Twelve local high school students, playing alongside 15 musicians from two Cayman steel pan bands and pan players from four other countries — the large group known as Afropan — finished second out of 13 bands in one of the largest celebrations of Caribbean culture held outside the Caribbean.
The students, who are taught by noted local pannist Earl La Pierre, participated in Toronto’s Caribana Festival, played alongside musicians from Cayman steel pan bands Panoramers and UCCI Pandemix. They took part in the festival’s Pan Alive steel pan competition, joining forces with players from Trinidad, Bermuda, the U.S. (North Carolina) and Canada (Toronto) under the band name Afropan.
Afropan, comprised of 67 musicians, is in its 40th year playing as a group, and proudly finished second, missing out on first place by just three points to last year’s winners, Pan Fantasy.
All about preparation
The group was in Toronto from July 25 to Aug. 8 and spent the first week practicing their song, More Than an Oil Drum, arranged by La Pierre. In the months before Caribana, the Cayman contingent of Afropan had been practicing at UCCI twice a week to prepare for the event.
“It was a great opportunity to play pan with such a large and experienced group of players,” said student Adam Stoner. “This was my second trip to Toronto representing Cayman and I look forward to attending next year as well.”
The Cayman students were interviewed on Canadian television during the competition, and spoke with enthusiasm about their passion for pan.
“You just have to love to play,” said student Rachel Boyd-Moss, responding to a question posed by a CTV reporter.
Following the competition, the group played steel pans on a giant float in the Caribana parade, one of the largest Caribbean parades in the world. An estimated 1 million people lined the streets of Toronto to enjoy the bands, dancers and extravagant costumes.
“The fact that we had about 30 steel pan players, along with seven parents, attend Caribana in Toronto to perform in one of the greatest competitions, Pan Alive, with the people’s band, Afropan, was an experience I will never forget,” said La Pierre. “Pan is in good hands in Cayman. The bands Panoramers, UCCI’s Pandemix and Pantastic all got together with AfroPan and put on a performance that was out of this world.
La Pierre was expansive in his praise of his students.
“You have made me and the Cayman Islands very proud, coming second out of 13 bands is a victory in itself, along with your performance at the street parade,” he said. “I’m looking forward to 2014.”