Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


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Meet Krystal George - Trinidad & Tobago

“‘Pan before Band.’ For me that’s a slogan used after the Panorama competition is over (hahahaha). As panists we all want our bands to win. The good thing however is regardless of whoever wins the title the love, respect and camaraderie still take place. This is very commendable.”   --- Krystal George

She juggles family, career and mucho activities, yet her passion for Pan and culture has not waned. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - this veteran panist shares her wonderful experience with the steelpan instrument, the music the art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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

Krystal G. - “Krystal George is a fun-loving, helpful and dedicated individual. I am a former journalist/Sales Administrative having worked at Boom Champions 94.1FM, Power 102.1FM and The Street 919FM. Apart from all these things I am a mother. My love for pan began at the tender age of five, growing up at Sapodilla Street, Tunapuna, between two steel orchestras - Exodus and birdsong. As a child I would usually sit on the porch and clearly hear both bands rehearsing. My dad Kenneth was a panist at Highlanders and Exodus and I literally remember crying to go with him every night he left to rehearse.

“My actual involvement began in Secondary School playing with Pamberi in San Juan. In 1995 after my parents separated we moved to Tacarigua with my mom and I later joined Parry’s Pan School in 1999 where I spent five years. In 2006 I joined Invaders where I spent two and a half years. In 2008 I was encouraged to join Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra, and the rest is history.”

WST - “The steelpan is an important part of your life. What is it that keeps you so focused on the art form?”

Krystal G. - “There is an unexplainable love I have for our National Instrument. It’s actually the only musical instrument I can listen to after a long stressful day. It’s definitely this love that that keeps me focused on the artform.”

WST - “Were there obstacles along the way within your journey in Pan?”

Krystal G. - “I usually use my obstacles as stepping stones but thankfully I can say I’ve never experienced any obstacles.”

Krystal George
Krystal George

WST - “Do any of your family members play? What have they thought about your involvement with Pan over the years?”

Krystal G. - “I am the last child and only girl to my parents and the only one who is a pan-a-holic. I would usually hear family and friends utter “How you could stand all that old noise in your head?” or “How you could like pan, girl?” But they’ve all grown to understand my passion and are all fully aware when pan season starts I’m unavailable.”

WST - “Have you ever been dissuaded from being involved with Pan?”

Krystal G. - “I have never been dissuaded from playing pan. Funny enough my mother is not a pan person, and in my many years as a panist I can count the amount of times she actually visited the yard to watch me rehearse, however I’ve always had her full support.”

WST - “You are a veteran Trinidad All Stars player. What are some of your fonder memories as a part of the organization?”

Krystal G. - “A veteran you say (chuckles). I have so many fond memories at Trinidad All Stars; however if I had to choose one it would definitely be my first Panorama victory with the band back in 2011 with ‘Showtime’. We won the two million dollars prize (big smiles). To date I have experienced four victories.”

WST - “Do you share any advice with younger members joining the orchestra - if so talk about this.”

Krystal G. - “Actually I do. Pan is a very big sacrifice and dedication. You have to be prepared to experience lack of sleep, long rehearsal hours, exposure to the negative elements on a nightly basis and of course the unthinkable - after being committed, not being guaranteed to perform at the various legs of the competition due to number limitations beyond the orchestra’s control.”

WST - “And what advice would you have for parents/elders whose female members might wish to become panists, but they [parents/elders] have reservations?”

Krystal G. - “Based on pan’s history there was an era where a “certain type of woman played pan.” This however has transformed significantly because women now dominate men in the pan movement. (Kudos to the first female President of Pan Trinbago). I however would advise parents/elders to support and encourage females in this fraternity. It’s a good avenue for keeping youngsters out of trouble.”

WST - “Have you travelled with the stage side? If so, share on some of your travels to various countries, the varied audiences, reactions, etc.”

Krystal G. - “Currently due to adult life and commitments I don’t have the time to function on the stage side. However back in my earlier years in 2001 I was a stage side member at Parry’s Pan School and toured Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. It was an experience I’ll always cherish as we met different cultural groups and showcased our talents to the world. The audience was also amazed at our ability to play in unison by memory.”

WST - “Who are your musical influences?”

