by Latoya Burnham
One teacher and player of the steel pan for more than 20 years says Bajan children are hungry to learn the instrument, but there are not enough of them to go around.
In fact, Trinidadian Jason Williams, who runs SKF Steelsounds and Pan Institute with his wife Jennifer, said during peak tourist season, there were quite a few bookings for pannists, but beyond that there was nothing.
“When you think about it … I know we have our thing where we try to keep it going, but in terms of playing, there are only two things where you can go and see steel pan – NIFCA and then Pan Pun De Sand. Other than that, guys do various shows, but when you talking bout real raw pan, you don’t really hear that unless it is Pan Pun De Sand or NIFCA,” Williams said.
He added that this was not nearly good enough, since the talent was exploding in Barbados to the point where there was more demand, even among children, than there were instruments to allow them to play.
“There are enough bands here that they could probably do like… I like to think about my country, Trinidad, where they have this thing called Ramajay, where you get 10 guys on a stage playing songs and they provide a sound. I think they tried it here some years ago where some guys came from Trinidad and they won the competition because they accustomed to it back in Trinidad.
“We need to get to that level. Something need to be clicking where you get people to have the interest in the steel pan all the time, rather than people just having to wait for Pan Pun De Sand every year or NIFCA every year,” he posited.
Using his own institute as an example, Williams said often while training with his band of children at the Eden Lodge Primary, they would get parents form the surrounding communities come asking if their own children could join. He said often he had to put parents on hold because there were not enough instruments to go around, and most of what they were working with currently were borrowed.
“The children and dem hungry for the steel pan… You don’t have pans to accommodate all these children that want to play steel pan. Even when I was at Combermere School, they had a lot of pan but still it had more children than pan; at Lester Vaughan, it was the same thing, more children than pan. Even one of the groups I teach, Olukunde, they have more players than pan.
“So there is always the scenario where you have more people than the instruments and that does bother me to see that people want to play and not enough instruments to accommodate de people that want to play,” he said.
Jennifer noted too that it was their core committee comprising mostly parents of their players, namely, Charles Roach, his wife Kyrel and Rosalin Spencer, who kept the group going, especially given that some of the children could become frustrated about the lack of instruments.
The directors said they were working on getting more pans, but a single pan, minus stand and case, could run about US $3,000 each, and PRO Roach noted that they were open to any offers to sponsor the band to help supply the children with instruments to play. [email protected]