When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

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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Hello Eric,

It is an absolute joy to get your perspective on Pan; which is truly the most fabulous instrument ever invented; to read your impressions as both a visitor to Trinidad and Tobago and a performer is a gift.

Thank you for doing this in spite of your hectic schedule, please pardon the slight  inconveniences and sometimes lack of  amenities one expects in the U.S. The  longer you stay in Trinidad, the more unique

the country becomes, enjoy stay safe and keep writing.!

Wow! All I can say is wow! Reading your post my heart races as I read each line. Either you are a great story teller (raconteur) or you are living and experiencing a great adventure. I am a born Trini and I myself long to experience a RAMA from the view point of which you currently enjoying it from. Kudos! Kudos! LOL!!!!!!!!!

Pan pan pan and more pan.


Make this man an honorary Trini.
Hey Randisc, I meant to say thanks for this comment, it really meant a lot! Andy and Congahead, you too!
Great Post Eric. Although I have yet to play on the big stage in Trinidad, I have played the New York Panorama and you brought back memories of that similar feeling we all get. From stressful rack setups to having to deal with the crowd and police to, joy shared amongst rack mates, the rush of looking out into the stands/audience, to realizing that no matter what the judges decide, its about our band and our performance, and the culmination of our joy after the hard work we put in. You brought me back boy. Great posts...again. See you soon.

Hello everyone,

I have to apologize again for not updating my posts in a week or so. I had my girlfriend, my teacher, and a colleague of mine come down last week, and so not only did I have two semis to play and prepare for, but I had entertaining to do... They have all had to return to the states, and so I now have a little more time to write. There have been tons of things I've wanted to write about since last time, so please forgive this very long post! Here goes:

My girlfriend and I took a trip out to the bird sanctuary in the Caroni Swamp, because she loves birds we both really appreciate nature. Even though it was pouring rain, the trip was an awesome experience for a number of reasons! While waiting for the downpour to stop, a couple guys noticed my pan sticks and started a long conversation about this year's Panorama (having just completed Semis). Then the conversation shifted to the past when one gentleman told me he was a Tokyo panman in the Spree Simon days. I have to admit, at the time I probably would have skipped the tour to talk to him and hear his stories, but he left before the tour began. The swamp is a very beautiful place, and despite the noise of the boat, you can still hear all sorts of birds and animal sounds being trapped by the trees and traveling down the waterways. Though we saw all kinds of reptiles, animals and birds, the highlight was definitely the unbelievably red Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad's national bird. There were thousands of them flocking to this one tree, which apparently was their sleeping spot for that night. It was pretty incredible to see the tree go from green to red as the birds settled in its branches. Also as we headed back, an osprey with what looked like an 8 foot wing-span swooped directly over our heads with a fish in its talons... The last great part of that trip was back at the dock, when I couldn't reach the person who was supposed to pick us up. A Trini who took the tour with a foreigner friend of his offered us a ride with his mother, who not only dropped us off right at Woodbrook Playboyz yard, but told us about her days playing in Phase II and Silver Stars and talked pan the entire trip into Woodbrook! Not only is this an example of how kind most Trinis have been to me, but also highlights the fact that you never know who you will meet in Trinidad! Two random strangers turned out to be panists with great stories to tell!

Next I have to talk about Single Pan Semi-finals. This round seemed very different from prelims for Woodbrook Playboyz, which is as much as I really want to say about that. The group did find it's energy by the time we hit the stage, and while we were on the street and when we hit the stage, it was a great feeling again! The thing I want to comment on the most though, is the community that I saw on the Avenue. The pan fraternity is something that really needs to be experienced to understand. I met some people, and had a chance to really get to know some others while listening to bands. I was really envious of the folks who have been coming to play for years now, because each had this awesome extended family of former bandmates that they would have to excuse themselves from the conversation to go hug and chat with. The night was filled with excellent, incredible pan talk of all sorts of topics (history, current affairs, past panorama gems, etc.) It really shows you the bonds that form when you join the pan community down here, and these folks that come year after year just keep building up their network of friends.

