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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Yeah.. no offense... I said my piece in response to ur other post...


I will say this, though... Boogsie has a point. Liam Teague is great at what he does, but what he does isn't local. What you can do is look at their "followers". MANY of Liam's fans are so classical minded it's incredible. One personw ho played in starlift this year... I used to be in a Jazz band with him... and he didn't even want to improvise because all he sees is classical... but he's an INCREDIBLE player... You should hear him play some of Liam's compositions.


Now look at me, or Johann Chuckaree... we're very much into Jazz or Kaiso Jazz. Though Jazz may have been formalised in America, it has roots all over the world and has EXPRESSIONS all over the world. If you listen to Jazz in Trini and Jazz in New Orleans and Jazz in Germany, you will hear subtle differences between all three. I don't know if I ever want to play another classical piece... But I'm a fan of Boogsie. I have A LOT of respect for Liam, but even in his arrangements, there were phrases and passages that sounded like they came straight from Beethoven or Mozart. Beautiful - great music, but they fail to capture the excitement and jubilation that is Panorama and Carnival on the whole.


Funny thing is, Liam, as a performer, is an exceptional Jazz player... I went one Jazz Artistes On the Greens and he was the ONLY performer whose music excited me that night. However, when composing or arranging, though u get certain Jazz oriented phrases, it seems that he focuses more on the "classical" (or rennaisance? or whatever period?) styles of music.


Boogsie can do classical, also... listen to most of his endings from 2005 to now... listen to "Dance of the Douens" however, it isn't his focus because of the culture of Panorama and Carnival and because of his own love of Jazz.


Once you understand the difference in musical approaches between the two, you would understand where Boogsie's attitude towards Liam comes from.

My friend continue to document your experiences using the same objective outlook  you used for previous blogs, however if I may, let me suggest you keep some of your personal viewpoints to a minimum. Record your  journal for a complete and detailed posting when you have completed your Trinidad Panorama experience. In Trinidad, Trinidadians who live abroad are referred to as foreigners and fresh water yankees so tread lightly.

Hello again,

I had a day full of great experiences yesterday! It began with my first Maxi experience, which was something I've been given mixed advise on, so I was a little unsure of what to expect. It was a really comfortable ride, if predictably stop-and-go, and there was nothing scary or sketchy about it. This was my first time going anywhere alone in Trinidad, but the trip from Santa Cruz to San Juan is not a stressful one ( or at least it wasn't for me).

I met another foreign player in Starlift and their landlady to take the water taxi to San Fernando (Janine you timed your comment just right!) I can say the view of POS from the water is, in my opinion worth while! Seeing the city sprawl out and upwards into the hills... I'm a fan. San Juan seemed kind of intimidating like POS was the first time. But like POS, I realized that once you meet people, they are usually just fine. We saw three yards, stopping first by Skiffle Bunch, off of Coffee Street. We also went by Fonclaire and ended our South trip at Hatters, whose captain welcomed us with some great conversation, and even brought out some tenors for us to play. He has some wonderful ideas about what pan is about and where it should go (like a panist exchange program).

Then once we got back to POS, the landlady left us to our own devices downtown. We didn't wander very far, but again it was not that scary of an experience. After liming in Starlift's yard for awhile, I had my first Roti in Trinidad! WOW it was amazing. Then we went on a tour of some panyards. Renengades was first (we drove by Invaders and Starlift), which was a great experience. I saw a little little boy playing tenor (you could only see his legs and  tenor pulled way down so he could reach it. That may have been the best thing I've seen so far!! Then it was off to All Stars, where I had an appointment to get a history lesson with their captain. He was busy doing business, so I'll have to go back another day (as if I wouldn't want to go back anyway...) After that we went to see Desperadoes. I was hoping to see some Rocket pans (I'm not sure if they are still around or not, but I've always wanted to hear them in person), but I did get to see 9 and 12 bass!!

