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Honoring The Sheroes Of The Steelband Movement: Maneuvering A Gender-Based Society

In continuing to focus on the (often) unmentioned heroes of the Steelband Movement, we must acknowledge and honor those women who were instrumental in "pan moving forward". The STEELBAND SHEROES! Indeed, once the "steelbandsmen" figured out how to come together in peace, and end over a decade of warfare and violence, the role of these sheroes became more critical to the successes of the movement. The earliest of such sheroes was the late, great Beryl McBernie. Ms. McBernie (may she continue to Rise In Peace) opened the doors of her Little Carib Theater to steelbands and provided them a venue for their early performances. In fact, she hardly ever held an event without hiring a steelband.

Yesterday, we wished another shero Birthday greetings - Dr. Dawn Batson-Borel. "Dr. B.", as she is affectionately called by her students (past and present) continues to represent the Movement with professionalism and grace. One can only imagine what she may have had to endure in becoming the head of a college music department, as she maneuvered around the "politics" of a male-dominated academic system, while advocating for a steelband academic program at an American university. Dr. B., like a true leader, further continues to duplicate herself, as we see her nurture young sheroes like Iman Pascall, Shanelle Abrams, Joanne Shortt, and the other female students at Florida Memorial University, whom she treats more like her daughters than her students.

On the international scene, we are all reminded of the universal strength of our women, as we see the great accomplishments of sheroes like Dr. Jeannine Remy and Angela Smith. Special mention and honor goes out to Ms. Keathe George, who was very instrumental in the successes of Ellie Mannette and his company. (May she also Rise In Peace). Of course, no one can forget the great Pat Bishop and how she helped influence Robert Greenidge and place Desperadoes among the echelon of steel orchestras performing classical music. Rise In Peace, Ms. Pat Bishop!

Last but not least, we honor the mothers and grandmothers who opened up their yards for the early steelbands to have a place to practice; a place to call "home". Many may not connect the dots, as to why steelbands' homes are called "panyards"; that it was the matriarchs of the panmen's families who had the vision to see that one day the steelband would become larger than life and internationally renowned.  All of these sheroes of yesterday, today, and tomorrow continue to impact the Movement in positive ways. The fact that we see so many young women involved in the steelbands is testimony of the leadership of the steelband sheroe. Young women like Keisha Codrington, who enters the finals of Pan Is Beautiful XII ahead of the pack of fine young musicians. You are ALL Sheroes, and the Steelband Movement owes you a debt of gratitude for helping to ensure that our "pan culture" continues to be preserved and protected for posterity. We, the Pan People, thank you and honor you: STEELBAND SHERO! Without you, the Movement would have died a long time ago, and those who play the instrument, would have still been known today as "steelbandsmen". Of course, we must also acknowledge and honor the wives and "significant others" of panmen. These women may not have been directly involved, but like my own mother, made sacrifices in their support of their husbands, as those "steelbandsmen" unintentionally or not, often neglected their own families for the steelband, and often took out their frustrations on their wives. Again, Shero, we honor you!

George D. Goddard, B.A.

Pan'tum - The Ghost Who Talks.

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My sistren Brenda H: Greetings!  I will check and see if your address is still in my data base and will send you a book on How to Self Publish. Guidance Dr. Lance Seunarine

There were four panwomen in Tripoli in 1960-61..Dorothy 'Dotsy' Perez, Carol Smith, Agness Thomas and Whinthia Thomas.  The first women to play on the road 'arguably the first ever' in St James under arranger, Othello Molineaux.

Thanks Jackie, finally someone that knew Dotsy.

Steelband Woman

The month of March every year is Woman’s Month in the United States.  As we pay homage to women I want to take special notice of the steelband woman of the 1960s.  Today she is known as a panist.  But, years ago she was called a panwoman and was not welcomed in the panyards. Also, if her parents only knew that she entered a panyard, far less to think about playing the steelpan, she was chastised.  I can only recall one great pan woman in the 1960s.  I knew her as Daisy and she played in the City Syncopators Steel Orchestra.  Later, she left and joined the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra.  I understand that today she captains the Harlem Syncopators Steel Orchestra.  Daisy was good enough to become a member of Syncopator’s stage side and played in one of the Musical festival competitions.

The lot of the panwoman must be seen in the context of the patriarch and class society of Trinbago of the 1960s.  The steelpan and the steelband movement were created by young African men who were at the bottom of the social ladder in Trinbago. In those early days from 1940s through 1960s, no ‘self respecting’ parent would permit their sons, far more their daughters, to join a steelband.  Later, in the early 1960s a few local white boys opened their own steelbands.  Famous among those young men were Curtis Pierre who was the captain of Dixieland Steel Orchestra and Junior Pouchette who was the captain of Silver Stars Steel Orchestra.  But, the panists in the beginning were Africans from the working class community of Trinbago.