On another note, I tried Sapodilla for the first time in punch form, and it was fantastic! I want to try the actual fruit, but who knows if I'll be able to find a fruit stand. I tried Kymet again, and it is still weird looking, but I also enjoy the taste even more (it is much better when you don't have to bite through the skin to peel it...) Other than that I have not tried anything new really, which I aim to change this week.

I made a promise to myself years ago that I would try to purchase an instrument from every country I visit, and because I can't afford a pan, I decided to purchase a tassa. I have seen many engine rooms either include tassa in the instrumentation, or reference its sound on bongo. To my knowledge nobody in Indiana plays tassa, so I figured that would be a nice addition to the pan scene back home. Now I reach out to everybody who is following this: would anyone be willing to show me some basics on the drum before I leave? Please contact me and we'll work something out. Thanks in advance everyone!

I went to the National Library for what I hoped was a pan lecture, it was unfortunately cancelled, but left me time to explore a little bit. As a quick note, the security at the library is VERY tight, so don't plan on bringing any bags or anything inside... I even got wanded at the gate one time. I didn't have too much time to explore the books they had, but I am interested to see what pan related materials they keep...

Outside the library was Soca on the Square, which people were obviously leaving work to come see, which is part of this build-up to Carnival that is going on. I can't describe it, but the vibe of everywhere I got has this tangible growing buzz of excitement... Tents with sound systems are popping up everywhere, you see more and more pieces of mas costumes being built, pan racks strapped on flatbed trucks, music echoing off the mountains up in Santa Cruz... I obviously haven't experienced carnival yet, but a comparison that comes to mind is the wind-up bobsled teams do before launching down the track. I know once it takes off at the end of this week, it will be this unbelievably quick rush of incredible excitement, and then before I know it everything will be over...

That leads me to my final topic: How can you miss a place so much before you even leave it? Knowing how little time I have left, I am almost in a panic to try and get out and experience things... I feel like I have mere minutes left to enjoy this place, as if I'm being driven to Piarco as I write this! As cheesy as it may seem, I agree with the lyrics of "Trini", I like the way Trinis talk, the pace of life down here (ok not walking exactly, but metaphorically speaking), and the way Trini's cook... I know pan isn't as engaged throughout the year, but I am feeling the culture shock already knowing how pan is back home. (I love the Indiana Steel Pan Association and all of its members and functions, but pan in Trinidad carnival season is on a completely different level...) I know now that I have to set a goal to return here next year, but I just have to express how much I will miss this place. I even will miss waiting what seems like hours for a maxi leaving Santa Cruz!

That is all for me, I have to get off this computer and get out to enjoy my day! Thanks to everyone who have been introducing themselves and saying kind words about my articles! I'll attempt to update more regularly this week... Until then,

Life for Pan

Hi Eric,

Wow, your experience can actually develop into a movie...The Trini Carnival Experience written and produced by Eric Mannweiler. That should be a project back home and sold back to Trini land.

So, it's only FOUR days to go before the big final night of pan and I await the outcome of the Renegades dilemma.

Which ever way it swings, I will write on it.

I am sure you are enjoying the practice leading up to the orgasmic pan experience...an experience I had for 28 times in my pan life of 36 years. Am coming to your yard before Friday. C u then!

I have so loved reading your articles on here. I feel very proud to be a Trini knowing that you are gaining lifetime memories from my homeland. I took all your experiences for granted while I lived there and now that I am residing abroad I have the yearning for the sounds and smells of all that is Trini...Enjoy the rest for its an experience that is second to none....

You are most kindly welcome for my assistance and support. You will do fine and you are doing fine.

I am yet to meet Trevor John; I think the founder of When Steel Talks but I will continue to also furnish the site with information. There is a world of pan information that can reach the moon. Thanks for technology!


Hi Eric ,great to hear nice things said about Trinis, Enjoyed reading your experiences  and hope you have a safe carnival . My mate was very surprised that I had visited the bird sanctuary 6 times, he had never been ./ now that he has he sends everyone there. Do try to visit the South of Trinidad next time if time will allow.... see you next year

Hello again,

I want to give a quick update while I have the opportunity. Two days ago I went to Curepe to Gill's pan shop, where I met tuner Billy Sheeder and a number of other people. A few of us from Starlift were able to watch him work and talk about tuning techniques and whatnot. Then a tuner brought in a low C bore lead, regular sized pan, but which had notes from low C all the way up to high B (almost 4 full octaves!!!) The top notes actually spoke as well! I was blown away... I have been offered to come back to learn a little more about tuning, which I fully plan on taking advantage of!