A couple of things worth noting about touring panyards: I realized at All Stars yard that I have been taking it for granted that I am seeing these steelbands in person. In Indiana these bands that I love are so far from reach, I hadn't really appreciated the fact that I was seeing them in person! Once I took in that fact, the experience was even better. The next thing is, when you see different bands, pay close attention so you can appreciate each band's sound and character. Not only in terms of arranger's style, but tuning qualities, balance, rhythmic feel (listen to the iron, folks!!!) etc. Again because these bands have been so out of my reach in the past, I kind of felt like I was meeting celebrities in person as I experienced them live.

Last thing about last night: I guess there are more people I feel a bit star struck by. Beverly Griffith walked into the crowd when Despers was packing up, and I wanted to talk to him... but I don't know what to say to people like that! I want to say more than "Hello" to some of these people, but I am kind of unsure what else to say! I'm sure I will figure it out... (To put it another way, what does an amature Cricket players say when meeting Brian Laura?)

I'm possibly going to lime with some pan folks in Maracas today, and it seems I may be meeting Anthony Williams in the near future. (Did I mention the star-struck thing??) As a pan history geek, I am incredibly excited to meet a man like Tony Williams!

That's all I have for now, but I'll post again in a couple of days.

Pan for Life,





but stuff like this makes me wonder WHAT the heck people are telling you:

"Maxi experience, which was something I've been given mixed advise on"

what? it's a taxi ride in a van - nothing scary or bad about it it any way - what are ppl telling you that gives you worry about simply taking a taxi ride??


It's no wonder you have some reservations about going out and about on your own - cause i really think that, in some ways, ppl are scaring you unnecessarily about some of this stuff.... yes it's not a good idea to go around alone at night, and in certain areas, of course; some things are obvious - but some of these other things are perfectly fine and normal to do, in the daytime, without any worry. of course it's always important to be attentive, keep your wits about you, and watch what's going on around you -  but it's not necessary to be 'scared', or 'worried' at every minute.


I went all over the place by myself both on foot and in maxi's - in the daytime i mean - in downtown PoS, Maracas, Tunapuna, Tacarigua, Arima, SanJuan in and around the Croisee area, and went to some of the markets, sometimes with my friends' kids in tow - and it was fine.


Have a good time and don't let people scare you.....!!





Gosh boy! I know envy is not nice, but  I am envious. Lol! Right now I am living vicarious through you.


Enjoy the pan!



When you're at Maracas, try some bake and shark...you have not been to Trinidad until you try some with all the trimmings...consume it slowly...savor the moment...and if possible freeze one and bring it back for me...LOL



Boy, you killin me right now. and Gospel Pan, I had to watch how much my mouth was watering at your description and the memory of Maracas Bake and shark with Trimmings! I cant wait to get there! Eric, check your friend requests (i have some info for you and we could possibly link up when I get there) Thanks again for your great posts.
Brian Lara, not Laura :)

Hello everyone,

I'm really sorry I haven't updated this post in awhile, I thought it had only been a few days, not five! I have had some wonderful experiences since the last post though, and I'll have even more throughout the rest of the week. Sorry about my absence, but here's what I've been up to:

On Sunday there was a single pan band launching/ Birthday party at a house in Diego Martin (hosted and in honor of a member of Starlift's community). This was the first band launching I've been to, and the first time hearing single pan in person. MAN, I have to say single pan is really nice. It has a really nice groove and feel to it, a certain rhythmic presence that you don't get with larger bands. It reminds me of steelband recordings from the 50s and 60s. One thing I liked about this launching was the communal feeling of the music. There was an iron, tambourine, and scratcher left out, and whenever the band played, folks just grabbed them up and jammed alongside the band. It was also a really nice lime! I met some really wonderful people, got some connections, and was THRILLED to get caught up in a pan history argument by some of the older gentlemen at the party (I wasn't part of the argument, but was somewhat caught in the middle...) Diego Martin is also a pretty place, from what I saw of it anyway.

I had a whole day that I spent in the panyard. It was a bit slow at times, but I got some of the Bomb tune learned, and got some good practice time in. Plus the founder of Starlift came by with some historical materials for the secretary, and I was able to copy notes about the band's history! (What lucky timing...)

