Cayman’s finest proponents of pan will be on show in Toronto on Friday, 29 July.
Under the tutelage of the legendary Earl La Pierre, the Pandemix group will be competing with other outfits at Pan Alive, where North America’s premier steel pan orchestras will compete for the title of Best Steel Band at the 2011 Caribana festival.
“Throughout the night the audience will be treated to some of the best live Caribbean flavoured percussion and steel drumming,” our secret source at Caribana tells us.
“The panel of judges will judge performance on arrangement, group performance, the tone and general application of rhythm. Of course, the audience will base our favourites on how hard we are pushed to dance.”
As Earl and his very talented son Jimi were both ensconced in ultra-rehearsal mode in Canada, we didn’t want to break the magic spell, so we chatted with pan-fan Glen Inanga, whose enthusiasm for this quintessentially Caribbean instrument is infectious.
“They are working extremely hard on the song that is going to be in the competition and working with the parent group they join forces with – the oldest group in Canada, Afro Pan.
“The group was started in the Toronto area 37 years ago by Earl – it has always been the biggest band, the people’s band and is very popular amongst the community. Over the years people have come through the band, moved on and started their own bands which all want to compete with the parent band and beat them,” says Glen.
Perhaps you’ve noticed the pan chaps around town with their buckets and throwing out a few tunes of late – all of this costs money, of course.
“They have been playing at Kirks, busking away, working hard [to raise funds], CNB has helped and UCCI has chipped in, the Department of Tourism helps with T-shirts as it’s a kind of cultural exchange and they are cultural ambassadors. Some of our players have not been up there before, so what we like to do is send them up there for the experience. Then they come back perhaps transformed. We are very proud of them and I am very excited for them.
“Caribana is carnival, modelled on the Trinidad carnival. And the night before the carnival you have a steel band competition – there are between 3,000 and 5,000 in this huge stadium and there are a good 20 bands competing from 7pm to 1am. Judges assess the arrangement, the skill of the players and the execution of the band. It is a fine art in how to present a strong piece with strong players.”
The main parade of Sunday, 31 July, involves all the pans in a colourful parade – a million people line the streets of Toronto to celebrate all things Caribbean.
Following Caribana, the Cayman pan players will be staying in Toronto for a week playing a number of concerts. Weekender wishes our com-pan-dres all the best in their endeavours.