When Steel Talks

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Hello to everyone in When Steel Talks,

I posted a discussion on the forum a couple months ago, asking for help with finding people to meet during my first trip to Trinidad and Tobago. I have studied the history and culture of Trinidad, and specifically the steelband movement, for around six years now. I fell in love with the pan my first year at Indiana University, where I played in the steelband for five years. Since graduating, I co-founded the Indiana Steel Pan Association to represent and serve the pan community in my state. I am really driven to keep the history and culture intact in the pan scene in America, and I want to do everything I can to make sure pan "grows up" right in my state.

Finally, after all my research and studying, I'm making my first pilgrimage to the Mecca of Pan, Trinidad and Tobago. I'm going to be playing with Starlift in this year's Panorama, but I'll also be meeting people to learn first hand about history and cultural things. When Steel Talks has asked me to do daily reports on my experiences while I'm down here. I feel this is a major step in my pan life, and while I'm here I will be working very hard to be able to learn and grow as much as I can. After all, there is an entire pan community that will benefit from any lessons, knowledge, or networking I can bring home with me! Hopefully some of this proves helpful or interesting, and I welcome any suggestions for topics and or things to include in my trip.

Thanks for the people who are supporting me down here and at home, and for everyone who follows this discussion!

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So I got in on the 12th of January, at night time. I was very disoriented during my car ride into town, but I also was surprised at how close different areas are to one another. I read about different suburbs or cities and assumed they would be more separated, and further apart. I am blown away at the plants and sounds of the area in which I'm staying. Also, I am still very aware of the fact that being a foreigner means people assume you do not know much about the island and pan. I can see this being both a good thing in terms of getting history explanations, but a bad thing in most others. I also feel uncomfortable anywhere while in town.

Food wise, I'm in very good hands in Trinidad! I was warned that the pepper sauce should be avoided, but as a spice fanatic I had some the first night I arrived. WOW! It's very good stuff. Thus far, I've had wonderful home made Pelau, Pone, Macaroni Pie, and amazing Calaloo, stewed chicken, macaroni salad, and Sorrel. I've also had doubles and a salt fish sandwhich from St. James. Wonderful stuff.

I am blown away at the difference of playing in steelbands in Trinidad and playing in bands in Indiana! First of all, the stage side players in Starlift are VERY good, and very willing to help out. The players who I think struggle with learning the piece, at least they retain information much more easily than panists I've worked with and taught back home. Plus even with the small number of panists coming to rehearse right now, the experience is so different. It may be playing outside, it probably has something to do with the ability of the players, but I've never FELT pan like I feel it when we rehearse! I have been here a number of days now, and already I have learned a lot in terms of my technique. But I also notice pans are not as protected as in the States. Players mute notes (press the stick into the surface) whenever they are teaching parts to others, and they are not afraid to bark notes at all! Also for you lead players, be ready to play on a D lead, because low C's are hard to come by...

I can say that the more people know about my drive and passion about pan, the more seriously they are taking me, which I appreciate. I have a lot of people who I will be talking to about history, culture, and many different things to improve my ability to help back home. Very soon I will begin my work in those areas. Until then I am mainly focusing on getting the few holes I have in the arrangement.

The last things I have noticed: I am surprised at the amount of Jamaican culture present in Trinidad. For a land of Calypso, there is an awful lot of reggae on the radio, murals of Marley and Rasta images, etc. Also driving is crazy in Trinidad! Other than the driving on the other side of the street, with right-side driving, the roads are narrow, windy, often in somewhat beat up condition, and people do whatever they want basically... The northern range, or what I've seen, is very beautiful, and I can't wait to see more of the natural beauty of this island.

That's all I have really for now, but I will continue to update this discussion. Thanks all,

Life for Pan,
Eric Mannweiler

Welcome to sweet Trinbago. Trinbago is part of the world map so you will find Good and Evil. Don't expect things to be like home but try to feel at home. Hope you have a good one.
Here's wishing all the best in your endeavours  in the pan world. Hope you enjoy playing in the panorama. But before you go back Take a trip to Tobago Where we have much to offer and also lots of steelbands.
Bob Marley is everywhere on this planet. From the hills of Kumasi, Ghana, to the favelas and beaches of Brazil, to the sun swept south pacific, to the frigid European continent, you'll find the impact of reggae pervasive. Dance hall has merged with Soca to form a new rhythmic genre the young folk love. This is very similar to what you hear in  Brazil today.

