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Meet Salmon Cupid - Panist, Organizer, Arranger, Director, and Innovator

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Salmon Cupid directing Toronto All Stars Steel Orchestra at the Raptors parade in 2019

Toronto, Canada - Recently steelband music history was created on a global scale when the Salmon Cupid-led Toronto All Stars Steel Orchestra participated in the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors live broadcast celebration parade, as hundreds of thousands watched the group perform directly behind the team’s float.

Salmon Cupid (inventor of the E-Pan) is straightforward, thorough, experienced and completely committed to the success of the steelband artform globally. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, Cupid shares his understanding of the road to success as he sees it and lives it through his experiences, and much more.


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With respect to Mr. Cecil Hinkson, Mr. Andre-Roger Dellevi and Mr. Russell Providence's comments, we become what we eat. You are also only expressing what you know. The same thing applies to me. I am what I eat. I only know what I know. Having said that, I am not here to lasso anyone or brand anyone. I am just here to state the facts that I have and share with everyone the information that they may not be privy to otherwise. The E-Pan is a tool for anyone who believes they have use for it. Some musicians like and want the E-Pan for scoring purposes. Some use it because it allows them the ability to switch from instrument to instrument of choice (trumpet, guitar, violin, etc.). Other performers love it because it gives them unlimited possibilities when on stage. Over the past fifteen years, I have gravitated to love this next class of people. I will call them the mature people in the Steelpan community. The buy an E-Pan to support the development of the instrument because they understand the economy and they are aware that by purchasing the Tenor version 1 it allows me the ability to advance it to version 2 and version 3. Continued support also allows me to expand to different instruments in the family such as Double Seconds, Double Guitar, Six Bass, etc.

The adjective you used to describe the E-Pan above, please try telling the most successful arranger in our history, Mr. Duvone Stewart, that the E-Pan is a gizmo. He has used the E-Pan as a work station, since the days when he was arranging for LH Pangroove, to create all his winning arrangements. Try encouraging him to stop using it and see what his response is. Or, better yet, contact Mr. Rodney Small who also uses the E-Pan as his work station to arrange and create music with Skinny Fabulous who I believe we all know is a prolific writer in the Soca industry.

I can go on and on listing the young people who will feel naked without the use of the E-Pan. It's just like you not having the use of your cell phone. Before the use of smartphones, we were communicating just fine. However, in today's world, without our smartphone, we feel handicapped and we can't get things done as efficiently as we could have with the use of it. This became very evident to me when Mr. Rodney Small had an unfortunate car accident a few years ago. His vehicle was written off. In the car was his E-Pan work station. He called me frantically. I told him how long it would take for me to send him a new one. The conversation got very uncomfortable especially when I suggested that he would have to use the acoustic steelpan until I could send him a replacement. He then explained that the work/job bestowed upon him could not be done with the acoustic pan. In fact, he said that the job used to be done by a keyboardist. So, the question now is, is the keyboard also a gizmo? I can go on and on with stories, but I thought that I should at least try to explain that the E-Pan is not here to replace the Steelpan.

Below is an excerpt taken from www.napeinc.com where you can get more information if you are interested:

Salmon’s invention of the E-Pan was inspired, “by the people, of the people, and for the people”. It is about the creation of a new addition (again note it is not a replacement) to the steelpan family of instruments employing state-of-the-art technology. It is not simply about another angle or twists on the miking and amplifying of the conventional steelpan. The E-Pan has current technology and uses specially designed hardware and software which in the end, results in a state of the art, self-reliant electronic steelpan workstation. In the case of the E-Pan, durable composite materials were used with electronics employing built-integrated circuitry to deliver software-generated-and-enhanced digital sound reproduction with the capability for not only true steelpan sounds but other voices in the orchestral range of musical instruments. This was successfully accomplished while maintaining the standardized methods of playing the traditional steelpan aided with the perspective of both an aesthetical and functional look and feel. The E-Pan is an advancement to prior art, in the similar sense that the classical acoustic guitar was advanced by the technology of the semi-acoustic electric guitar, then again by the electric guitar. The piano and pipe organ advanced into the modern electric keyboard. As with the playing of musical drums progressed from being played individually, then the acoustical drum kit as a drum or trap set played by an individual which could be miked, to the modern electronic v-drum kit. >>

