Afropan: 50 years on the road

Earl La’Pierre

Afropan, the Toronto steelband popularly known as the “people’s band,” will celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer.

Earl La Pierre, the Cayman Islands-based leader of the band and well known music teacher and arranger, said a committee has been formed to make plans for the celebration.

“We have invited specially selected individuals to join the committee and have received an enthusiastic response from many of them,” he said.

“And we are approaching all levels of government to recognize the cultural significance of Afropan,” he added.

As in former years, fans of Afroplan can catch its entrancing music on “de boulevard” (Lakeshore Boulevard West) at the grand parade of the Caribbean carnival on August 5.

Afropan which was formed in 1973, has played every year since then at the grand parade.

In a recent interview, La Pierre said the 50th anniversary of Afropan will not be “just another milestone in the life of the band.

“It will be a true miracle.”

“This self-sufficient band has weathered every storm, having remained standing and playing for 50 years, having carried the support of its strong leadership, musicianship, membership and

Afropan First Blocko 1977
Afropan Blocko 2019
Earl La’Pierre

partnership in Toronto,” he told The Caribbean Camera.

La Pierre noted that in its “early days” the band received tremendous support from the Harriet Tubman Centre and its founder and director, Kenneth Jeffers.”

Before its first album was launched, the band was known as “The Average Steel Band.”

“Most of the members of the band had Afro hairstyles and its name  was changed to Afropan,” La Pierre Sr. explained.

He said Afropan “captured the ‘Best Beating Trophy’ in its first four years and went to win several awards at various competitions.

Several of his sons are well known pannists.

Governor Martyn Roper and Earl La Pierre

When Afropan celebrated its 40th Anniversary, recognized by the City Of Toronto, it was allocated an official landmark named for its panyard which is known today as ‘AFROPARK’. 

The park is located at the southern end of Jefferson Ave. off of King St., just east of Dufferin St., bordering the Allan A. Lamport Stadium.