Pan art form could be lost, says veteran tuner

Veron Henry (Photo by Alex Andre Rhodes)
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By Carlena Knight

A lack of production of drums is putting the Caribbean at risk of losing the art form of pan, says eminent tuner Veron Henry.

“Drums are very scarce in Antigua. It’s like a dry well, and in Trinidad as well it’s drying up,” he told Observer.

“There was a factory that made the two-sided drums that they made specifically for steel pan and they haven’t been making any for the past three years, so if we are going to continue the art form we really need to find a way of getting our own drums but I am working on that.”

Henry, who is known for his work with long-running steel orchestra Hell’s Gate, spoke of a number of measures he is taking to help mitigate the issue – including setting up his own pan lab.

He has already begun making steps towards his lab, which he has named Pan Zone Plus.

“I have since brought in some power hammers to help with the sinking and preparing of the pans [which] will cut the time at least by half. I also brought in a grooving clamp,” he continued.

The latter holds the template in place helping create the size and shape of a note, Henry explained.

Henry also spoke about what it felt like to tune for the 2020 Trinidad Large Band Panorama winners, Desperadoes Steel Orchestra, and runners-up, All Stars. He also tuned for Valley Harps.

“It was awesome. The fact that I’m tuning bands that I am not accustomed to tune for, I wasn’t the one that made those pans [which] in itself is a challenge and the fact that I am tuning in Trinidad, the mecca so to speak, and to be given the opportunity and to come out victorious, I felt really, really good.”

He noted that he received some scrutiny from a number of ‘old school’ members of the Desperadoes but was nonchalant towards the remarks.

He revealed that he was first recommended last year but the offer was turned down by the same group. “Every disappointment is a blessing,” said Henry and a year later he has now worked with three bands as an Antiguan in Trinidad with two bands placing in the top three.

Henry has also flown the flag for his homeland by tuning for bands in Brazil and the US.

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