Finally, let me clearly express that it is impossible for me to contribute here on WST on a consistent basis. I wish I could. I also wish the younger generation would engage here to lend their voice and perspective. I thought it was important that I share my input as there is a movement going on in a different dimension/platform other than this one and you may not be aware of it. We all have our own ministries with the same goal of Doing Something For Pan. I am determined to remain focused in the field as engaging in debate is not necessarily my ministry.

In case someone questions my above statement with respect to Duvone Stewart being the most successful arranger in history, below you'll find his biography.

DUVONE STEWART BIO:

Ace pannist, world-renowned soloist, and celebrated arranger Duvone Dwayne Stewart was born on September 17th, 1976 in this beautiful island of Tobago where he completed high school at the Signal Hill Senior Comprehensive School. Referred to as a ‘Master Maestro’; he stands among a group of maestros, having proven his ability and genius during his remarkable career. Born to musicians, he would accompany his parents to steel orchestra practice where one evening, Stewart reported that he picked up a pair of tenor pan sticks and the rest was history. To his and everyone’s delight, that moment marked a connection that would transform Duvone’s life forever. In less than two hours of playing around with the instrument, he was able to play “Mary Had A Little Lamb” with his eyes closed – an early feat and outlet for expression for an otherwise shy young boy that foretold the prodigy that would later develop.

At the age of eight (8), Stewart started playing with the ‘Trintoc Tobago All Stars Steel Orchestra’ where he learned to master the instrument. His debut on the steel pan came in 1986 at the age of ten (10). Stewart won the ‘Trinidad and Tobago 12 & Under Children’s Competition’. His success in this competition inspired him to enter the ‘Trinidad and Tobago Steel Pan Junior Soloist Competition’ in 1987 and two other competitions the following year. Stewart had two resounding victories in both the ‘Trinidad and Tobago Teen Talent Competition’ as well as the ‘Tobago Music Festival’. His acclaimed adroitness and competence on the instrument were highlighted as he garnered first (1st) place in the ‘Trinidad and Tobago San Fernando Music Festival’ from 1989-1991. These successes created the opportunity to participate in a regional tour where he visited countries such as St. Lucia, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, St. Marten, and Montserrat, showcasing his talent and gaining critical recognition.

His achievements boast winning more than twenty prestigious awards while participating in numerous competitions such as the ‘World Steel Pan Festival’ and the ‘Trinidad and Tobago Pan Ramajay Soloist Competition’. Stewart showed remarkable potential and depth for a young performer. He not only impressed audiences with his showmanship and skill, but with his humility on and off the stage. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a passion for a variety of styles and a talent to excel in each one. After achieving all that was humanly possible in the realm of soloing in Trinidad and Tobago, he retired as a soloist in 2002, with the goal of giving other upcoming pannists, opportunities to master the art form through competition.  

In his thirty-five (35) years of playing Stewart has shared stages and performed with the likes of many musical icons, too many to be named. His vast range and repertoire of performances include hits from renowned artists including Beethoven, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Elton John and many more. He has lectured and performed in Jamaica, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Maldives, France, Germany, Japan, and Morocco.

