Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
Clive Bradley, Arranger
Bradley reminisces about the early days of women in pan
"The first time that I remember seeing women play Steelpan was around 1968, somewhere around there - when three women joined Desperadoes; one of them was Ursula, on the tenor pan, and she still plays with the band today. The other, Carol, played tenor pan too, and the third, whose name I can't recall right now, played the Bass. It was a sort of status symbol for those guys because there were not too many bands with women playing. They were good players. As a matter of fact, I believe that Scrunter (Owen Reyes Johnson) wrote Woman On the Bass for particularly that girl.
Regarding the most noticeable changes/differences in pan-playing women since the 60s, and today in the 21st century, Bradley says:
It was kind of taboo for anybody of "decent" - quote, unquote - upbringing to play in a steelband, but at that time, it was sort of very strange to see a woman playing a pan. So right now, here, there are bands which are complete with only women. Most of the bands I work with now have more women than men; they are very good too! It is easier to work with women.
Why is it easier?
They have more ability to understand; they like to sit down and listen, they take instructions better; they give less problems, they are usually more punctual than the guys. The only problem I have with them is that they usually have to go home earlier than the guys! Eventually, some of the guys are jealous of them, because they learn faster, they retain more, they're more dedicated to what they're doing. In Desperadoes [stage side] in particular, now we have about eight girls playing. Carnival time we have around twenty. [Women] are biologically more suited - - their wrists seem to be - I think I read it somewhere, or I was told - that their wrists are more flexible.
I remember working with Pandemonium one time and there was this little girl who used to play the music with such ease as compared to the guys playing the same music - the same pan; and then the guys had this complex, because they never wanted the girls to learn the music before they knew it. And it always was that way... the girls used to learn the music before.
In Desperadoes, the band that I work with right now- Desperadoes the girls, they are on par with the guys right now. There are girls I would go and give any type of music, and they learn it first. As a matter of fact, we had some girls coming from France and England this last carnival, and the guys didn't want nothing with them - these girls came from England and the States and they were better than most of the guys. You see, the people who come from away, they usually - you see they only have a limited time here so they don't want to waste their time hanging out. I have met a lot of girls both here and in the States, and they are more dedicated to their work. They spend more time on the instrument.