But, even though women were not fully represented in the steelband movement, those that dared to participate had other roles. They were staunch supporters and supported their steelbands fanatically. Others were flag wavers during carnival time. Famous were:   Mayfield and "Boboloops," who belonged to the Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra. Most steelbands had their share of saga girls who displayed their beauty on carnival days in the different steelbands.  Also, the saga boys in the steelbands had their girlfriends who were strong supporters of the steelband.  Another important role for those panwomen was on steelband committees as treasurers or secretaries.  At other times women would play leading roles in the mas sections of the steelbands on carnival day.  Important to note is that the captain’s wife or woman was the matriarch of the particular steelband.  She would give instructions or follow up on her husband or boyfriend’s orders to members of the band. She was also the chief cook of the band. A sad aspect of the steelband woman was that many times she was partly responsible for the steelband riots during the 1960s.  In the days when steelbands played in parties there would be fights at those parties resulting from interactions among the steelband women.  If two steelband women got into an argument their men would pick up the argument leading to fights in the parties.  Other times a steelband man from one steelband would try to pick up a steelband woman from another steelband and the result would be a riot that would last through carnival.

But, the pan women played an important role in the steelbands.  On carnival days they would be pan pushers, at times pushing their husbands' or boyfriends' pans.  I have had many quarrels with my friend’s women when we fought to push his pan.  Sometimes they would cool off their husbands or boyfriends from fighting and saving others from harm or injury. One of my memorable sightings was to witness the beautiful young girls standing outside the panyards during practice dressed in their best clothes.  They would stay the whole night until the practice was over.  Those who had boyfriends in the steelband would stand close to the pans keeping a eye on their men from other women.  In the 60s when steelbands played in the Hollows at the Queen’s Park Savannah on a Sunday afternoon many young girls would attend those concerts to support the steelbands.  The middle class women would support the steelbands at the bi-annual Musical festivals that were held at Queen’s Hall in the St. Ann's district, Port of Spain.  But, they would never attend the panyards.

Today, there are women panists who play in all of the steelbands throughout Trinbago.  It is no longer a bad thing to see a woman playing the national instrument in the land of its birth.  Now, if we could only have women leading steelbands and/or becoming the President of PanTrinbago, the future of the steelpan will be safe and secure.

© Khalick J. Hewitt, President & Founder
International Steelpan & Calypso Society

read more http://ning.it/1foGPsW

I know this lady DAISY was in the early days of the 60's, I use to see her in City Syncopators with the Hart brothers (Kenny and Kelvin, all deceased) on the stage side. Lots of times I don't hear her name mentioned on the Sheroes, but I know that she is one of the originals, I am glad she is around and still in the Pan Business.

We just learned about a new Steelband Shero on WST: Mrs. Celia Burgess-Macey; THANK YOU, for your honesty and courage! (And for being saddened and angered enough to speak out.) Ghost.

Yes Brenda, I got the news. Most do not know that Lloyd Payne and Edwin Pouchet were the new arrangers when Silver Stars came back out in 1986 after a 12 year hiatus. I recall Lloyd saying to me in 2008, Edwin will a panorama sooner than most people think. Lloyd Payne is also an excellent pannist.

{As per trivia, Edwin has arranged 8 winning various competitions in the last 11 years}  

Congratulations to Lloyd Payne and Silver Stars USA on winning the Panorama in Ft. Lauderdale/Miami Carnival!!! From the time I saw him putting together the arrangement and heard the young band members working it, I had a "hunch". ☺ Mr. Payne is the REAL DEAL; he was so focused, disciplined, yet approachable and cordial, that on that night, I just wanted to join my "old arse" in the band. lol. Brenda, again, the energy you provide is so much a part of their continued successes. I'm sorry I could not make it, as I had to work all weekend, and had a last-minute gig on Friday night. Once more...congrats to Silver Stars USA. You are blessed to have an arranger in the likes of Mr. Lloyd Payne. Ghost.

I lived in  Woodbrook in the 50's and jumped with Invaders and Starlift and know that there were no women beating on the road with these bands then...so I am very interested in finding out if anyone knows of any panwomen who played on the road  before 'the girls of Tripoli' in 60-61..I do know of a girl in Desperadoes but I know she started much later..so I hope one of you would be able to enlighten me if you have any info on the subject..Thanks.

Thanks again for the informative responses. BTW- Tello did previously share with me some of the history of how the women ended up playing. I share a hint; Othello was more than "arranger" for Tripoli that year women appeared. Much, MUCH more...Ghost.

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