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Meet Florence “Flo” Ghany - Trinidad & Tobago

“There seems to be a greater need to explore and experience more especially by our youth. Their musical appetite seems quite encompassing and the loyalty to a single band as in the earlier years seems to be a thing of the past. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing but when considering cause and effect perhaps bands now have to structure and plan differently even from the organizers’ perspective.”  -- Florence “Flo” Ghany 

She is a veteran panist who has seen and experienced both sides of the coin as a player and as a member of management as part of  the world-renowned Invaders Steel Orchestra. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, Florence “Flo” Ghany shares her experiences, views, reflections and dreams on Pan, and the steelband art form overall.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about Florence “Flo” Ghany?”

Florence G. - “I was born in Trinidad and grew up in San Juan where I’ve lived all of my life. I consider myself a steelpan aficionado and I’m very passionate about our national instrument.  I’m currently a member of the Invaders Steel Orchestra.”

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

Florence G. - “My dad who was an avid supporter of the Invaders Steel Orchestra since the late fifties, took me to the then-Trintoc Invaders Steel Orchestra panyard, in the height of the Panorama season, around the age of eight years.  As a child, I always loved music and dancing and so I was absolutely mesmerized by that experience.  The atmosphere, the music and the entire pan yard vibes captivated me.  I recall going to school the next day and asking my classmates to guess where I went the night before.  As the days and years went by I would always ask my dad that famous question, “When are we going to the pan yard again?”  It was only when I completed my CXC exams I started to play with Invaders.”

Dad of Florence Ghany
The late Mr. Ghany - Flo’s dad

WST - “You are a player for one of the most famous, iconic and historic steel orchestras in the history of Pan - Invaders. How does this fact impact on the managing approach you have brought to this franchise?”

Florence G. - “Whilst I’m not currently on the management of Invaders, I served on the management committee in varying capacities through the years. (Secretary - 1993-1994, Assistant Manager - 1995-1996, Finance Officer - 2011-2013).  My contributions were always aimed at preservation of the band’s rich heritage, focused business strategy in keeping with modern times, and the importance of established systems and procedures.”

WST - “You are an organizer, performing artist, steelpan player and most importantly a mentor to the younger members in Invaders. Which role defines you best?  And which do you like the most?”

Florence G. - “Throughout my thirty years of official membership with the band, I would say first and foremost being a player is what brings me tremendous joy. It provides a wonderful escape and the opportunity to experience varying moods in music. I’m very passionate about youth development and therefore always open to sharing and providing advice to any of our young members, several of whom I have a great relationship.

“While I’ve worn several hats at some point in time, nothing beats the joy of playing.”

Florence "Flo" Ghany
Florence “Flo” Ghany

WST - “Does Invaders ensure the key history of the band is shared with new members, who are there for more than just the Panorama season, like those joining the stage side? History of the band’s founder, Dr. Ellie Mannette, and such?”

Florence G. - “I would say yes.”

WST - “Share one thing about Invaders Steel Orchestra that the general public doesn’t know about the band?”

Florence G. - “Invaders is one of only three large steel orchestras to have appeared in all the Panorama finals over the past decade, from 2010-2020, alongside Trinidad All Stars and Phase II.”

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?”

Florence G. - “Throughout the years women have been taking on more leadership roles in many fields and the steelband arena should be no different. I think a lot of women now recognize that they can contribute to this previously male-dominated arena.”

Florence "Flo" Ghany
Florence “Flo” Ghany

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

Florence G. - “Without any doubt it’s the late Dr. Jit Samaroo, I was always mesmerized and captivated by all his arrangements.”

WST - “Who are your musical influences?”

Florence G. - Kitchener, Sparrow, David Rudder, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Julio Iglesias, Kenny G, Gypsy Kings & Ace Cannon. I’m also a lover of classics and organ music.”

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

Florence G. - “I am in full support, it allows the spectators and supporters to better appreciate the arrangements and follow along.  I also believe that because most of the popular tunes have more simplified chord structures, it would help to further develop and stretch the arrangers’ capabilities.”

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

Florence G. - “There seems to be a greater need to explore and experience more especially by our youth. Their musical appetite seems quite encompassing and the loyalty to a single band as in the earlier years seems to be a thing of the past.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but when considering cause-and-effect perhaps bands now have to structure and plan differently even from the organizers’ perspective.”

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

Florence G. - “The true joy that I feel and the excitement like I did when I first started. Music always made me want to dance and I love dancing. I can hardly hear pan music and stay still.”

