I’ve always been a music enthusiast. I grew up with music around me. My home was practically seconds away from a panyard, Panosonic Connection Steel band Orchestra’s panyard. I remember staying up late at night listening to them practice for Carnival’s music festival Panorama. My older brother played for the orchestra and I suppose it is because of him that I fell in love with the tenor pan. When he was asleep, I stole his sticks and tried to play the song he was practicing earlier. I didn’t care how much noise I made or how many times he swore he was going to kill me. I couldn’t resist.
I was twelve when I began running away to the panyard, and giving the rehearsal director hell. I wasn’t aware that there was a difference between beating and playing the pan or any other percussive instrument. The rehearsal director started me off on the Gurndig or better yet the Double Guitar. The Gurndig is like the rhythm guitar in a rock band. He told me if I learned how to play the Gurndig well, then I could move onto my desired pan, which was the shiny chrome tenor. The soprano, the lead pan in the orchestra. I did eventually get my wish, but I wasn’t good enough.
I was never a crackshot: someone who could hear the music once and know it for life, and I wasn’t fast enough. My left hand was tragically undeveloped for the task of playing at the unimaginable speed of even a seasoned panist, who wasn’t a crackshot. Maybe if I had started playing at the age of seven… But nevertheless, I am grateful for being able to have participated in this amazing tradition.
I remember my parents being concerned about my time at the panyard. They believed it wasn’t a place for a young lady, since it was still considered a space where unsavory characters hung out, and it was predominantly male. They eventually realized I wasn’t letting go of the idea. It wasn’t a phase like the time I picked up a tennis racket and wanted to be a tennis champion. No, the dreams that occupied my mind at twelve and still today is to be in a steel band orchestra. I wanted to be like Pat Bishop, the first and quite possibly the only woman steel band orchestra conductor.
Since my passion for the pan never died after the age of seven, and knowning that I was going to keep on running away to Panosonic’s panyard, my dad decided to become the orchestra’s manager.
As I got older, I began listening to a lot of American music. I depended solely on Casey Kasem’s top 40 every Sunday evening and the Grammy Awards. In fact, I bet a kid in my class that one day I was going to win a Grammy. Ha, I might owe that kid some money some day. Casey Kasem’s top 40 and the Grammys were my educators on American music because they were what was available to me at the time. I listened mostly to bands that I wouldn’t dream about mentioning in a particular circle of friends. At one point in my education, I was obsessed about, sang, and at times there was lipsyncing to Reo Speedwagon’s power ballads. My saving grace is that, I was a total R.E.M-head.
I was also into R&B, and there’s a tape of me, somewhere out there, singing with my cousin’s acapella group, Simply Smooth, for a talent competition. I was the only girl. That was fun, singing Boyz II Men’s, “I’ll Make Love to You,” on television. Ha!
So yeah, music has been around since I could talk and wanted to sing and dance like Michael Jackson.
Amongst ourselves, my siblings and I did our own talent competitions in our living room. Our parents were both the audience and the judges. Of course they loved it. We loved it too.
So it was really different when I went off to college. In the states, I was exposed to so many different types of music, so many sub-genres, and then even more…I realized how much Casey’s top 40 and the Grammys suck.
I was so inspired that I began to play different instruments: acoustic guitar, the congas, and the drumkit. Searching, I played non-stop, on a make-shift drumkit that I named Mary, in the basement of the house I lived in. I think I even played out in our backyard one night. Because, of course we had a party, several actually.
I met so many different peoples, that I decided to create a zine dedicated to the artists in the community I lived in. The zine was called CUT and it’s philosophy was:
CUT – the zine for artists and the community– is dedicated to building and striving towards the achievement of dreams. Dreams that dismantle the separation of the artist from the community. Dreams that challenges the division between the personal from the politicial and vice versa. CUT is dedicated to creating such a community by informing the public of the artists in their neighborhoods and , in so doing, demystifying the belief created by mass media that there are only 40 artists in the county and /or the world. CUT is dedicated and committed to being the forum for all creative works of all genres– film, music, visual arts, performance art, spoken word, poetry, fiction, essays etc…–constantly seeking out these works in traditional and non traditional avenues. For many, broken pieces of glass are perceived as treacherous trash, but for others, these pieces glitter in the mind’s eye as treasures for the next masterpiece.
Hahaha! I remember staying up late one night with my lover at the time discussing the importance of having artists, grassroot artists, in the community. It was a great idea, up until we had to do all the work of covering all the events and interviews by ourselves while taking on a full load of course work at school. In the end, CUT was cut. But it was fun meeting all those different artists we DID interview and seeing their shows.
This section is sort of my present day CUT, but a little less ambitious. I hope to write about music I find interesting and I like and share with others.