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Meet Kianna Carrington - New York, USA

“What disappoints me the most is that people don’t see the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to run a steel band. They don’t see the dedication we put into making the bands great...”  -- Kianna Carrington

‘Pan’ runs in her family back in Trinidad, and she proudly and passionately carries on the tradition here in New York. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - panist Kianna Carrington talks about her journey to date in the steelband art form.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about Kianna Carrington?”

Kianna C. - “Kianna Carrington is a very headstrong college student, independent, funny, very sarcastic, respectful. Social. I really love food. I love spending time with my family and friends. I’m the assistant director for a company called New York Edge, which is an after school program in my old high school. I’ve been there for three years going on four.”

WST - “When and how did you first become aware of the steelpan instrument?”

Kianna C. - “I began playing steel pan back in 2010. I started off on tenor bass. My best friend, Alexia Issac, actually introduced me to it and New York Pan Stars. I had a little bit of knowledge of it because of my family. My aunt played bass for Serenaders and my grandfather played tenor for Desperadoes.”

WST - “Why do you play pan?  And what keeps your passion for the instrument, music, art form in general - going?”

Kianna C. - “Pan is a stress reliever for me, has been for a while. There are things that I don’t want to think about and Pan is that escape for me from what’s outside those practice doors, makes me forget about everything for a couple of hours. The vibe pan creates is what keeps my passion for the instrument, with its beautiful chords, powerful basslines and smooth frontlines.”

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

Kianna C. - “At first, it was me that wanted to stop playing pan. It was one practice, we were learning a brand new song, “Spain,” and I couldn’t get certain parts right, and the parts I did play right, I kept forgetting them. It was frustrating to the point where I broke down in the back crying because I couldn’t get the notes. I was looking at everyone else and how fast they were getting the song. Felt embarrassed. I went home that night after practice and I told my mom I didn’t want to continue playing pan. She gave a huge pep talk about how things in life aren’t meant to be easy. I have to tackle them at my pace and to stop watching other people. A decade later, here am I, still taking in my mother’s words doing, what I love.”

Kianna Carrington on six-bass with New York Pan Stars
Kianna Carrington on six-bass with New York Pan Stars

WST - “What do extended family, friends, think of your involvement with the steelband art form?”

Kianna C. - “My close friends from high school think it’s very cool that I’m involved with steel pan. A lot of them didn’t know what it sounded it like or even looked like until I told them about it. I always invite them to our events and they always come out to support, some of them even want to learn how to play. My family thinks it great that I’m following in my aunt’s footsteps in playing bass. My mom’s friends from church always come out to our events, they even help with making foods and such, it’s like they’re a part of the band. They love the fact that I’m investing my time well in steel pan.”

WST - “What do you see as the greatest challenges facing this current generation of steelband musicians in New York?”

Kianna C. - “A great challenge facing this current generation of steelbands is finding practice spaces not only for Panorama but for stage sides.”

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

Kianna C. - “Honestly, from my experience, I would change how people, outside of pan, view it. They view it as noise, us playing on trash cans. It’s just a lot of backlash from people who think they know what steel pan is when they really don’t.”

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

Kianna C. - “What I’ve been most proud of is seeing the younger generation get into it. I also love seeing how it’s in schools, giving the younger generation a chance to learn a completely new instrument. It’s really them we’re all counting on to take pan to the next level.”

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

Kianna C. - “What disappoints me the most is that people don’t see the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to run a steel band.  They don’t see the dedication we put into making the bands great and keep people talking about how good the band is. A little appreciation would be nice.  Not because they have to, to make us feel better, but appreciation from the heart.  Sincere.”

WST - “What is it, in your opinion, the global steelband community needs to work on?”

Kianna C. - “Honestly, more social support and advertisement. I love seeing steel pan in movies and shows on the big screen, lets me know that we’re doing something right to be seen and heard like that.”

Kianna Carrington on six-bass with CASYM Steel Orchestra
Kianna Carrington on six-bass with CASYM Steel Orchestra

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Kianna C. - “Panorama to me is a beautiful experience. Yes, it’s very stressful and it does get hard but it gives me a chance every year, to meet new people, bond with those new people all while learning a boss arrangement.”

