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I have a confession to make, pan people.

 I've come to realize that my perceptions on the steel pan are derived  from my relationship with the pan, and I'm thinking that the same applies to just about everyone else on this forum.


I "beat pan" from the mid sixties into the early seventies, until circumstances prevented me from continuing.

During that time, I played the cellos, and tenor bass pans, and  always saw myself as a member of a band, or team.

I was not a "crackshot"


So when I think of pan, I think of the steelband first, and the individual player secondly.


I get the distinct impression that many of the members of this forum played lead instruments, instruments that are capable of standing alone, and therefore see themselves as individual players , not necessarily associated with, of dependent on the steel band.


Some. and I emphasize some of these individuals , see themselves capable of being successful panists with or without the steel band, and it may be that some of them see such  things as synthesizers and samplers not as potential threats to the very existence of the traditional steelband, but as tools to be used to enhance their individual performances and careers.


As a result, in discussions an subjects such as  the afore mentioned synthesizers and samplers, their interests and mine tend to diverge.


Thoughts, anyone?

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Great question.  I love to play in a band with my double second.  But I also take advantage of the other opportunities to play as a soloist or accompany as a guest in a conventional (blues, reggae, "American-style") band. It means I can play my pan in front of more people more frequently.  I'm a fence-sitter between band and soloist, which I suspect many soloists are.

Soloists and steelbands bring music with their own distinction, but it is all about pan.  We must embrace it all symbiotically... I think either would suffer in the absence of the other.

Technology presents oppoprtunities for advancement and abuse... both to the soloist and to the steelband and Panorama.  One must be careful how they use technology or risk losing credibility of talent... how much is the pannist or band playing versus how much is the computer playing.

I submit to you that what you are facing is not about a difference in band-mentality versus soloist-mentality.  I haven't heard (read) you say anything against the technology or the soloist career.  I'm not even certain that the division on the sort of technological advancement in Panorama falls on a line between band people and solo people.  Rather,

People that refuse to appreciate the risk of misapplication of that technology being a real threat to "fair" Panorama competitions


People who have objectively digested all the potentials raised.

Hello Glenroy,

                     I like your subtle approach which somewhat parallels some of my sentiments. We now old folks (lol), who were young in the 1960's took pan for the love of it. The pan itself was not the main focus, rather it was our Steel Orchestras of choice. We did not see the art-form as a way for financial opportunities, and we were committed to one band.

Although the word "crackshot" was not part of our vernacular back then, we who thought we were good did not see ourselves as above, because of our voice of choice. I always say that Desperadoes had the strongest double second section in the 1960's, but this does not mean that they were better than the background voices.

Fast forward to today, it is economics & technology and 90% of the pannist are for self. 

Hi Ian, your reference of the old-timers not seeing pan in terms of financial gain struck a chord with me. My pan career started in 1968 in a band that had hotel jobs three nights per week, every week. I remember giging for an entire year without pay just so that the band could buy its own truck. We all did it without a second thought.

The first time I came across the term "crack-shot" was when a Trini in my band here in the states used it in reference to me. I never saw myself as a special player. I was a solid player, could catch quickly and had the ability to put a song together on stage, if it was requested and not in our repertoire. He never quite understood that putting songs together on stage requires band members of a certain calibre. It was not just my ability, it was a team effort. I had the good fortune that my band was comprised of some very special players.


I do both, but my first love is the BAND. Interestingly enough, I am in full support of soloist and do not question their motivations. To me, the pan soloist holds the future for pan. These are the individuals that is going to spread pan to the far reaches of the globe and to the widest audience. It boils down to one simple fact. THE SOLOIST IS A NIMBLE ANIMAL. Steelbands by nature are very cumbersome. Getting members together on short notice as well as mobilization are major issues. The soloist does not have these issues. (1) Patrons will quickly hire a soloist rather than band. (2) They will be more inclined to fly him or her to a gig that is in some distant location. (3) He or she can perform in venues where bands cannot because of space requirements.

