Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

 

Tribute To Women In Pan

 

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Meet Ivor Shatal Francis - St. Lucia

“Playing steelpan promotes positive self-expression, and it also has the potential to build self-confidence as players tend to see their skills improve as time goes by.” 

She has been very passionate about her involvement in Pan at every stage. As the first female captain  in her country of a champion steel orchestra she has been afforded a unique vantage point of the art form in St. Lucia. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - panist Shatal Francis shares her outlooks, success, experiences, and insight into the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Ivor Shatal Francis?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “Ivor Shatal Francis is a 29-year-old native of the beautiful island of St. Lucia who is extremely passionate about life. I currently work as a Civil Engineering Technician, but my true essence is displayed when I stand behind that double seconds pan (sometimes quadrophonics) and entertain the crowds. I am a very outgoing, free-spirited and fun-loving individual. I’ve been playing steel pan for fifteen years. In the panyard, I am very helpful and supportive and my players like to call me Aunty Ivy.”


WST - “How and when did you first become involved with Pan?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “I became involved with pan in 2002 when my childhood best friend, Roma Augustin, invited me to join the Pan Group Classes which were held every Sunday afternoon at the Grande Riviere Infant School. Having a passion for music, I was excited about the opportunity and asked my parents if it was okay to attend the classes. Since it was not too far from home, they agreed.

“At my first class the tutor Ms. Anifa Cadette, who was a member of the Diamond Steel Orchestra at the time, saw it fit to place me on the double seconds, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

“In 2003 when I entered third form at the Corinth Secondary School, my Food and Nutrition teacher was Philipa Pam Philigence (Aunty Pam), the late wife of the manager of Pantime Steel Orchestra. She was seeking interested persons to learn to play pan with Pantime. I was very interested to join the band but had to seek permission yet again. My mother was very hesitant at first because Pantime was further away from where we lived but she was persuaded when she found out that Aunty Pam was actually a member of our family. In October of that same year I started my journey with Pantime Steel Orchestra and despite the ups and downs, it has been very fulfilling till this day.”


WST - “Over the years you have become one of the more recognized members synonymous with St. Lucia Pan - as one of champion band Pantime Steel Orchestra’s most experienced musicians - tell us about being a woman player in Pantime Steel Orchestra.”

Ivor Shatal F. - “I was Captain of Pantime Steel Orchestra from 2011-2013. I felt very honoured for these three years. Being the first female captain of Pantime Steel Orchestra and the first band captain to gain the championship title was a very fulfilling experience. I had difficult moments such as preparing for Panorama and getting players to be disciplined, specifically the male players. As a female player in this industry, they felt I was not dominant enough to be a leader. These experiences, however, helped me to develop my leadership style and to have a positive impact on the band.”


Ivor Shatal FrancisIvor Shatal Francis

WST - “Given that you’ve been a steelband musician for many years, what is most notably different in your opinion - from when you were a younger player, to now as an adult?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “Throughout my years playing pan I’ve noticed a lot of improvements in players including myself. I have seen many people become more skillful and musically inclined.

“On the other hand, I find that in this generation, a lot of young persons are not interested in playing pan. The youth is more fixated in technology now than when I was young. This saddens me as I believe that the steelpan art form has a positive impact on young persons - myself being a prime example. Playing steelpan promotes positive self-expression and it also has the potential to build self-confidence as players tend to see their skills improve as time goes by.”


WST - “Being female, were you ever cautioned or perhaps even dissuaded in any way, from becoming involved in the steelband art form?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “When I started playing pan my parents were very cautious about the hours of practice because during Panorama season we would practice until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, but throughout the years they got comfortable with it. On the other hand, my sheer passion for steelpan ensured that I never felt dissuaded from being involved in steelpan.”


WST - “What do friends, extended family think of your involvement with the steelband art form?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “While my family is very supportive of my passion for my pan, some of my friends think I allow it to take up too much of my time. Since they are not involved in pan, they are unable to understand why I choose to spend the majority of my time outside of work, being involved in pan activities. I’m sure they’ll come around eventually because pan isn’t going anywhere for me.”


WST - “You’ve also performed in Trinidad & Tobago with a few steel orchestras - talk about these experiences in general?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “I’ve played with a few: Sforzata, Melodians, All Aces in the Medium and Single Pan categories. I was thrilled to be competing with these bands and to be on the big stage. I experienced a rush when I first went to play and saw so many bands and players enjoying the sweet sound of pan.”


WST - “In your opinion, what are some of the similarities, and differences, in preparing for a national Panorama competition in St. Lucia, and one in Trinidad & Tobago? And what about the specific competitions themselves?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “In my opinion there is not much of a difference in preparing for a national Panorama in St. Lucia compared to Trinidad and Tobago. We all go through the same preparations for Panorama, like finding sponsorship for the band, drilling the music, sleepless nights, tuning pans, etc. Some of the differences between St. Lucia national Panorama and Trinidad and Tobago are the number of categories and procedures for participants in the National Panorama, and what classifies as large or small bands in terms of the number of players permitted to perform in a band.”


WST - “What are those eight/ten minutes like on stage for you, performing in Panorama - how do you feel?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “Panorama night I feel so many emotions: nervousness, excitement, relaxed. Jamming to the music and feeling the vibes from the other players also give me a high.”


WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “Panorama to me is where I get to express myself through music by feeling the harmonies run through my soul, by dancing and jamming with my players. It’s a time for arrangers to showcase their talent; a time of togetherness with pan lovers from all over.”


WST - “Besides Trinidad & Tobago, have you traveled elsewhere with Pantime Steel Orchestra to perform; if so, what has it been like?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “I’ve played in Martinique many times with my band. We also performed in a competition in Barbados called Pan in De Oval and in Cayenne Saint Laurent in 2009. The experiences were enriching because I probably would not have traveled to these places had it not been for my involvement in pan. I’ve experienced completely foreign cultures and met people from all different walks of life and this makes me a more well-rounded person.”


WST - “Have you ever had challenges in illustrating/explaining the actual concept of the steel orchestra, and/or your own role in it - to friends, people in general, outside of the Caribbean?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “I have this difficultly all the time, especially when I perform at the hotels; the guests are amazed by the sound of the instrument and question how and why they sound the way that they do. Colleagues also question my position and what draws me to pan. It is sometimes difficult for them to understand, as I say to them “You have to experience what pan is to truly understand.””


WST - “What keeps your passion for the instrument and art form going?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “What keeps my passion going for pan is the passion I have for music, and the family that I have in Pantime Steel Orchestra. The junior, senior and foreign members of my band mean so much to me.”


Ivor Shatal Francis
Ivor Shatal Francis

WST - “Do you think the steelband community and its musicians are well-regarded/respected in St. Lucia?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “No, I do not think the steelband community is respected in St. Lucia. Saint Lucians seem not to have much regard for steelpan. Steel Pan is a musical instrument just like the piano or saxophone which have astonishing sounds and history. It is of the Caribbean and is one of the youngest instruments in the world. Playing pan takes rhythmic awareness, muscle memory and excellent melodic and harmonic sense - particularly when it comes to improvising. Our musicians are often every bit as trained and talented as any other.”


WST - “If you had the power to change something in Pan immediately what would that be?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “If I had that power, I would change the way in which Saint Lucians see pan. I would like persons to have more respect for panists and acknowledge steelpan men and women as musicians.”


WST - “What have you been most proud about as it relates to Pan?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “I have been most proud of my band Pantime for the efforts to continue to keep the pan culture alive, by hosting pan classes which will develop young people through music, and conducting a pan tour during the cruise ship season (illustrating how pan is made and tuned, and the history of pan). Also being the first female band captain, and captain to gain the championship title for my band.”


WST - “What disappoints you the most in the steelpan movement?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “What disappoints me is the number of bands appearing in the Panorama. I can recall that over the years the number of bands appearing in Panorama was increasing, leading the St. Lucia National Steelbands Association to have two categories for Panorama; small and large bands. However, the new format couldn’t be sustained with the recent decrease in numbers.”


WST - “Who, and what are your musical influences generally?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “I love a wide genre of music including soca, reggae, classical, R&B - but one of my biggest musical influences is my uncle, Werner ‘Semi’ Francis, who is one of St. Lucia’s recording artists. When I was younger, I always admired his voice and the dedication and effort he put into developing his music.”


Ivor Shatal Francis
Ivor Shatal Francis

WST - “Who is your favorite arranger and why? And what is your favorite Panorama arrangement?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “My favourite arranger is Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. I like his style of arrangement. I have so many arrangements I love that it is hard to choose one.

“I love ‘Trini Gone Wild’ - performed by Phase II Pan Groove and arranged by Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. ‘Bees Melody’ performed by Renegades Steel Orchestra and arranged by Jit Samaroo, and I must include ‘Aunty Pam’ performed by Pantime Steel Orchestra and arranged by Amrit Samaroo. We played ‘Aunty Pam’ for our appearance in the International Conference and Panorama (ICP) in Trinidad in 2015.”


WST - “Overall, is it (Panorama) a curse or blessing from your perspective?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “Panorama is a blessing! Panorama season is actually my favorite part of the year. I feel a joy in my heart when I’m with my band and get to vibe with the players, and also look forward to meeting my foreign friends again.”


WST - “What would be your advice to young female players all over the world who are dreaming of following in footsteps such as yours?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “My advice to young persons is to keep focused on whatever it is you would like to accomplish, whether it be arranging, performing or improvising. Practice! Rome was not built in a day and neither will your talent be. Music does not come without hard work, so make sure you give your all.”


WST - “What is your vision for the steelpan instrument?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “My vision for steel pan in St. Lucia is to create a concert hall in a convenient location so Panorama can be held, and other activities hosted for pan; for instance a Pan Festival.”


WST - “Are there any other steelband-related matters you would like to bring forward?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “I don’t have any other related matters but what I would like to add is that I would like that Pan Trinbago organize another ICP (International Conference of Pan) in the future. It was a breath-taking experience and I believe panists from all over the world will appreciate.”


WST - “What is next for Ms. Ivor Shatal Francis?”

Ivor Shatal F. - “My plans are to further my studies in music so I can be an arranger for Pantime, and to be a professional certified Quantity Surveyor.”


photos provided by Ivor Shatal Francis




 
   Ivor Shatal Francis performs with Pantime Steel Orchestra at the International Conference and Panorama - Trinidad and Tobago, 2015




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