Last week, one of the taxi drivers arranged for a group of us to visit a "pan yard", the rehearsal venue for a Pan (Steel Drum) Band. The band was the Commancheros.
The "Pan" was first developed in Trinidad and has become the sound synonymous with the Caribbean.
The Commancheros rehearse at the St. Paul Community Center.
About a dozen musicians from the band set up outside on the basketball court so we could get an up-close look at the instruments.
The musicians we were listening to were part of the Junior Commancheros although they were very experienced players. Aging from 14-18 they had all been playing pan for several years. The leader told us that one of his jobs is to identify and recruit students for the band at a young age. Being a part of the band provides more then musical training. The band members study, practice, perform and compete together but they also have lots of fun activities that are planned for them. It is a prestigious thing to play in a pan band! The goal is to become good enough to play with the senior group who also compete and travel to perform.
There are tenor, cello and bass pans.
The bass drum.
A drummer to set the rhythm and a set of conga drums.
More bass drums.
Half the time the bass drummer is playing behind their back as they have 6 drums to play.
Here you can see how the pan has been hammered or tuned into sections that create different notes.
On a piano, one person can play a chord (3 notes) by themselves. A pan drummer can only play 2 notes, one with each hand, therefore it takes 2 drummers playing together to create a chord.
This musician is beating out a rhythm on an automobile brake drum!
Inside the community center is where they study new music and practice.
A practice pan with the musical notes written in chalk.
A wall of pans in the practice room.
There was barbecue chicken and salad for dinner and a complimentary rum punch.
There was also a pot of "mannish water", a goat or sheep soup that is believed to be an aphrodisiac and is made from various parts, sometimes including the head, brains, heart and testicles and various vegetables and dumplings. Lucky Jim got the goat testicle!
It was a wonderful evening of pan music spent with a talented group of kids.
They didn't even laugh at us as we danced along.
At least not to our faces!