Krystal G. - “My musical influences are the late Pat Bishop, Leon “Smooth” Edwards and Mr. Richard Pierre.”

WST - “All genres of music are performed on steelpan - do you enjoy any specific genre over another?”

Krystal G. - “With the right arrangement any genre sounds great on pan. Somehow classic soul music may be my choice.”

Krystal George
Krystal George

WST - “Share some of your thoughts on your preferred Panorama arrangements/arrangers.”

Krystal G. - “Without being biased (smiles). Each arranger has their unique style. However my preferred Panorama arrangements would undoubtedly be ‘Woman on the Bass’, ‘Curry Tabanca’, ‘Pan by Storm’, ‘Dus’ in Dey Face’ and ‘Full Extreme’.”

WST - “What, if anything, disappoints you most in the steelband community?”

Krystal G. - “The thing that disappoints me time and time again is the number constraints each year where large orchestras are limited to 100 players for preliminary and at times the semi-final leg of the competition. It is very heartbreaking and discouraging as most large bands have over 130 players rehearsing nightly.”

WST - “What is different in Pan for you in the year 2019 - compared to when you first stated playing?”

Krystal G. - “2019 was a special year for me as a woman. History was made as it was the first time the band selected and performed a tune written and sung by a woman - Nadia Batson.”

WST - “Many women are now in positions of leadership within the steelband art form; do you have any advice for women now coming into the movement and thinking of engaging in a leadership role in Pan?”

Krystal G. - “My advice would always be positive for any woman seeking leadership. ‘Woman Power’. Estrogen Trumps Testosterone (big grin). Sky is the starting point never the limit.”

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

Krystal G. - “I will always be proud of how far the pan movement has come. Although we still have a long way to go. I admire the efforts of this younger generation fostering unity among all bands by keeping the movement alive outside of carnival.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Krystal G. - “For me Panorama is not just about competition but the showcasing of various talents stemming from arranger to players.”

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

Krystal G. - “Definitely not a curse. Those who look at it only from a winning perspective would deem it a curse. For me self-enjoyment and crowd satisfaction matter most.”

WST - “How do feel about the apparent move (return to, as far as some are concerned) towards popular tunes of the day for Panorama?”

Krystal G. - “The only constant thing is change. I like the fact that current tunes or as some would say, ‘party tunes,’ are being selected for Panorama arrangements. It somehow added more substance to the competition where the songs are familiar to the judges and pan lovers/critics. This I think would make judging easier.”

WST - “Contrast your life at Panorama season, preparation, etc. - with your involvement with the band, performances, etc - throughout the rest of the year.”

Krystal G. - “Due to other commitments unfortunately I have resorted to being a seasonal panist in recent years, only performing for Panorama. The level of devotion I give from the start of the season to the end - I myself am surprised. It isn’t easy juggling career, family, activities and passion for pan all in one.”

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

Krystal G. - “‘Pan before Band.’ For me that’s a slogan used after the Panorama competition is over (hahahaha). As panists we all want our bands to win. The good thing however is regardless of whoever wins the title the love, respect and camaraderie still take place. This is very commendable.”

WST - “What is the greatest challenge the steelband music art form faces in Trinidad & Tobago today?”

Krystal G. - “The greatest challenge the steel band movement faces is allowing foreign countries to claim what’s ours. Recently I saw a documentary where foreigners are mass-producing our National Instrument. Who stands to benefit from this? How much money is Trinidad and Tobago generating from this? Why wasn’t the Steel Pan copyright?”

WST - “If there was one thing in Pan you could change immediately what would that be?”

Krystal G. - “I would immediately have the steel pan patented. For far too long we’ve allowed foreign countries to inherit what’s ours.”

WST - “What is your vision for Pan in Trinidad & Tobago in the near future?”

Krystal G. - “My vision for pan in T&T in the near future is enforcing that it’s compulsory in our schools’ music curriculum, as well as teach more documentaries on the history of the pan movement.”

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

Krystal G. - “I’ll just reiterate the issue of the number stipulation of one hundred players for the large band category. It’s very disheartening. However I am happy that the wind of change is here and I anticipate great things from the new executive.”

photos provided by Krystal George

   Krystal George performing at Panorama Finals 2019 with Trinidad All Stars

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