Alternative music offerings are unfolding and steel pan music is on a growth path. It is more accessible and the change is led by technological and individual creativity.
Not so long ago, a band consisted of a rhythm section, guitars with vocals and a horn section was the first choice of entertainment for most social affairs in the Barbadian and Caribbean Diaspora community. At times, during the carnival season, or for specific cultural events, the steel pan was added as part of the band. The DJ was the second or most economical choice.
Today, steel pan music – played by individuals – has become increasingly popular and economically attractive. Specifically, for some Barbadian affairs, patrons are now welcomed by solo pan players [with] electronically wired pans and computerised soundtracks.
Ronald Headley, formerly of Payne’s Bay, St James, is part of that growth and provides music for a variety of events with his steel pan outfit called Caribbean Pan.
Speaking after a recent event, Headley explained that his new direction came unexpectedly when he sought to solve a problem. Headley – a guitarist – involved in the music industry for about forty years, was a member of the Triple X, Hi – Tek and Technic Band. During his career, those bands backed famous Barbadian artistes like Tony Grazette, Tony Thompson and Joseph Niles, among others. As part owner of the Hi – Tek band, he also organized and assisted with gigs.
“For some of our gigs, we added the steel pan. However, some steel pan players came late. Others often cancelled at the last moment. I became annoyed and I decided to do something about it. I bought a steel pan and taught myself to play. Today, I am on my own.” said a confident and smiling Headley. When opportunity knocked at his door, Headley literally looked within and discovered a hidden talent. The rest is now history.
Often, Caribbean Pan takes Headley into Jewish and American communities for a wide variety of events.
“I place videos and reviews on two popular websites – Gig Masters and Gig Solid. Event organisers see you and then we all negotiate a price. Jobs come from unexpected places.”
The Shiloh Baptist Church’s International Black History Dinner Celebration and Awards Gala which was held this past February in Westchester, New York is a case in point.
In a packed room, during cocktails, and dinner Headley entertained and received applause from a predominately Caribbean and Black American audience.
There were more than twenty Barbadians in the audience, who came in support of Peter Clarke – retired IBM Program Director in the Supplier and Small Business division and who was one of five distinguished honorees. Others included Jamaican Sadie Aarons – Campbell; Nigerian Otuodichinma Christy; and Ernest Bolden, a resident of New Rochelle.
Coincidently, Barbados received honourable mention, after Dr Cynthia Richards announced that Deacon Bolden was the recipient of a surprise award – the surprise had been a trip to Barbados.
Clearly, opportunity waits for no one and often comes packaged as natural skills and gifts. As for Ronald Headley, he continues to play the pan and is staying ahead of the times.
(Walter Edey is an author and retired educator who is an advocate of structural thinking as the rising wave of the future.
Email: werus [email protected])