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Pan by The Bay


When Action Moves Beyond Talk - Dominica Moving Ahead with Steelpan Music Program


News Release



Roseau, Dominica - At carnival time in Dominica, one of the mainstay events of the season activities is the semi annual Pan by The Bay steelband music exhibition.  The steelpan affair is staged on the Tuesdays prior to the island’s Carnival and Independence celebrations.  Once again the Dominican Steelband Association brought When Steel Talks to Dominica to cover the event.  We were not disappointed.  Much, much more than Carnival was transpiring here in Dominica.  This steelpan instrument continues to be a surging component of the Dominican music education, cultural and social scene.

The event, billed as the Reunion Carnival 2008 - Pan by de Bay took place under the Roseau Ship Berth on Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard.  With the picturesque hills of Dominica’s capitol city Roseau to their bow, and the magnificent Roseau Bay to their stern, the people of Roseau were off on a fantastic pan music voyage that was Pan by The Bay.  Within minutes after the boulevard was closed off for the event, steelpan music lovers and supporters filled the performance area under the moonlit Caribbean night.  Tonight’s musical cruise featured four of Dominica’s steel orchestras - Newtown Pan Academy, St. Joseph Steel Orchestra, Brizee’s Cultural Drama Club and Real Steel.

Reunion Carnival 2008 - Pan by de Bay - Video

The audience was treated to a selection of wide and varied performances that captured their fancy.  The spectators were not bashful in showing their appreciation as the performing pannists garnered their applause throughout the evening.  The performing steel bands were comprised primarily of young people who showcased their talent and their commitment to the artform.

Senior cultural officer Pearle Christian welcomed the attendees and extended special thanks to all the people who had contributed to and extended support of the resurgence and growth of the steelpan movement in Dominica.  She was particularly pleased to announce the institution and forward progress of the Steelpan in School initiative.  Special mention was made of the people who were behind the island’s steelpan movement - pannist, tutor and arranger Athie Martin; Anna Raffoul,  current president of the Dominica Steelband Association; tuner, arranger Mr. Eddie André, and the late Alan Jno Baptiste, among others. 


Ms. Christian indicated the Division of Culture has put a lot of resources into the steelpan music movement in Dominica in the last few years.  They have also actively moved forward towards decentralizing the development of the movement, by providing training in Portsmouth, Marigot, Grand Bay, St. Joseph and the Carib Territory; this is very important for the preservation of the country’s pan culture. Indeed Dominica’s Division of Culture remains committed to the creative process through the utilization of the steelpan instrument.  The educators and cultural custodians of Dominica are keenly aware of the multiple benefits, including educational and social, that the involvement of their youth in the steelpan music movement deliver.  There is high expectation that it is in this investment 'through the young people, that is where it will take root and move forward’.

The Pan by The Bay event provides a distinctive performance opportunity not ordinarily available for these young members of Dominica’s steelband fraternity to showcase their talents.  The performing orchestras have varied skill sets and experience, but that did not diminish the enjoyment, pride and admiration displayed by the encouraging crowd for the mainly youthful steelpan performers.  Already in a festive mood for the upcoming  Dominican Carnival, the crowd of Dominicans plus the influx of tourist filled the moonlit street with a great atmosphere.

St. Joseph Steel Orchestra opened the show, followed by Newtown Pan Academy.  They brought with them their own special energy, and an eagerness to display to all, the fruits of their hours spent practicing for their big night, and turn in the spotlight.  Proud parents, friends and the rest of the community  rallied in support, complete with cameras and camcorders in hand, cheering as they played on.  Suffice to say, these two fledgling bands came out to prove that as far as they were concerned, they were on the road to steelpan fame.

Brizee’s Cultural Drama Club were up next, and proceeded to raise the temperature of the show as they presented a 'call and response' entry to their segment of the show that started with the sound of blowing of clam shells from both behind the staging area, and behind the audience.  With the rhythm section playing, the members of Brizee’s Cultural Drama Club entered the performance area dancing in single file and  waving the Dominican flag.  They captured the full attention of the crowd as they launched into their musical set.  The Brizee’s Cultural Drama Club performances are both musical and visual.  Well choreographed motions and dance steps are an important part of their presentation.

Closing the event was Real Steel, a group whose members were no strangers to Pan by the Bay.  The pannists had previously performed as two individual groups, Genesis and Cool Steel.  Both bands had given creditable accounts of themselves in the 2006 show.  On this night, they came together for the first Pan by The Bay event for 2008.

Interestingly it was also carnival time in the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, the birth place of the steelpan music instrument.  The world’s biggest steelpan music competition, Panorama, would be taking center stage in four days.

As is the case with many programs in the Caribbean, limited funding and resources have truncated the size at which organizers and young musicians alike would  ideally like to see these programs, as well as the speed of their implementation.  As it stands, there are many struggles the existing programs and their participants have to endure.  Everything - from mainly supporting materials, instruments and personnel - is in short supply.  However, Dominica has it’s own very special vibes and an abundance of drive and talent.  The involved leaders, educators and supporters are very devoted to the cause.

As the Dominican steelpan movement moves towards the next level they will need the support of the global steelpan community in terms of both resources and equipment.

Dominica’s steelpan resurgence is indeed a case study in what can be done with committed leadership and vision.  Look for the seeds planted among the youth to "take root" and bloom vibrantly.  Great advancement has been made in relatively short time by the superhuman efforts of a few.

contact: Dominica Steelband Association | Anna Raffoul, President | email:  | tel: (767) 448 2622
contact: Dominica’s Division of Culture - Chief Music Officer | Pearle Christian |email:  | tel: (767) 449 1804

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