Date: 2.22.03


By TASHA MORRIS - Basement Intern


  In a downtown studio, the chatter of women and girls fill the white walls.  The studio is small in comparison to the event that is taking place.  Members of New York City's finest steel pan organizations are here.  Steel pan players are no longer just street gangs.  They are organizations, giving back to their community, teaching others about pan and embracing their culture.

Proof of this is in the steel pan courses available at Brooklyn College and Medgar Evers College.  Casym Steel Orchestra teaches at after school programs in public schools.  The Casym Steel Orchestra are the champions of the 2001 and 2002 Panorama competitions held behind the Brooklyn Museum.  They are more than just a steel band.  They provide after school tutoring, athletic activities, drama, dance and computer classes.

Steel pan players of Utopia Pan Soul:  The Next Generation, are not just focused on competition.  Utopia players emphasize the importance of learning the theory, not only the notes.  They showcase their talents for senior citizens at Thanksgiving dinners, health fairs, and wakes.  The players of Adlib also perform for similar events.  However, being located in Long Island opens them to interesting venues, like bat mitzvahs and weddings.

Even with also this exposure people are unaware of steel pan culture.  Tenor player of Sonatas, Lynaa’a McLean says when it comes to pan people think of the men playing pan in the train station or carnival cruises.  Tenor bass player, Haley Price says people criticize her, calling it a garbage pan.  Utopia members invite people of non-Caribbean backgrounds to learn more about pan.  However, they do warn like with any instrument it takes discipline and responsibility.  Steel pan players practice after work or after school all year long.  The practices can last into the wee hours of the morning especially during competition time.

Basement Recordings director Trevor John, planned the event in hopes of showing the growing amount of faces in steel pan, females.  What was once known as a ‘boys' only club’ has become predominately female.  Women are also taking a front seat position in terms of organizing.  They have become arrangers and composers.

One of those women is Ms. Glenda Gamory of Pantonic Steel Orchestra.  She started the group in 1998 and knew as a child she would be an arranger.  The players of Pantonic feel as though they are apart of one big family and intertwine their personal life with pan.  Ms. Glenda is the glue that holds it together.  Tenor bass player, Athena Arthur says that they practice all year and still hang outside of pan.  Sounds like a close knit bunch of people.

Adlib double second player, Lashera Rebeiro believes boys just want to hang out and girls are more into their culture.  The young ladies of Sonatas agree.  These ladies embrace their culture with pride and believe playing pan is a positive activity.  Tenor bass player of Utopia, Summer Manswell says at one time women were given negative labels if they joined a band.  Michelle Williams of Casym Steel Orchestra finds more females playing steel pan due to the change in times.  Proving women have made a difference in the liberation movement.

As for the future of steel pan, that’s in the hands of the young ladies.  Tenor, Danyelle Edwards wants to mix it up a bit with hip hop.  Could this be the sign of a new arranger? I think it’s safe to assume steel pan is in good hands.


  A PICTORIAL Salute to New York's Women of Steel





©2003 Basement Recordings, Inc.
All rights reserved.

Last modified: March 23, 2003

Ladies [from New York steelbands] in waiting - until their turn in front of the cameras...



Tasha Morris (second from left) looks on as the ladies of the New York Pan world discuss the photoshoot, with Basement's Pan-photogographer


Tasha Morris in grey(right), and fellow Basement Intern, Sabrina Hunter, (left) - have their own turn in front of the camera...