After rehearsal two nights ago, my ride drove me up to a hill high above St. James and Woodbrook, and you could see the WHOLE city of POS. It was such an incredible view!

Yesterday the foreigners in Starlift got a ride into town to check out the National Museum and Art Gallery. There were some cool things in there, including a picture of early pans being used in a labor demonstration. Seeing what little they had on pan, I wish there was a pan museum here! With so much history, you could have a great museum on pan and steelband! I know I'm not the first person to think of that, or even say it on WST, but I know I would pay to see the pan museum! (And I'd probably be a stereotypical tourist and buy the shirt too...) In anycase, after the museum we walked around the Savanah, tried (unsuccessfully) to get into the National Academy for the Performing Arts, and tried some grilled corn. I won't say anything about the grilled corn, because ours were not made well (they were bone dry...)

The real experience came when we decided to walk into town to find food. Honestly I have to say again, this was not as scary an ordeal as many made it out to be. I'm not saying anyone can walk anywhere and be fine, but as long as you are smart about which streets you take and where you're going, I don't think walking around with a group is unsafe during the day. We ended up grabbing a bite on Independence Square, and then grabbed a ride out to Renegades' panyard. I still love the sound of Kellman pans, and their yard is one that I've enjoyed visiting. Their junior band was practicing, which was good to get to see. When we finished up there, we headed to All Stars, and then, after we saw Invaders was having a private function in their yard, we ended up liming outside Woodbrook Playboyz. I've yet to hear this band play, but I've always enjoyed liming outside their yard (where I always see players liming and have always felt welcome.)

Anyway, I have some awesome plans in store for the weekend, and I will do my best to post more frequently than I have this week!

Life for Pan,

Glad your enjoying your stay. Hope it continues to go well. It's nice to read about your experiences in Trinidad!!!
Eric... I am following your blog with interest and enjoyment.  Keep it up and don't be put off by nay-sayers and negative comments.  Trinidad is a great place to vacation at this particular time of year when everyone focusses totally on one thing.  CARNIVAL.   Trinis love to put down anything Trini but deep down they love their pan, soca, calypso, fetes and Carnival. Enjoy every day for what it is and don't try to do too much...this may be your 1st trip but I guarantee you it won't be your last!

Hey everyone,

Thursday night I had doubles and  my first taste of Pholouri (and mango chutney sauce), with some fresh made juice, followed by visits to the panyards of Invaders, Silver Stars and Phase II. It was a great night, everyone. Friday night there was no rehearsal at the panyard, but I went to Woodbrook Playboyz yard for a lime. WOW that's an incredible band, and I have to say it again, single pan has an incredible feel and energy to it. (Their engine room is also SLAMMIN. ) Then a sound truck came up front with a DJ and a calypsonian (whose name I can't recall). For those who have never experienced a sound truck, please allow me to paint a picture of how loud it is: I think the vibrations in the bass were helping the digestion of my dinner that night... Anyone coming to experience Carnival for the first time, be prepared for these sound trucks.

Yesterday started off with a fund-raising brunch at Renegades' panyard. Bake and saltfish were had by all, which was great, but the people I limed with was better. I have to admit I've found the first Trini taste that I don't care for: Mauby. Mauby is a fruit, the juice of which has a peculiar taste which to me got more and more bitter. If you've never had it, it's worth a try though (as is every Trini food). After that I went to practice in the panyard, and heard Starlift's junior band for the first time. I can't help but wish there was something like that available to me when I was a kid... After that, I was invited to come try my hand at the Woodbrook Playboyz Panorama piece. I'm torn with the prospect of playing for other bands because I don't want to have too much to do and not be able to see things and enjoy experiencing as much as I can. (Getting to play and experience Panorama in multiple categories would be nice though...) I finished off the day with a really nice lime with some Starlift folks. (I ended up having a second dinner, when the oildown that I had this week was challenged...)

Anyway, my Maracas plans were foiled by the rain, but I have hope that this week will bring me some Bake and Shark. Also, Tobago seems to be in the works. I will keep everyone posted, and as always let me know if there is something you would like me to address.

Life for Pan,


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