Calls for steelpan to broaden its offerings

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By Carlena Knight

Widening steelpan offerings to include classical music and more events staged in the countryside would help boost appreciation for the artform.

That’s according to a leading pan player who said, although the genre is thriving, more could be done to reach a larger audience.

“Although individual bands have their own stuff, I think we need to get folks more appreciative and more supportive of pan…but still we get the bands coming,” public relations officer for the Antigua and Barbuda Pan Association, Robin Margetson, told state media.

 “A lot of the same criteria exists, 15 members maximum, five tunes in 20 minutes; that’s something hopefully people will enjoy. Hell’s Gate usually has a Father’s Day concert, Gemonites has the Moods of Pan. Ebonites was planning something real big before corona so there are things, but we could certainly benefit from, let’s say, something like a classical pan competition, because that takes you further into the discipline and the skill of the players to be able to play classics effectively,” he explained.

The avid pan player – and captain of the Panache Steel Orchestra – continues to advocate for a Monday night mas’ for steel bands during Carnival celebrations rather than having them on the road during J’ouvert. 

“Again, it comes to appreciation and support. The presence of pan on the road; the support is little or nothing and I have been one of the advocates for moving pan out of J’ouvert … because very few bands any longer come on the road J’ouvert morning.

“You are playing your heart out but two jam bands in front and behind of you and you can’t even hear what you playing so why not remove pan from J’ouvert and create a Monday night mas’ with pan and iron band,” he continued.

“Yes, it is going to be a different crowd. You will find, I think, a more mature crowd will follow because when you look at the bands, you have a less chance of big fights or stabbing and anything so the steel band jam or iron band jam and it fills more gaps because on a Monday night really you have the room.”

Margetson went on to share his concern over the centralisation of pan. He says it is imperative for the artform to delve into the countryside to draw a greater number of people.

“Pan is centered too much in town. I think we really need to tap into the country areas so when the bands in the country come to Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) for the Panorama or whatever, they bring their following.”

Regarding youth, Margetson says it is important for bands to continue to bring in children from young ages. He says not only will this guarantee the longevity of the band itself but it also widens the scope of skilled musicians the country has to offer.

He admits that the local association needs to be more out in the public. He also revealed plans by the body to assist pan players who have been hit significantly by Covid-19 with food packages.

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