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Meet Sadé Adams - New York, USA

“....Our bass section is mainly made up of females, and we all stick together strong. We are more than a band, and way more than friends; we are all family. We’ve grown together, failed together and accomplished much more together.”  -- Sadé Adams

She is confident in who she is, with a love for Pan and her own place within the steelband landscape.  In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - student and panist Sadé Adams shares her journey in Pan to date:  her perspectives and dreams - unfiltered, all relative to the steelband art form.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about Sadé Adams?”

Sadé A. - “A lot of people see me and the first thing that comes to mind is Captain “Wayne Bernard’s niece.” But I want people to know I am more than that, I’m a multitalented young adult. I play not only one pan, but I’ve grasped the concept of three entirely different pans. I not just play pan but I’m a full-time active college student, who also has a thing for dance.”

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

Sadé A. - “I’ve been in a panyard for as long as I can remember. Begging my mom to take me home because I just can’t stand on my feet anymore to take another note. I was never actually asked if I wanted to play pan; I just began grabbing sticks and catching notes, and ever since then I’ve been inseparable.”

WST - “Tell us about being a female player in Pan Evolution?”

Sadé A. - “Being a female player in Pan Evolution is honestly the best. If nobody knows - our bass section is mainly made up of females, and we all stick together strong. We are more than a band, and way more than friends; we are all family. We’ve grown together, failed together and accomplished much more together.”

WST - “What is it like, being a member of one of the most elite steel orchestras in New York?”

Sadé A. - “To me, being a part of one of the most elite steel orchestras in New York is an opportunity for me. It feels amazing to be a part of something new and positive, and to know that I always have something.”

Sadé Adams with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra
Sadé Adams (foreground) with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra

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

Sadé A. - “There have been many un-adjustable changes made in pan over the years. The love in pan has completely diminished. The pan community is no longer a family. It’s like we are in the middle of a war every year, and things never used to be that way. Pan and Panorama season use to be about the fun, and the adrenaline rush you get throughout your body right before going on stage, and now it’s all about the title, the trophies and the bragging rights.”

WST - “Who and what are your music inspirations and influences - not only relative to Pan, but also in wider music genres?”

Sadé A. - “My music inspiration is Brandon Waldrop. Not only because he’s one of our band members, but because he’s created a road for all of the younger players to follow behind.”

WST - “Do you have a favorite arrangement?  If so, what is it, and why?”

Sadé A. - “My favorite arrangement is Pan Evolution’s 2016 ‘Cheers To Life.’  Three years ago, we were the new kids on the block.  Underestimated - and it felt great.”

Pan Evolution’s 2016 ‘Cheers To Life’ - Panyard recording


WST - “If you had a choice, would you consider pursuing Pan as a full-time musician later on, as a career path, if it was lucrative?”

Sadé A. - “If I had the choice of pursuing pan as a full-time musician I would respectfully decline. Though music is what I love, my younger brother Malakai might be the one to take you up on that offer.  He’s the real musician.”

WST - “You may have come across friends, and other people, 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?”

Sadé A. - “I tell people I “play pan” and they look at me funny because they have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. I’ve told one of my previous school teachers that my extracurricular activity was ‘Pan’ and she literally asked me if I meant pans that you cook with, until I showed her, and she was absolutely blown away.”

Sadé Adams with Pantonic Steel Orchestra
Sadé Adams with Pantonic Steel Orchestra

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

Sadé A. - “All my relatives push me to pursue my passion for pan. It’s just something that’s been in my family for years. So no, they have never told me to slow down with pan.”

WST - “You are the niece of Wayne Bernard, the leader of Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra, who himself grew up in the steelband art form. Do you two talk about Pan in general? Are there any experiences, advice that he shares with you?”

Sadé A. - “We have a lot of conversations about pan. He shares all his experiences all the time about “his pan days,” and from him I’ve learned so much about pan. The reason I look at pan the way I do is because of him. He’s taught me everything I know. He’s showed me how to lead, how to have patience, how to expect the unexpected.”

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

Sadé A. - “These relationships are to be cherished. These people go from someone you see once a year to someone you call when you need a shoulder, or an ear to listen. Like I said - before we are a family, and we stay a family all year around.”

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

Sadé A. - “My passion for pan is fueled by my little brother. His love and excitement for pan makes me wanna keep it going so when it’s time for Captain Wayne to retire, there is no question who the next in charge is.”

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

Sadé A. - “If I had the power to change something in pan it would definitely be the vibes. We need the old vibes back - the love and dedication everyone had for pan.”

Sadé Adams with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra
Sadé Adams with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra

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

Sadé A. - “I am most proud of the [Pan Evolution’s] junior band.”

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?”

Sadé A. - “My advice to the thousands of young female players all over the world would be to always be yourself and go for whatever it is you put your mind to. Don’t let anyone limit the number of pans you play, and learn to take constructive criticism.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Sadé A. - “Panorama to me is the time I get to unwind and be myself doing what I love to do.”

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

Sadé A. - “From my perspective Panorama is a blessing. It’s a time where we spend endless hours just enjoying each other’s company, and most of all steel pan music.”

WST - “How do you feel about the ten minutes competing on stage for Panorama, after long nights of practice?”

Sadé A. - “Those 10 minutes are the most breathtaking minutes ever. Finally performing and seeing everything you worked so hard for finally coming together, leaves you speechless. You feel invincible at the moment. The stress, tears and hard work put in leading up to that moment just disappears.”

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

Sadé A. - “In my honest opinion I do not feel as though women are getting the acknowledgement and opportunities they deserve. Almost all NYC steel bands are conducted, and lead by males. There are female arrangers who have yet to be given the opportunity to be heard, and as a woman I feel as though we are held at a higher expectation to prove that we are just as good as men.”

Sadé Adams with Pantonic Steel Orchestra during J’Ouvert
Sadé Adams with Pantonic Steel Orchestra during J’Ouvert

WST - “What is the greatest challenge the steelband music art form faces in New York today?”

Sadé A. - “The greatest challenge would be the chase to find a practice space. There aren’t many spaces available for bands to practice which leave us with little to no time to actually practice the Panorama tune.”

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

Sadé A. - “My vision for steel pan is to put it more into the world. Get more youths involved in order to keep the culture alive as well as getting bands in NYC sponsored.”

WST - “What is next for Sadé Adams?”

Sadé A. - “Besides furthering in pan, I will be graduating college June 2021, and continuing on to medical school.”

Sadé Adams
Sadé Adams

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

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