Steelpan, Music for Youths - Workshop to revive interest in National Instrument
"THE steelpan is swimming against the current of the 21st century. Pan in TT has lost its youth; it has lost young people's interest."
This is the view of Dr Kim Johnson—author, steelpan enthusiast, historian, former journalist and Senior Research Fellow at The Academy for Arts, Letters, Culture and Public Affairs at The University of TT (UTT). Through PanGEA 2019, a steelpan workshop, Johnson and his colleagues are hoping to change this. The workshop will be held from August 5 to 7 at the Republic Bank Exodus Panyard, St Augustine.
On the official website, steelpaneducation.org, it says, "Steelpan teachers and other interested educators will be exposed to the best pedagogical practices for the instrument and its traditional music, in its native environment. Workshops will be led by some of the foremost Trinidadian and Caribbean-based teachers. Topics will explore steelpan pedagogical practices that include improvisation, ensemble arranging, history and sociology of the genre, and musical theory of the African diaspora." Johnson believes the workshop has the potential to help "revive" youth interest in the steel pan.
He told Sunday Newsday, "The problem is this: What the Ministry of Education does is it lets you learn the quavers and so on, you know – the basics. But that is based on 19th-century classical music – that is irrelevant to our music. There's aspects of what you learn and how you learn. When they are teaching kids pan in primary school, they teach them music theory in their copy books. In other words, you're not standing behind the instrument, you know. They teach you to write this, to write that. So for instance, write a four beat rhythm. So the child will be able to write it but not be able to play it or even clap. It is so separated from action, that is madness. Let the students study their music, the music they like. Let students learn music playing with their friends."
He believes the history and culture associated with the instrument should be implemented into local schools' music curriculum. He said TT has to take pan more seriously.
By Narissa Fraser
Trinidad &Tobago Newsday