The sound of the steel drum is easily recognizable and no other instrument sounds like it or can evoke such a strong emotional response. When you hear the sound of a steel drum you can quickly imagine the surf lapping up on the beach. In your head you can see the pannist expertly calling upon the instrument to give up its distinctive sound. Most likely that image is of a male steel drum player or pannist as they are often called. That would be a normal response since males are often the ones seen playing a steel drum.
There was a time when there were only male musicians allowed to play the steel drum. It was a male dominated music field and there was little to no opportunity for a girl to play the steel drum. Playing professionally was a total impossibility. Today there are many more opportunities and the trend for women making the steel drum their instrument of choice is more common and growing.
Online there is an extensive amount of information on the women that paved the way for others in the steelpan or steeldrum music industry. One good source is the section on the Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art-Form on the site of When Steel Talks.
The key to getting more women into playing the steeldrum is for there to be opportunities for young women and girls to learn. Luckily there are many new support organizations developing all over the world that are offering not only instruction but the instruments as well. The Internet has made it easier to obtain a quality steel drum and affordable beginner “tools”. There are also instructional videos, books, and tutorial sites that can make it possible for a young girl to develop an interest in a musical instrument that is not as common to be seen played by a woman. It is a unique learning opportunity that can lend to establishing skills that are beneficial in life such as discipline, self-confidence, as well as establishing and working toward goals.
We salute those women that have paved the way for not only other women in the steel drum musical industry but for bringing their beautiful steel drum music into the world.Photo credit: http://www.culturemixarts.co.uk