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Published on July 26th, 2010 | by Megan Francis


Pan and the Youth

“Being part of a Steel Band is not primarily about playing an instrument. It’s about gaining many other very valuable life skills such as being able to listen to others, being part of a team and being able to express yourself.” – Annie Davis, 19

For youth today, having a passion for something and being able to express yourself through it is becoming exceedingly important and I find that opportunities to do so are not as available as perhaps they should be. Being part of a steel band is an excellent way to begin to do so and for some it is described as “being part of an extended family that you grow up with and who shape you into the musician you become”. So through the existence of Steel Bands in all parts of the country from London to Birmingham, Reading and Manchester it would seem that more and more young people are discovering a love for the steel pan, and a passion for music. This is great.

The question I ask however is; how, when and where these inspired young musicians can have a platform to showcase their talent? As a member of a predominately youth composed band myself, I know only too well that there are some extremely talented and passionate young panists eager for a chance to not only show off their playing skills, but also their talents as amateur arrangers and composers. After all, we are going to be the next generation of arrangers!

Panorama and Junior Panorama are already fantastic ways for bands as a whole to display their playing abilities and have fun through healthy competition. Nevertheless, I do think that it is also important to celebrate those young people who really do have a love for different aspects of being involved in the Steel Pan World. “Pan Explosion has the right idea”, encouraging under 25s and soloists to compose their own pieces and express their ideas to an audience of pan enthusiasts. This is exactly the kind of thing we need; but just how accessible is this competition to everybody who deserves it?

“I arrange a lot of pieces for pan at home, but I would love it if young people had more chances to show off what they can do. Pan Explosion has the right idea, creating a special category for under 25s, but it would be even better if there was a category for under 18s. Perhaps even some kind of scheme where more experienced arrangers could mentor younger ones!”  – David Parke, 17

This year, Pan Explosion was held in North London and had a total of three competing bands and two soloists. The show could not be faulted because the competition, as well as the guest bands provided a thoroughly entertaining evening proving just how much talent there is among the youth in pan. It was truly inspiring to witness the creativity and dedication of the young musicians who had not only composed pieces of great complexity but had the confidence to share their artistic talents with an audience.  I have no doubt in my mind that across the more than 24 recognised BAS Steel Bands there are more than three who would liked to have taken part and a great deal more than two soloists who would have been interested in sharing their compositions and abilities. So I ask myself, when it came down to it, why were there so few competitors? Well I would say that the first and probably most common limiting factor is the area in which the current two youth specific events, Junior Panorama and Pan Explosion are held. I understand that each year Pan Explosion is held in a different part of the country so as to make it fair. Unfortunately this means that those who live in the areas in which Pan Explosion is less commonly or seldom held in are at a massive disadvantage and are the reasons why the numbers of competitors at these events are far lower than what they should be. With more than half of these 24 bands located outside of the London area, it becomes unfeasible for them to consider entry for Pan Explosion as travel and accommodation costs would simply be extortionate and this isn’t what steel pan is all about. In previous years, the competition has been held in other locations, such as Portsmouth and Birmingham, but this again puts the other half of the bands, those which are London based at a loss as they are now not able to participate.

Of course this then leads on to the much bigger question of how we, as young people overcome this.

“I feel that we need to push more into schools, after school clubs and summer schemes to further knowledge and get more kids involved. Children of today are the future.” – Adannae Okeke



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