Hi Eric


I really enjoyed reading this blog. I remember my first visit to Trinidad - it was certainly a life changing experience. It was different for me though, I was a spectator at Phase II. 20 years later and I still visit annually (although, sadly, not this year) and achieved my life long ambition of playing with Phase for Panorama about ten years ago. You'll meet some characters, make good friends and have a lifetime of wonderful memories - enjoy! ... and remember to post your experiences. I'm already looking forward to the next instalment.



Mangrove, Phase, Sforzata and the British Association of Steelbands (told you it was life changing!)

Check out several pan yards, particularly Phase II and All Stars. Silver Stars may also be a revealing experience. They are the youthful essence of pan today.

Very good advise Lester.  Silver Stars is amazing so far.  Eric we need to get you down to San Fernando one of these nights to hear Fonclair and Skiffle practise....  


The real pilgrimage is coming: PANMAGEDDON  2012

Hello first timer nice to have you on board I am a member of the PHASE 11 PAN GROVE which is located very close to starlift phase 11 is one of the bands with a very coloufful history so I am inviting you to visit with us and the history would be shared



Visit the greatest steel orchestra in the world - DESPERADOES of Laventille. They are at the corner of Cadiz Road and the Queen's Park Savannah. Check out the manager "the dancing queen" Sandra Awai and the treasurer the Blue hair Goddess

See you.

I drove by Phase II panyard and Depseradoes temporary panyard in town. I don't know as much about Phase II's history, other than they have been a heavy hitter since at least the mid 80's. Despers is obviously a band with a great history, and I would love to meet Bevery Griffith. I would really appreciate the opportunity to talk about history with both bands!

I suppose while I am on WST I should give another report.

Last night I had my second taste of Calaloo and Salt Fish, and my first taste of Coocoo. I have to say, Trini food is tremendous! I have asked the woman I am staying with to teach me to cook, so I can present some of my favorite dishes to my family and friends when I go back. Thus far I've loved everything I've had, so I don't know how to choose!

I spent a lot of my day yesterday talking to people that I will be meeting up with this week. I am very excited to talk with Mr. Keith Byer (ex VP of Pan Trinbago, now head of Diatonic Pan Institute) about his organization coming to Indiana this summer (and pan history, pan association talk, etc.)

I also met with Kenneth Clarke, who was with North Stars when they won the first Panorama and played in the band when they won the second... He has focused on percussion, and has played with tons of bands, and knows a lot of history. I'm VERY excited to be connected with this guy as he has come very highly recommended, and already our history talks have been really rewarding. Here's the crazy part... he's going to introduce me to Anthony Williams! I told him I didn't know what I would say to him that he hasn't heard a million times before. He told me Anthony was his mentor and insisted that when the time comes I will improvise. I am adding a name to my list of people I will be a little star struck by...

I briefly met Mr. Keith Diaz, who was making rounds to various yards. I don't want to get involved in a political debate on the man or Pan Trinbago. I was trying to find out what Pan Trinbago does besides hosting events, (ie. day to day work), and didn't really get a very good answer. He invited me to drop by the office some afternoon to talk. Again, this isn't a criticism, but I figured Mr Diaz would have been passing around the petition for people to sign. Anyway, this is a dangerous topic, so I will drop it here.

I have more meetings coming up this week, and I am very excited to get to my research and networking aspect of this trip. I have a pan community back home that can use a lot of help, so I'm here to work!

Life for Pan



NICE, Eric!  i must say i am once more, thrilled!  that you are loving the FOOD!   and see, i tole yuh that whoever advised you 'don't eat this u won't like it' didnt have a clue what they were talkin about,  hahahaha.


very interesting to hear the rest as well, most especially your take on meeting various people. i agree that one would think ppl would WANT to share about their work & contributions.... and IMHO it is a bit 'telling' that there wasn't much interest in doing so....


am enjoying this immensely and looking forward to hearing more through your eyes!




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