaw-dropping, chin-holding things that makes you ask yourself, “Will I ever reach where he is, boi?” (LOL)... He’s in a world by himself and I really don’t know what kinda chip he was born with in his brain, but he’s different” (LOLLLLL). Outside of pan, people like Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Dionne Warrick, Patti LaBelle, Alicia Keys, Chaka Khan, Fantasia (only powerful ladies), and I real feel I could sing like them too (hahahahahahahaha).”

WST - “What are your feelings on the embracing of ‘popular tunes’ once more by the large steel orchestras for Panorama?”

Crystalann T. - “Well for me the ‘popular tunes’ fit the majority of pan players that we have in bands (young people), and doing a popular tune for Panorama as a player draws you closer into the tune and arrangement, makes you want to have an interest in it. Young people are all about the hype and excitement and if you consist of all the things mentioned, well then, it’s a surety you gonna see and hear it all when it comes down to execution... So for me this definitely is not a problem.”

WST - “What is the greatest challenge facing this current generation of steelband musicians from both an administrator’s perspective, and that of a player?”

Crystalann Timothy
Crystalann Timothy

Crystalann T. - “Challenges could be very nerve-wracking and frustrating. I always say pan is the first “Jumbie” that nobody’s afraid of (LOL)... And the challenge that I see is “Self-sufficiency.” PAN SHOULD BE A JOB for ALL players and not a once-a-year thing where we come and play and after that ‘boil down like bahji,’ and at the end of the year it’s only a few engagements you did... uh uh! Pan people should be profiting from this, after all, is time, love and commitment.”

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

Crystalann T. - “Basically, I just love music. I listen to all different genres of music, some that I question about “How would it sound on pan?”

WST - “You play the pan. Are there any other instruments you play?”

Crystalann T. - “Not at the moment! My job warrants time and when I get free time I rather be in the panyard; maybe sometime God will make something happen for me to have the time to do so, if I wish whenever the time reaches.”

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

Crystalann T. - “The way the organisation runs things. At the end of Panorama pan men must be able to do something that profits them; brings me back to “Self-Sufficiency.” More things need to be done for pan men and women throughout the year to be a part of.”

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

Crystalann T. - “That a woman is now the head of the World Governing Body for Pan... I await to see her performance... Everybody deserves a chance! (Smile)”

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

Crystalann T. - “Wellllllll.... From experience, Management failure in bands and the head organisation - because there are a lot of bands under the agony of “Bad Management” and as I said, the performance of the new management of Pan Trinbago is still to be seen. I can’t really criticize right now and every player  wants their band to be on a professional level - anything different to that is a disappointment.”

WST - “Do you believe women are finally getting the acknowledgment and opportunities they deserve?”

Crystalann T. - “Yes! But more women need to [be] recognised and be given chances wherever they can do better and be successful.”

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

Crystalann T. - “Stay rooted and grounded, put God first and follow your dreams.”

WST - “How would describe your personal journey with Pan?”

Crystalann T. - “(Takes deep breath) My personal journey with pan was an obsession with [the] excitement of it. I would look forward to all pan events just to be there to see more experienced players than myself how they perform and telling myself “One day, Crys, one day.” I was NEVER disrespected by any males in the movement by which some of these persons are my closest friends today. The journey in my band had its ups and downs (more ups than downs) [giggles] but I’m still there because of my dedication and my beliefs that one day we will be on top again. I must see that!”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Crystalann T. - “Panorama to me is the most anticipated time of the year for me even if I’m not performing. The hype, the vibes, the meeting and greeting, the musical warfare, the drinks, the music, the screams when you see your pan mates performing (my favourite part)😂😂, Carnival, the greatest show on earth but Panorama is undisputed - no carnival fete could beat that, yuh hear!!!”

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

Crystalann T. - “I think it’s a bit of both, why? This world can either bring you enemies or bring you friends that become family. However when competition time arises you notice players from their respective bands taking stuff personal which leads to unnecessary “small talk,” when it’s just a competition we enter hoping to be winners, and on the other hand in this said world you can meet people that become your family, whether in a short space of time or a long one, that you will wanna be around most of the time because the love is shared genuinely and you can feel it in your vibrations and know it’s real.”

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

Crystalann T. - “To witness big shows and collaborating with steelbands from near and far, doing major things for the youthful part of the movement and getting them involved and distracted from the elements of this world! It’s not easy!”

WST - “‘Pan before Band.’ What does that mean to you in a concrete way?”

Crystalann T. - “(Hahahaha) That slogan has its people that it relates to. As I said before about “small talk” and persons taking things to heart and causing static: they need to study that slogan. I practice that all the time, I don’t ever get into a conversation about who band better than who, who sounding good from who sounding like (yuh know what) LOL, who going and run out, is just too much... I rather make a positive input where feelings won’t be carried the wrong way. Not saying that I won’t vent if I see something ain’t right but the way I’ll say it, it takes the other party back to the drawing board be it Arranger, Player or Admin... It have things not pan-related I’ll really vent about if I have to... #StraightFace.”

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

Crystalann T. - “The management of the organisation to stop playing the blame game and dust yourselves off and try again. And this applies to any body of people that goes there to take up leadership. Do things to change the thinking of pan men towards you and dominate after Panorama with a lot of events.”

photos provided by Crystalann Timothy

   “Archbishop of Pan” - Solo Harmonites (2012 Panorama Large Band FINALS)

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

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