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Caribbean

Published on April 28th, 2013 | by Jessie Moniz - The Royal Gazette online

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Bermuda’s first Pan Jazz Festival to celebrate the steel pan

Bermuda’s first Pan Jazz Festival takes place next month, celebrating one of the world’s most versatile instruments. Organised by Somersfield Academy and Atlantic Publishing, the festival will include the 18-piece Somersfield Steel Pan Orchestra, the Happy Hands steel pan group and the Bermuda School of Music and the Giant Steps Band.

“I think the steel pan is a nice instrument for young people to be versatile on,” said Somersfield music teacher Janice Pearman. “We play all different styles of music on the instrument. It is comparable to your traditional orchestra. You can play any style of music whether you want classical or jazz, contemporary, calypso or reggae. I think it is one of those instruments where the children can achieve something at a very quick stage.” The instruments were originally created in Trinidad in the 1940s out of empty oil drums left over by the United States Army.

Today, the steel pan is the official instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, but its sound has become synonymous with the entire Caribbean. It is one of very few instruments created in the 21st century that is not electronic. “I find the steel pans very peaceful,” said ten-year-old Somersfield steel pan player Bobby Cooper. His classmate, nine-year-old Everett Van Zanden, said: “I like how the sound of all of them goes together really well so it sounds like only one instrument is being played and not a group of them being played.” Mrs Pearman can take some credit for bringing the steel pan back to local schools. Past programmes had died out. Several years ago she introduced the steel pans to students at Paget Primary, then the Bermuda School of Music and now Somersfield. There are now five schools on the Island with a steel pan music programme.

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