In 2000, Stewart began his career in the arranging realm with his own band, the ‘NFM Pantasy’, a six-piece steel ensemble that went on to tour countries like Asia, Europe, and North America. In 2001, Stewart was endowed with the opportunity to arrange for La Horquetta Pan Groove, soon becoming the only arranger in the history of Trinidad and Tobago’s National Panorama Competition to win four successive Panorama titles. With only seven years in the arranging circuit, he captured first place eleven times between the different competitions. In Stewart’s memorable stint as an arranger, he has arranged for many other bands in Trinidad and Tobago including Merrytones, Solo Pan Knights, Our Boys Steel Orchestra, San Juan East Side Symphony, Pan Elders and BP Renegades. In the international arena, Stewart has arranged for Harmony Steel Orchestra in New York, Calypso Atlantic and Steel Pan de Montangac in France, ‘Big Pan’ Pan Groove in Germany, Piton Diamond Steel Orchestra in St. Lucia, Brampton Golden Harps in Canada, Starlift Steel Orchestra in St. Vincent and Ebony Steel Band in the UK.

His arranging capabilities have continued to expand to unprecedented levels from inception to present. In 2018, Duvone has performed ground-breaking feats, writing his name in the annals of pan history by becoming the only arranger to achieve a double win as the bands he arranged for – Pan Elders and BP Renegades, amassed the most points in both the medium and large categories at the Trinidad and Tobago National Panorama competition. He has also become the only arranger to have led bands to victory in every category of panorama competition – Single-pan, Small, Medium and Large band categories. Under his musical directorship, he has amassed a record-breaking number of thirty (30) panorama competition wins locally, regionally and internationally combined.

Despite this monumental success, an experience which will go down as one of his most memorable moments is his 2004 performance for Nelson Mandela on his visit to Trinidad and Tobago. He still recalls the memory of the historic figure shaking and dancing to the steel pan music as one of the highest honours in his life and to this day one of the greatest milestones in his career.

Stewart’s persistence, vivacious nature, humility, showmanship and competence on the steel pan continue to allow him to reap benefits and make contributions that have propelled steel pan music and the steel pan movement to a higher level. With goals of starting a non-profit foundation in his native Trinidad & Tobago, his personal mission statement that “Music is a mission, not a competition” is a telling indicator of his maturity, and urges all musicians to believe in the beauty of their dreams and strive for excellence at ALL times. 

The adjective you used to describe the E-Pan above, please try telling the most successful arranger in our history, Mr. Duvone Stewart, that the E-Pan is a gizmo. He has used the E-Pan as a work station, since the days when he was arranging for LH Pangroove, to create all his winning arrangements. Try encouraging him to stop using it and see what his response is.>>

From start-to-finish, (back then to now) Duvone has supported the e-pan through it's intro and e-volution.  Even Boogsie wanted one (before the PHI peeps siphoned him away, lol) and the youth and dem love it...

And further, I must also say, just for the record, I have never, ever in any way, shape or form inferred nor implied that the e-pan is a gizmo nor toy.  Au contraire, ever since Salo introduced me to the concept, it has always been seen as an innovation to exists at the side of the traditional steelpan and never to replace it. 

It's not a gizmo nor toy, it's a bona fide innovation among others which have surfaced in response to a clearly defined need and as they say, “Necessity is the mother of all inventions.”  E-Pan, ESD, panKAT and PHI-pan 

As Salo has taken the time again-and-again to explain in post-after-post, after initial resistance, it's gaining wider and growing acceptance, especially among working -musicians established in the field of pan, including many arrangers who welcome it in their arsenal of tools. 

 

Compliments of Pan Magazine -  Q&A: Duvone Stewart By Ted Goslin

What do you love most about the instrument?

The instrument is magical. When one listens to the sounds that emanate from the playing of a wooden stick with rubber at the head on an oil drum, you become mesmerized. The wide range of tones; how euphoric! Additionally, the instrument is very versatile. A player can play the melody of a song with the Steelpan and utilize that same Pan to play accompanying parts. The capabilities of the Steelpan expanded tremendously with the creation of an electronic Steelpan, the E-Pan an invention of Salmon Cupid. Now you can be on an E-pan and have a full orchestra while performing solo or even utilize the E-pan and allow the Steelpan to sound like a violin, a piano, a saxophone or any other instrument you could think of. The magical nature and colossal capabilities of the Steelpan are what I love most about the instrument. Just pure ecstasy!

 

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