I also had chicken roti from San Juan's Patraj... I know many people have been backing Patraj as the best Roti in town, and though I admit we got there right before the closed, I have to say thus far Sherrys and Sylvies both are winning the Roti challenge.

Last but not least, I was liming in Playboyz yard trying to get a ride to Starlift, when Kenneth Clarke drove by and offered me a ride. During the trip he made a detour to show me where North Stars' original panyard was (as well as the break-off band Sunjets), and introduced me to a number of former North Stars panmen. He also stopped by St. James North Stars' panyard, where I met Mr. Earle Brooks! It was quite a thrill to see these things and meet these peope....

I am going to leave off there, but I will do my best to update again before the week is out! Until then,

Life for Pan

Hello again everyone!

So I have spent these last few days trying to do as much as possible! I have spent some time out east in Curepe at Gill's pan shop. I was able to meet a number of tuners working there, and was even given a basic introductory tuning "lesson" by one of them. I have to say, having the anatomy of a steel pan note explained to me, and seeing how different parts of the surface can be manipulated in different ways to affect different things (tuning a note by striking the surface outside the note, for instance) makes me all the more respectful of this instrument! What an incredible, complex and beautiful thing pan is...

Also, though the Roti challenge is still not decided, I have to give the Doubles crown to Sauce's in Curepe! WOW!!! If you have never experienced these doubles for yourself, you have no idea what you're missing! Incredible...

I saw the pan jazz event at Phase II's panyard, which was a great time as well. I got to meet Robbie Joseph, of Pan Podium, Ray Funk, and a number of other people. There were also some very excellent players that took the stage!

I also had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Salah Wilson, who has joined the ranks of Starlift. I have thoroughly enjoyed talking pan with Salah, who I think has some great ideas and views on a number of different areas of pan.

Rehearsals have been longer and more exhausting this week than they have in the past (sometimes it feels like they're the most exhausting I've had in my life!) I feel the group has been really coming together and bonding, working hard, and I have really been loving every minute of it! The Original Defosto Himself came to the yard Thursday night and delivered an incredibly powerful and inspiring speech. I will admit, I am a bit star-struck by Defosto as well - the man has written some incredible calypsos (expecially In She Rainorama!)

I finally got a short introductory lesson on tassa by Junior, Starlift's drummer. I definitely want to learn more, but at least I know what sorts of things to work on now. Again, Trinidad has produced a really interesting musical tradition which I want to learn and share with the engine room players back home.

Last but not least, I spent most of today seeing the Carnival parade downtown! Moko Jumbies, Midnight Robbers, Red Indians, Juju Warriors, Book Man, Dragons, Jab Molassie, Blue and Red Devils, I saw it all! I was traveling primarily with Keith Byer's Diatonic Pan Institute, who had a pan side playing on a float. There were many different bands that passed around the steelband, and after I left them, I had a great time seeing all the mas characters and hearing the incredible music. I hear a great tassa group, who I definitely listened to more closely, having just done my introductory lesson last night. I also hear tamboo bamboo, which was very cool seeing them perform just in front of a steelband so to illustrate the evolution of the art form. I met some of the players in Freelancers, a pan round the neck quintet with some interesting instruments, and whose guitar player uses three sticks. Again, I can feel Carnival building up speed... Trinidad has this buzz of excitement that I feel everywhere I go!

I don't know when I'll post again, but I know I will have some experiences to talk about tomorrow night! With that said, I need to get some rest, because tomorrow I go into musical warfare with Starlift! It still does not seem real that I will be performing on the big stage tomorrow... WOW

Thanks again for everyone who have been following my posts, good luck to all the players tomorrow for finals, and goodnight to everyone! Dreams of pan are sure to be had tonight!

Life for Pan


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