Pan-round-neck tradition in UK carnivals -3

Pan-round-neck cont…

The band dates back to 1995 when the professional musicians Jürgen Lesker, Martin Buschmann and tuner Eckhard Schulz founded the Steeldrum Association, Pan-Kultur e.V. in Dortmund, Germany. Prior to this, Schulz had been engaged with steel drum production since 1979 and he provided the instruments for a small orchestra. Using novel teaching methods, Jürgen Lesker and Martin Buschmann began holding workshops and found that they could teach a group of 15-20 people to play music together in an remarkably short time (Buschmann, 2006). They founded the first steelpan-orchestra, a traditional pan-round-neck band and a steel orchestra ‘Paninos’ for children between the ages of 7-10. These three groups began preparing for their first concerts after playing together for just a half year. This attracted new people to join Pan-Kultur e.V. and in 1999, Pan-Kultur e.V. and E.C.S Steeldrums (Eckhard Schulz, tuner) moved together into a single panyard. Eckhard Schulz began producing the ‘ECS Kiddrum’ with eight tones for music lessons for children from 3 years onwards. Based upon the, ‘Kiddrum’ instrument, they subsequently developed the ‘Teacher Steelpan’ with 13 tones with a reciprocal-diatonec tone-order and a range from C1 to F2 as well as Fsharp1 and Bflat1. This reciprocal ascending format promotes the use of both hands right from inception. Additionally, there were two musical advantages: the principle of traditional music notation and the basic harmonic functions became amazingly obvious and clear.

The multifaceted approach of PanKultur serves to highlight the strong foundation being established in Dortmund and provides an excellent model for any aspiring steelband. Their facilities alone are exceptional and include all stages of steelpan manufacture and tuning, small and large teaching and practice rooms, a café and bar. Steelpan is professionally taught and many members and teachers are already very accomplished musicians. The band has a very warm and welcoming spirit and teams up with some of the best known steelbands in Europe. Their vision to establish a grand Caribbean carnival in Dortmund will not only materialise but in a few years, this city is likely to be one of the leading centres for steelband music in Europe.

5) University-based Steelband Conferences The First European International Conference on Steelpan entitled: ‘Steelband Music and Education in the 21st Century; Projecting a Vision of the Future through Global Experiences’; University of East London.

The First European Steelband Conference in 2006 which was conceived and ran by Nostalgia Steelband served as focal point for many enthusiasts to meet. Held at the impressive Docklands Campus of the University of East London, the conference brought together representatives from the UK and various parts of the world. Some of the themes covered by the various presenters included Pan in Education, Pan and Global Networking, Experiences of particular countries such as the UK, Trinidad, Germany, Canada, Japan and France, Throughout the meeting the obvious lack of standards and uniformity of instruments across the globe was repeatedly mentioned. Thus, a major outcome of this meeting was proposed and accepted by all that a national accreditation system (similar to those for other classical instruments) should be established for steelpan musicians in the UK. At another conference on steel pan at the Bucks New University, High Wycombe, UK, (2007), a similar debate engaged many sections of the steel pan fraternity.

6) Outlook; the development of ‘Pan-round-neck’ in distant lands. Japan a model for the future.

Japan represents the opposite frontier of the world for Trinidadians both in distance and culture, yet many Japanese enthusiast have been visiting Trinidad to study and participate in Trinidad carnivals over the last 20 years. They have gradually began importing steelpans, learning to play and manufacturing their own instruments. As early as 1957 Southern Symphony steelband performed in Japan (Gerald Forsyth, per com, to Yoko Kimura 30th August 2006) and this may have been one of the incentives for what was to follow. Nostalgia has collaborated with Nagoya University over the last 5 years to document these developments. One of the authors of this article (Yoko Kimura) joins Nostalgia annually as a member of the band for the Notting Hill carnival and was an invited keynote speaker on the subject at its conference in 2006 (Kimura, 2006). Much of the information documented here is from research undertaken at Nagoya University and work published by Tomita (2005).

