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Published on November 13th, 2011 | by Robbie Joseph


Aubrey Bryan

Aubrey better known as ‘Maubert the Pan Man’ came from Guyana in 1964 and settled in the UK. His early years in the UK were spent working and studying at evening college.  During his first few months in the country he worked at the Phillips Radio/TV Ltd, Purley Way, Croydon and it was here that he started to experiment with new techniques of heat treatment for the steel pans.

He remembers making and playing a pan during his lunch hour and sometimes after work. The Superintendent of Works was so impressed that he invited Aubrey to play in his office during a lunchtime break.  Aubrey has continued to make pans throughout the years and was invited by James Cummings (then Race Relations Officer) to tune some pans for the firm of A Major of Purley Way, Croydon.  This was during the mid seventies and the firm was intending to mass-produce steelband instruments.  Both Aubrey and Sterling Betancourt OBE worked on some pans but they both realised that there was some fault in the preparation of the material and therefore they could not get the desired tones. The venture therefore never materialised.


In 1979, Aubrey toured Germany as leading player and tuner of the Groovers Steel Orchestra and was invited to produce pan instruments for a complete band for a High School in West Berlin. Later a group of adults belonging to a Social Club also commissioned him to make a complete set of instruments for their band.  Around this time the Vis News Company did a short film of him making pans (16mm) – the Germans also did one.  It was also around the same time that Aubrey decided to return to full time study and joined three-year full time course at the South Bank Polytechnic, London where he obtained a BSc in Social Sciences.

Aubrey invented the ‘Octopan’. The range is two octaves and the lowest tone is ‘G’ below middle ‘C’ up to ‘G’ two octaves above middle ‘C’. It is also possible to increase the range. The proto-type of the Octopan was done in 1979 and was exhibited at Hyde Park, London during the ‘Year of the Child’ – Save the Children Fund. A special stand was designed for the Octopan for it to rest on a rubberised surface attached to the stand so that there is one complete playing surface. The pan resembles the figure 8 so the Latin word, ‘Octo’ meaning eight was given to the Pan – this Octopan.

Aubrey also designed the Aubrapan – where he has changed the whole concept of the positioning of the notes by placing the high octave notes in a series of parallel straight lines with the highest notes being placed nearest the outer rim of the pan as against the centre of the pan where most high notes are generally found. The lower octaves are placed directly opposite each other in order to suit the pendulum – like action of the arms – these ascend in whole tones. The whole concept facilitates easier and rapid playing of the chromatic scale in single and double note form.

Aubrey spent one year experimenting with different patterns before finally choosing this particular design and making one. He feels that this type of pan could be used as an additional melody pan in steelbands and as the position of the notes is different this would give an altered shading of colour to the music in the Soprano and tenor range.  The Aubrapan has been seen by many heads of schools music departments in the UK who were very impressed.  It was also played by the leading Guyanese pan players, Roy Geddes and Godfrey Roberts.  Frank Rollock of London All Stars was very excited about the pan as well.   Group of German pan players from the Berlin based Tin Pan Alley Steelband had nothing by praise for this invention.  Casablanca steel orchestra players on tour of the UK also played the pan and Aubrey’s pan tuning buddies, Roland, Robinson and Mikey were all fascinated by the Aubrapan.  He was invited by the Crafts Council of England to exhibit his Aubrapan amongst other conventional instruments.

Aubrey continues to produce steelpan instruments and is a founder member and master tuner of the UK Steel Pan Tuners Guild.  This gifted individual will never stop exploring the musical avenues that are available to promote and progress the steelpan instrument to higher accolades.

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