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Caribbean

Published on August 20th, 2015 | by TandT Newsday Newspapers

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Gender and pan

The early steelband, a crucial site of power and privilege for panmen through which they established an identity, still holds true for the contemporary steelband even though women were now in middle management positions. This is according to Joanna Shortt, a musician, educator, composer, and steelband adjudicator who said that, “Men still continue to control the apparatus of power in the Caribbean and although women have experience some mobility and increase the status of women over the years, these advances do not represent the diminishing of real power.

This holds true to the contemporary steelband movement.” In a presentation on “Gendered roles and discourse in two contemporary steelband in Trinidad and Tobago” on August 6, at the International Conference and Panorama at the Hyatt Regency, Shortt looked at Desperadoes and Invaders steel orchestras because they were the two active, successful, historically and culturally relevant large conventional steelbands. These two bands, she said, have experienced organisational transformation to include female participation and the regendering of their space, a far cry from the early days as the former Gay Desperadoes and Oval Boys (Invaders) Steelband.

Both bands demonstrate distinct difference and similarities in their gender roles which reflect significantly, the communities to which they belong. This was especially true of Desperadoes, which is situated in East Port-of-Spain, which is widely regarded as high-risk and extremely territorial.
It is also clear that women have glaringly challenged the blue print of gender in both bands, she said.  In both bands men adopted the natural gender role of protectors and providers overseeing and maintaining the pan yard.  This responsibility is basically dictated by the physical nature of moving and loading of the steelpans, though there are exceptions. Women retain their role of nurturer, leading small social committees, such as uniform committees, birthday clubs and generally controlling the domestic areas such as cooking, decorating, and general organising depending on the specific event. “There are also some differences in terms of gender and class,” she said, which allowed for comparisons to the gender system of contemporary steelbands.

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