PAN DOES IT by TalkUpYout

Talk Up Radio Senior Reporter and Producer Kristeena Monteith reported on Panfest 2015: Pan Does...

"I was not a fan of steel pan. Sure, it sounded great in songs like Nicki Minaj’s “Pound the Alarm”, and, as a Caribbean person I appreciated it’s place in history. Pythagoras, a Greek mathematician (aka the triangle guy from 3rd form maths) calculated a very fancy, very complex musical cycle of “fourths and fifths” and apparently, the steel pan is the only musical instrument to follow this configuration exactly. It is one of the few musical instruments developed in the 20th century but I wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a steel pan fan. Also, despite the fact that Panoridim, the steel pan band whose show I was going to see was the first steel band founded in Jamaica, having been formed in the 70’s, I was not familiar with this band.

Pan Does 2015 changed all of that. Firstly, the orchestra, Panoridim and the team at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts deserve a round of applause for breaking the cycle of events running on “Jamaican time”. Pan Does began promptly at 4 pm as scheduled.

And what a show it was. The pieces were exquisitely arranged, performed with deft precision and infused with the youthful exuberance of the orchestra members. Their energy was infectious. Every single person in the audience was dancing in his or her seat by the second item. The lineup flowed quite fluidly from the biggest pop tunes of last year to the reggae tunes we all know and love. And then, from beautiful classical music pieces including one composed by a member of the band to the home of steel pan, exciting soca. Trust me, everything sounds good in steel pan but wait for that soca section because steel pan was made for soca and the band paid homage to the Trinidadian roots of steel pan and soca. Even if you’re not a soca junkie when that steel pan hits you, you will feel the vibe to palance.

I really can’t get over the orchestra members. They were brilliant and made the music come alive. I could tell that they were enjoying themselves and that they put much time and effort into their orchestra. They had costume changes, props and a number of surprise moments which found them moving on stage much to the delight of the audience.

I loved every single item on the lineup but steel pan Moonlight Sonata was my favourite. Played under soft blue light, it was breathtakingly beautiful. The medium of steel pan added texture and colour to it and made it sound as if it was my Caribbean lullaby instead of belonging to some Bavarian princess or a Tzarina in a Slavic monarchy. Beethoven would be proud.

“Kotch” was another crowd pleaser. It was performed with spectacular light play. Flashing from no lights to harsh red lights in some places and creating the perfect silhouette of the band it was visually and auditorily pleasing.There was something for everyone. Fans of alternative music, dancehall, modern reggae versus traditional reggae, what have you would all find something to love. It was all there, and all perfect.
I spoke briefly with a few members of the audience before and after the show and they were all pleased with the quality of the music. Some had known nothing about steel pan and came to see what the fuss was all about and some people had been following both steel pan and Panoridim for decades and were loyal supporters but all could agree that the show was amazing. One lady I spoke to, whose daughter Susan is a member of the orchestra, was especially fond of the band converting contemporary music into steel pan and thought it was an effective way to reach young people who have not been exposed to live music. I wholeheartedly agree.

We are the children of the digital age. Our music occupies virtually no space on our mobile phones and it comes to us through little speakers jammed into our ears but trust me, you have never really heard music until you’ve heard any form of life music. To be in the presence of musical instruments and musicians and to see, feel, and hear music being born is something too extraordinary to be summed up in words. Panoridim’s take on steel pan has made a fan of me so go to UWI and watch either their 4 or 7 pm show this Sunday April 24th and let them do the same for you. But if you can’t, remember the Caribbean has been truly blessed with music. Just stand on a beach or on a mountain and listen to the sand, the sea and the wind orchestra."