Steelbands in Japan have developed differently from those in Britain and the Caribbean. Steelpan was first introduced to Japan in 1961 by a Japanese entertainer who was living in U.S. In the 1970s steelbands from Trinidad went to the Osaka Expo and the Marine Expo in Okinawa. Some Japanese artists were so enthralled by this new sound that they started to include steelpan music in their repertoire. In the 1990s, Renegades, Pamberi and Caribbean Magic from Trinidad went to Japan. Many Japanese were so excited by ‘this new musical sound’ that several went over to Trinidad to witness this first hand. On their return, they began establishing steelbands and teaching individuals how to play steelpans. Akihiro Ishiguro who visited Trinidad several times, then founded ‘Tokai Trio’ and later a steelband called ‘Pansonide’ in Nagoya in 1999. Ryo Sonobe travelled to Trinidad and had intensive training to become a professional steelpan player. He was the only Japanese at the time who could tune steelpans and did so at his studio. He taught students how to make and play a steelpan at a private high school near Yokohama. Sonobe soon became well known in the area and was invited to tune and make steelpans in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The Sea Gaia ocean resort opened in Miyazaki in 1993 and, Michael Robinson, a Trinidadian, was invited to play there. He started steelpan lessons and founded a steelband there in 1995 and greatly influenced the development of steelbands in Japan. By this time the first steel orchestra ‘Sukiyaki Orchestra’ was established in a remote town in Toyama and they were sufficiently confident to join the Trinidad Carnival in 1997. This event was considered so ground-breaking that it was broadcasted on NHK TV. By the end of the millennium steelbands were becoming so established in Japan that 150 steelpan players from all over the country gathered for a steelband festival in Yokohama in 2002. This event was promoted by Kiyoshi Kawashima, a product manager from the Nonaka Trading Company, which imported steelpans from Trinidad. The company had its own Steel Orchestra and provided the pan yard and instruments. Members were advanced students of the Pan Village Steelpan School, where Yuki Murakami was the director. He was also director of ‘Fantastics’ from Kobe. Interestingly, this band was founded in 2001 to rejuvenate a town in Kobe after the Hanshin and Awaji Earthquake. The leader, Kenji Akashi, with the help of a local authority performed at a steelband concert with an audience of 100. As steelbands continue to grow in Japan and the history of this instrument and its culture are understood, they will revivify some of the tradition as this is a country that does not overlook its roots. Hybrid steelbands can now be seen there in which part of the steelband play on a conventional truck while some members of the band join in playing pan-round-neck. It is clear that this art form is now well established in Japan, and this will serve as a sound base from which steelbands will disseminate to other parts of the Far East.

7). Summary and Conclusions.

The large influx of migrants from the Caribbean to England during the later half of the 20th century brought some of the most talented musicians including calypsonians such as the legendary Lord Kitchener and the Mighty Terror. Because of greater opportunities, cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester were the main recipients. Thus, when steelband music began to take root, it drew on the talent of these musicians along with those who were already domiciled and inadvertently began sowing the seeds of this 20th century wonder which at that time was largely obscure. However, despite the many obstacles and lack of support, persistence of its founder pioneers won through; but not even the most optimistic ever envisioned the spectacle to be unfolded in the years to come, leading to the commencement of London’s Notting Hill carnival. This soon became centre stage for steelbands; drawing in millions to become the world’s largest two-day Caribbean carnival. Nostalgia by virtue of its pan-round-neck mobility, its location in the heart of the Notting Hill carnival route and the versatility of its members has, over the years, acted as a magnet for steelpan players from Europe and around the globe (Figures 1). Groups from Switzerland and Germany in particular have consistently teamed up with Nostalgia to ensure the continued presence of pan-round-neck at the Notting Hill carnival. And while competing against the vast superiority of the big bands on trucks, Nostalgia has managed to place within the first top eight bands for the ‘best playing band on the road’ each year since the inception of this astonishing event. It is a real tribute to its pioneers, Russell Henderson and Sterling Betancourt that after nearly 60 years since their arrival in England, the pan-round-neck tradition has not only survived, but has been taken by its members to many London schools, universities and community centres etc to secure its future while still actively promoting it at major events in the UK and Europe. During the last ten years, the British Association of Steelbands has produced a unique magazine, Pan Podium’. Many of the events in Europe and indeed the world are carefully researched, summarised and vividly told by its editor, Robbie Joseph. It is a tribute to the tireless and diligent work of this editor that many steelband events, including pan-round-neck, are reported and circulated globally.

In 2006, Nostalgia organised the first Steelband conference in Europe and perhaps the first ever globally. It was the only Steelband present at the 2008 conference at York University raising all its own funding to take the band there to perform and present 5 papers on it projects in London schools and the University of East London (Shah, 2009). In keeping with its programme to organise/participate in a university-based conference biannually, the next conference in 2010 will endeavour to foster the globalisation of steelpan while maintaining a keen interest on the pan-round-neck tradition.