Panoramic perspectives

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter

Sunday, June 23, 2013

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IN a culture dominated by hardcore reggae and dancehall rhythms, St Vincent and the Grenadines steel pan players Reajhaun Baptiste and Rodney Small said it took some convincing to win over the local audiences.

Baptiste, 27, and Small, 25, recently completed their four-year bachelor's degree in jazz and popular music performance at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in St Andrew.

"My strategy to win over the Jamaican audience was to first give them their own culture on pan. So I played dancehall and reggae, then mixed it with my own musical style," Small told The Sunday Observer.

Baptiste said the steel pan is oftentimes stereotyped as an instrument associated with Carnival.

"Many people only think, soca and calypso when they hear of pan. So when I play jazz and classical music on pan they come to love it; it's really like any other instrument," he said.

Both pannists have since returned to their homeland. However, while in Jamaica, they managed to be on the bill of some high-profile events.

For Small, it was organising two concerts — Rodney Small and Friends.

"When I saw more than 300 people in a venue come to listen to me play on pan, I realised that part of my mission to take pan to the people was revealing itself. I really cherished the love and acceptance from that event," he said.

Baptiste performed at this year's staging of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival held in Trelawny.

"It was a great feeling, knowing that I was sharing the same stage as artistes likes of Michael Bolton and Mary J Blige," he said.

Both pannists indicate they will be back in Jamaica to renew their love affair with Jamaican culture.

"Now, everything I do is influenced by my time in Jamaica," said Small.




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