You are saying your perception of the steelband as a player is related to the instruments you played, namely the cellos and tenor bass. I beg to differ.


One can not be an individual player in any sport, “cricket or soccer”, or activity “String Orchestra or Steelband”, that involves a group of people working together toward a common goal. The members of a Steelband Orchestras play together, “the word together here is key”, as a team to produce a desired effect or sound. It is not an individual activity.


Mind you, Miles Davis was a soloist but still played with a band, Charlie Parker was a soloist but still played with a ban, however the bad played a different role here than that of an orchestra; they accompanied.


So, one can be a successful panists, “soloist” with or without the steel band. This is of course limited to the tenor or second panists; I have never heard of a cello panist soloist.


You also stated that some of them see such things as synthesizers and samplers not as potential threats to the very existence of the traditional steelband, but as tools to be used to enhance their individual performances and careers. When these are used they sacrifice tonal quality and authenticity and it will not be the real thing.


The electric guitar came but the original guitar still remains.

The synthesizer came but the original piano still remains.

I am not worried about the original steelpan, it will remain.

I think you misread Glenroy's thesis statement. But I would like you to keep posting.

BTW, You would not believe the amount of negative feedback I've gotten (even today) for my insistence on using the expression "beating pan' instead of the more benign and PC "playing pans".

I must admit that at times I use the expression "playing pans" according to the context, but I refuse to be politically Correct and not say "beating pan" when I feel like it.

So when queried I give the following reasons:


Out of respect for the creators of the art form.

That is the terminology they used, along with such things as "tenor pan"  also called a "ping pong" but probably changed for obvious reasons, and duddup".

We all know what the Jamaicans mean when they say ".riddim". No one ever says to the Rastaman, "Excuse me, sir you shouldn't say "riddim", its"rhythm"


Out of respect for the roots of the pan

The steel pan came, not from the European tradition of playing music, but from the African tradition of drumming, via the tamboo bamboo.


We created the art form so we should  also be able create the terminology, and not have to conform to any foreign linguistic standards.

In other words, we should be able to call it whatever we damn well please.


I hope that answers some questions.

Well said, Glenroy! I agree.

- Big Sid

Glenroy, it is the same with me using the expression 'STICKS', I refuse to say 'Mallets', which to me don't mean anything significant where the Pan culture is concerned. But again we are witnessing the changes before our very eyes!

Pan, synths and samplers - what about this: I See Aysha

I could write more, but my perspective is from outside - looking in.

Best regards, WerNer

 I like it Werner, I really do..

You would note that the synthesizer doesn't replace the pans, it complements them.

Very interesting, and appropriate, I may add use of a synthesizer

The potential is U-N-L-I-M-I-T-E-D!!!

At this point we might enter a very sensitive area!

I'm into Midi since the beginning (1983), after working with analogue sequenzers at the university.

Being a sax player I started with breath controlers (Casio DH 100, Akai EWI 1000, Yamaha WX 7). At first these new instruments were synths, working with electronic sounds. But the better the sample sounds became, the more the tendency developed to substitute humans by technology in the field of music production. (There is a saying in German. "MIDI makes you lonely"...!) I still believe that music is a human thing and we should be aware of business.

I bought the Indigisound as soon as they were available and they are breathtaking good!
But it is an imminent danger that many pan players will be out of their jobs, the moment these sounds are taken over by the music industry. When I program my arrangements for practicing with the band you hear a steel orchestra from the monitors that sounds better that your own instruments. So every music producer now can have a steel orchestra under his fingertips. At best this will open the ears of a broader audience and result in an interest in a real steel band, which is as unique as a real synphony orchestra.

So let's hope for the best.

As to the pan midi controler: I use the PanKAT by Alternate Mode, because it can  be play with 10 fingers...
I will write more about this, if anyone is interested


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