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

Kianna C. - “Panorama is a blessing. My very first Panorama was with Harmony Music Makers, Marc Brooks arranged. Nervous wasn’t even the word to describe how I was feeling. I was really expecting us to win because we played so good. But we didn’t. I cried actually when they didn’t call us for 1st place but in that moment Panorama taught me that not everyone will win, but if you feel in your heart that you played the music right and it sounded really good, then those results don’t matter. Now, I don’t play Panoramas to win, I play for enjoyment and the fun of it, and seeing what all the other arrangers came up with.”

WST - “What type of music do you listen to other than Pan music?”

Kianna C. - “I listen to R&B (old and new), Hip-Hop, Rap, a little bit of some Classical music, and a lot of Soca.”

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

Kianna C. - “Honestly, I don’t have any musical influences.”

WST - “You are a seasoned member of NY Pan Stars. Tell us about that ongoing experience?”

Kianna C. - “New York Pan Stars is more than a band, we’re a family. It’s nothing but jokes and laughs and just people coming together doing what they love, building up the band to be better than before. We’ve known each other for a while, we’ve hung out after practice, stuff like that. We have a bond that is very unbreakable.”

WST - “You have an obvious love for the bass pan - how did you get started on that specific voice of instrument?”

Kianna C. - “To be very honest with you, I wanted to be put on tenor. I don’t know, something about tenor, when I first walked into Pan Star’s practice, it gave me a nice feeling about it, but the tenor section was full. Everything was full for that matter except for the bass section, they needed one more tenor bass player. I didn’t know much about pan, so I had to start from scratch, learning scales, learning about the different notes and why they sound the way they do. Years later, I became really good at tenor bass, then I got promoted to six-bass. I kid you not, six bass was no joke when I started on it. But I toughed it out, along with some frustrational tears. Till this day I’m still playing six-bass, and I would say that I am pretty good. I wanted to test myself for Panorama 2019 and play nine-bass for Adlib and I did just that. My next goal is twelve-bass.”

Kianna Carrington on nine-bass with Adlib Steel Orchestra
Kianna Carrington on nine-bass with Adlib Steel Orchestra

WST - “Do you have a favorite arrangement, and if so, share on this?”

Kianna C. - “My favorite arrangements are Renegades - ‘Pan For Carnival,’ Crossfire Steel Orchestra - ‘Scene,’ New York Pan Stars - ‘Top Striker,’ and Adlib Steel Orchestra - ‘Hulk.’”

Kianna Carrington with ADLIB Steel Orchestra performing ‘Hulk’

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

Kianna C. - “No, not really. I like all the genres we play on steelpan (some of them); it opens my ears to new things.”

WST - “As is common in the steel band community - there is great camaraderie among the players; you stay in contact and hang out together year-round with fellow bandmates, outside of the Panorama season. Talk about these relationships?”

Kianna C. - “- Those relationships are one of those relationships you didn’t think that would ever form but they did and we’re all happy. It’s nothing but positive energy with them. We talk about a lot. We go out, have a few drinks and then practice the next day catching new notes. Blessed to have those relationships. .”

Kianna Carrington on six-bass with New York Pan Stars
Kianna Carrington on six-bass with New York Pan Stars

WST - “You may have come across colleagues/acquaintances who did not understand what you mean when you say you ‘play pan’ - if this has ever been the case, talk about how you shared your steelband experiences, and their reactions?”

Kianna C. - “This happens to me in school, all the time. I go to City Tech and at the beginning of every semester, the professor asks us our names, our major and our favorite thing to do. I always say play steel pan. I stopped telling people what pan is, and I started playing snippets of pan arrangements. It’s very tiring explaining something like pan over and over. And also when I do explain it, I feel like they still don’t get it. So I let them hear what it sounds like.”

WST - “What would be your advice to the young female players who are dreaming of one day becoming steelband musicians?”

Kianna C. - “No matter how hard it gets, don’t give up. Yes, it’ll get frustrating but work at your own pace and it’ll flow. And also believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, then you’re just wasting your time and energy.”

WST - “What do you know now, that you wish you had known, say, five years ago, as it relates to pan?”

Kianna C. - “I really wish I’d know how to play another pan. All I know is bass. But I’ve got my whole life for that and I will accomplish that.”

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

Kianna C. - “As big as pan is, it needs to be bigger, needs to be known more internationally. I want to see the younger generation become arrangers and take their bands to new heights.”

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

Kianna C. - “More togetherness. We’re better and stronger together, all the petty arguments and beefs are really played out and really does not matter.”

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

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