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

Florence G. - “Many years ago I started learning to play the guitar but never pursued it.  Today apart from pan I play the percussive afuche cabasa in the choir that I sing with at church.”

Florence "Flo" Ghany
Florence “Flo” Ghany

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

Florence G. - “I’d restart the Pan is Beautiful music festival.”

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

Florence G. - “To celebrate in 2020, playing in 30 Panoramas consecutively with Invaders Steel Orchestra.”

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

Florence G. - “It always disappoints me tremendously in the steelband movement when I see pan aficionados, players etc. speaking negatively and berating each other or bands about their performances, arrangements or arrangers, etc.”

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

Florence G. - “I would say yes definitely, they are in leadership/ administrative roles in Pan Trinbago, they are adjudicating, they are commentating, composing, arranging & tuning, etc.”

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?”

Florence G. - “If you have the opportunity to learn to read music grasp it! There is tremendous opportunity now more than ever, as it’s gaining more respect and renown globally.  Socializing and entertainment are on the rise.  Research, get the information you need to address any questions or uncertainties and be a trailblazer!”

WST - “Invaders has travelled abroad and proudly performed - can you talk about some of these tours, and share some highlights?”

Florence G. -  “I’ve had the privilege of touring with Invaders to New York in 1992, performing at the Lincoln Center in New York under the late maestro Anthony Prospect, 1999 Miami carnival as guest at their Panorama, the Winter Festival in 1996 in Sao Paulo, Brazil and December 2000 in concert with the later Ken “Professor” Philmore and the Mighty Shadow in New York and Boston.

“The experience is always refreshing, however; the most memorable for me had to be our tour to Sao Paulo. It was a really different atmosphere and we were treated like celebrities as patrons were in awe everywhere we played. Our autographs were constantly sought and just the overall experience from playing in their concert halls to the mountain side was truly unforgettable.”

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

Florence G. - “It’s an experience I won’t ever regret. I’ve learnt so much and had so much opportunity to develop personally, which has aided my professional adaptability in the corporate environment. It provided a space to interact with persons from all walks of life and be part of so many varying projects and events.  It has allowed me to experience so many places and most importantly make lifelong friends.”

Florence Ghany
Florence “Flo” Ghany

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Florence G. - “Panorama to me is a feeling!  A feeling of expectancy, and wanting to be a winner, joy, happiness, friendship, hard work, fun; it’s a melting pot.  Definitely something to look forward to annually.”

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

Florence G. - “Both, a blessing firstly because of the legacy and rich heritage! To be part of something that’s so legendary to me is amazing.  A curse because of the feeling that there is so much subjectivity surrounding the adjudication/ results every year.  The fact that in over sixty years of the competition only 12 bands have won.”

WST - “For the first time in the history of the Medium band competition, the finals were held in the sister isle of Tobago.  What are your thoughts on this?”

Florence G. - “I think it was an excellent initiative.  With some tweaking over the next two years I think it can easily become one of the annual must-attend events in Tobago.”

WST - “What do you think about the overall changes implemented into Panorama 2020?”

Florence G. - “It’s a step in the right directions.  Perhaps further discussion and feedback from the relevant stakeholders can bring some clarity to ensure a win-win situation for all.”

WST - “This year and last, have been good years for the Invaders Steel Orchestra franchise, especially Invaders Youth.  The Seniors represented well in the Panorama finals and Invaders Youth took the 2019 crown in the Junior Panorama.  Are you pleasantly surprised, or is everything going as planned?”

Florence G. - “Thank you!  I would say it’s going as planned.  We are trusting and believing in the process and consistency is key!  The band has been slowly but surely developing formidable resiliency throughout!  Look out!”

Florence Ghany
Florence “Flo” Ghany

WST - “What is the future of Pan in Trinidad and Tobago from your perspective?”

Florence G. - “Clearly our youth is key and one of our strengths.  Ensuring the platforms for them to excel exist is important.  Continuation of the existing music programs available at our leading tertiary institutions is also important.”

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

Florence G. - “I would like to see steelpans in more homes throughout T&T (Trinidad & Tobago) and more persons becoming musically literate.”

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

Florence G. - “In one word, support! We must support each other and encourage better partnerships and relations between bands and the administrative bodies. We have to begin to see each other as partners rather than opponents.”

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

Florence G. - “I would personally like to see more opportunities for players to compete (individually, as well as collectively in their various bands) throughout the year.  Our culture is too rich and diverse to be limited to having one major competition annually.  We need more sustained corporate sponsorship and involvement.”

photos provided by Florence Ghany

   Florence “Flo” Ghany performs with Invaders Steel Orchestra at Panorama 2020

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