Andrew Coakley – Bahamas Information Services
The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is seeking to revive the culture of steel-panning in The Bahamas by hopefully reintroducing the creative art into the educational system. Under the auspices of the Bahamas Ministry of Culture, with the tutelage of Nevin Roach, of Barbados, music teachers throughout Grand Bahama were given a basic, yet in-depth, crash course on steel-panning. The one-day workshop was held on Friday, September 30, 2022 in the auditorium of Bishop Michael Eldon High, the school notorious in Grand Bahama for its Steel Pan ensembles and experience.
“It is my intent to take them (music teachers) through every aspect of steel-panning, from the history of the instrument, to learning tunes, to setting up the pan, to creating melodies,” Roach explained just before the start of the workshop. Organized by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the workshop was designed to revitalize the instrument of the Steel Pan back into the schools on Grand Bahama. Anya Bowe, Administrative Associate within the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, noted that traditionally, when one heard of steel-panning, one immediately thought about the Caribbean.
“We wanted to breathe a little life back into the development of this art form,” said Ms. Bowe. “Some people may think that it’s an art form that has died down, but we wanted to ensure that we can revive this and take it to the Bahamian children and show them how much fun there is in playing the instrument and what melodies can be created from the Steel Pan.
“Don’t forget, the Steel Pan is an instrument that was created in the Caribbean, so we want to cultivate that culture.” Nevin Roach, CEO and Founder of “Pan-O-Grama”, has been in The Bahamas for a few days taking his crash course on steel-panning to several schools, including schools in Lyford Cay and the University of the Bahamas in Nassau. “It’s very difficult to explain what music does to me, but it’s a way to express yourself, be free and it’s a way to communicate and exchange culture. There is so much that comes along with playing the steel pan,” explained Roach.
Monique Leary, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Cultural Affairs Officer said the response from the teachers to participate in the workshop was one of excitement. However, she admitted that at one point she was afraid that the workshop would have had to be postponed because of the threat of Hurricane Ian. But with the all clear, she’s happy that the workshop was able to happen.
Ms. Leary said it was important to host the workshop because it could help bring back some Caribbean roots. She admitted that although not as popular as it has become in Trinidad and a few other Caribbean islands, the Steel Pan was once used intrinsically in the Bahamas’ cultural displays.
“Back in the day, there were Steel Pan bands as a part of Junkanoo groups and they would come out and give their solos and people enjoyed that,” explained Ms. Leary. “But it slowly died because a lot of schools never had it incorporated into their curriculum. So, this is an opportunity for all of our teachers here on Grand Bahama to explore, to help evolve into this and bring it back in some way.
Ms. Leary said she’s hoping to be able to have steel panning introduced into all of the schools’ curricula in Grand Bahama. However, she noted that the challenge to having that happen would be getting the Steel Pans into Grand Bahama and keeping them tuned, for which someone would have to be designated.