Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Tressy Edwards - Trinidad & Tobago

“Being a member of Phase II, it is very humbling yet proud for me. I love it there because we are all like family - everyone with their own personalities but we get along for one purpose. I love the rigorous practice sessions and just to acknowledge that “Boogsie” is the Mozart of pan, is a thrilling feeling. Just to be part of it is overwhelming because he does things so differently from the others.” 

Full of pride and joy over her Phase II membership, veteran panist Tressy Edwards shares her love for music, the artform and more in an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about Tressy Edwards?”

Tressy E. - “I am Tressy Edwards, a mother of three. A hairdresser by trade and I love pan.”

WST - “When and how did you first become associated with the steelpan instrument?”

Tressy E. - “I was introduced to the steel pan at age eleven by now-deceased Leroy Thomas of Moods Steel Orchestra. He wanted the youth in our community to get involved to keep us occupied. From then I knew I loved the instrument, especially the bass. I played there for almost fifteen years, but I wanted to play for a big band, so I later went on to Silver Stars, they were then a medium band. I stayed there till they transitioned to large conventional....I was in love with Edwin Pouchet’s music. My favorite was definitely Phantom of the Opera. I was honored to be part of this band and also winning every title with them. But I would always leave to go on the ‘Drag’ and listen to the mesmerizing voices of Phase II basses, and wish I could play there one day. After Edwin’s passing the opportunity arose in 2014 where I joined Phase II and have been there ever since. I love it there.”

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

Tressy E. - “My love for the instrument is from learning different genres of music and I am always in awe at what the pan can do. It keeps my passion for the instrument on a high at all times.”

Tressy Edwards
Tressy Edwards

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

Tressy E. - “My proudest moment is being able to see one of my sons have the same passion as I do. I literally cried the first time I saw him on the big stage with Exodus.”

WST - “The contributions of women to the steelband movement are undeniable. Do you believe women are finally getting that acknowledgment?”

Tressy E. - “Women are undeniably making waves in the pan world, which was male-dominated for so long. They are now captains, arrangers, drill masters, even section leaders. This shows we are definitely being accepted.”

WST - “Were you ever dissuaded relative to, or encounter push-back for, pursuing your passion for pan?”

Tressy E. - “I never felt dissuaded, always encouraged.”

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

Tressy E. - “If I had to change something in pan, it would definitely be the way players are treated for Panorama. A lack of respect for players after their stage performance; it’s like we don’t exist. I have qualms about seating accommodation on the western side of the stage, where great camaraderie amongst panplayers takes place. Terrible toilet facilities, not even a place to get something to eat - not even water to drink. And I wish the powers that be, take a better approach to this. After all we are the Panorama and should be dealt with with more respect.”

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

Tressy E. - “The steel and movement need more love. It disappoints me that we are all here for the same purpose yet we are still fighting one another. There is a saying: “Pan before band.” But it is yet to be seen.”

Tressy Edwards
Tressy Edwards


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

Tressy E. - “Young women who are wishing to be part of this beautiful artform. I say to you, go for it. Foreigners are lapping up what we have, so there must be something great about this instrument. The sky is the limit. You can be whatever you want to be pertaining to pan. It helps with your mental capacity as well.”

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

Tressy E. - “I must say Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. I remember when I was very young, in secondary school, I ran away for a Panorama finals to hear Phase II. The first time I heard the band play was ‘Pan Rising.’ From then on every Carnival Sunday, I would wake up to a good cutarse. Because every Panorama final I know I running away.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Tressy E. - “Panorama to me is freedom...expression... energy. I love the ‘Drag,’ the energy you feel of the people there. Then the anxiety of when you set up on stage. The euphoria when you hear the count, and the climax when the song is over and the crowd roars....I feel a sense of power at that time....Like “Yessssss - we did it.””

WST - “What makes being a member of Phase II Pan Groove so special?”

Tressy E. - “Being a member of Phase II, it is very humbling yet proud for me. I love it there because we are all like family - everyone with their own personalities but we get along for one purpose. I love the rigorous practice sessions and just to acknowledge that “Boogsie” is the Mozart of pan, is a thrilling feeling. Just to be part of it is overwhelming because he does things so differently from the others.”

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

Tressy E. - “Panorama is a blessing. With whatever shortcomings we may have, I really can’t wait for that time of the year. I can’t wait to get in the yard to start practice, to meet up with my seasonal friends, local and foreign - the whole vibe and love that come with Panorama. A good Morning Crew lime at Phase II. Panorama is where I want to be at that time of the year. No where else.”

Tressy Edwards
Tressy Edwards with Phase II Pan Groove

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

Tressy E. - “In my opinion, I think that we should not be so enthusiastic to push out the people that are genuinely making music for pan e.g. Crazy, Eunice Peters, Anslem Douglas, etc. They say times are changing and we need to move with the times, but is that the change we really want? Does the soca artist really have a passion for the artform as they do, or is it just to wave a flag when that time comes?”

WST - “What changes, if any, have you noticed since you first started out in Pan years ago, and present day?”

Tressy E. - “I have noticed that there are more young people from different walks of life there now. I have noticed that panyards are becoming more self-sufficient in becoming a hub for business. The bands are attempting to make their space more viable for tourist attraction and women are getting their recognition.”

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

Tressy E. - “The greatest challenge of the steelband art form is not enough tuners. Pan tuning should be done in schools. There are not enough pan tuners in the country and it is being sidelined.”

WST - “There has been a change in leadership in Pan Trinbago; what are your hopes and expectations for this administration going forward, relative to challenges facing the art form?”

Tressy E. - “I do hope that the newly-elected Pan Trinbago does not get caught up like the last. They should realize they are put there for the development of the pan fraternity. I wish they can have all panplayers registered so we can be part of the election and decision-making process. And really bid for more money for panplayers. When you think about all other prize monies given to one winner and the same amount is given to one hundred and twenty players, it is heart wrenching because we work very hard during the Panorama season. It is time they respect what we do.”

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

Tressy E. - “My vision for pan is every country in the world, in every nook and cranny should know about the steel pan and that it was invented in Trinidad.”

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

Tressy E. - “To be honest I really love where steelband is heading. The new upcoming arrangers, they are on fire. The passion of the young ones to play the instrument. The whole energy and vibe of what is happening now. Pan in good hands.”

photos provided by Tressy Edwards, captured by Robbie Joseph

   Tressy Edwards performing at Panorama Finals 2019 with Phase II Pan Groove

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