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The 3rd Biennial Steelpan Conference

'Integrating the Three Elements of Carnival; Steelpan, Calypso and Mas'


Carnival festivals in the Caribbean have had a chequered history. However, in islands such as Trinidad, it is generally acknowledged that the arrival of the steelband in the late 1940s had a dramatic impact on carnival, elevating its status, grandeur and international recognition. Steelbands provided the momentum to underpin the spectacular artistry of the masquerade bands. In turn, steelbands drew heavily upon the inspiration of the calypsonians to the point that symbiotic relationships developed among specific groups. And, in the climax (Panorama) that ushers in carnival, it is mandatory for steelbands to compete against each other with vivid renditions of calypsos; the most popular calypso played on the road, earning the calypsonian the coveted prize of the 'Road March'. For the calypsonian, this is a stupendous award as it represents acknowledgement of their virtuoso to compose such harmonious and exigent melodies that challenge the rich, rhythmic and intricate arrangements of the steelband as demonstrated so elegantly in the numerous interpretations of Lord Kitchener's Pan in 'A' Minor'.

When carnival arrived in major cities such as London, (Notting Hill carnival), Toronto (Caribana) or New York (Labour Day), it was initially driven by steelbands which stunned onlookers as these unique instruments were witnessed for the first time on streets outside the Caribbean. However, in marked contrast to the Caribbean, it is not obligatory to select a calypso for major competitions and, calypsos when played, are mostly for nostalgia. Thus, unlike the Caribbean in which there is coherence between these three elements of carnival, viz. the masquerade band, steelband and calypso, in general the development of these art forms outside the Caribbean has mostly been independent of each other. A major objective of this conference is therefore to attempt to integrate these three elements of carnival into a coherent programme that will explore the merits of this interaction and whether such a model can work outside the Caribbean.

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Some key presentations and performances:

Plenary Lecturer: Ray Funk; “Documenting the Calypso Art Form and Carnival”

Other speakers include:

Christopher Innes, Haroun Shah, Alexander D Great, Pepe Francis, Jacqueline Roberts, Ruth Tompsett, Nestor Sullivan, Keith Khan, Celia Burgess-Macey, Antony Joseph, Frank Rollock, Victoria Jaquiss, Dianna Hancox, Rachel Hayward, Soren Maloney, Nigel Williams, Debra Romain, Paul Anderson, Colin Spalding, Noel Nanton, Ursula Troche, Chris Hocking

Review of the conference by Louise Shah can be found here

Click to download the full conference book 

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