Ontario Steelpan Association celebrates pan excellence

By Lincoln DePradine

The Ontario Steelpan Association (OSA) has been around for two decades. But, last Friday’s “Appreciation and Awards Night’’ was a first for the organization and an innovative move welcomed by Ian Jones, a founding-member and former president of OSA.

From left: Tommy Crichlow (Pan Masters), Terrence Wilson (OSA),
Wendy Jones (Pan Fantasy), Leslie Williams (Afropan)

“I think it’s an excellent idea. I’m really happy to see that OSA, in a way, has taken the organization out of park and moved it to drive,’’ Jones told The Caribbean Camera.

OSA was incorporated in 2002 and formally launched in the spring of 2003. Its mission is “to promote excellence in all facets of steelpan in Canada, by providing open, accountable leadership in all matters related to the recognition, growth and development of the steelpan and the steelpan community, and to do so with absolute respect and trust’’.

The “Appreciation and Awards Night’’ was held at the Scarborough headquarters of Tropicana Community Services, with the recognition of three pannists who are all steelband members and also soloists.

The three “Pan Ambassador’’ awardees were Rudo Forteau of Pan Master, and Thadel Wilson and Carlis Majid Afram – both play with New Dimension Steel Orchestra.

OSA, in setting up the criteria for the “Pan Ambassador’’ award, said the pannist must be a soloist performing for more than five years, and who are “presenting the pan in a very positive and respectful way’’, OSA president Terrence Wilson said in an interview.

“The process of selecting these winners was by way of votes from the steelbands. It was all a voting process and it so happened, the votes came in and there was a three-way tie. So, we decided to give all three of them awards.’’

The aim of the event, Wilson explained, was to signal to the “steelband community, especially the players, that we appreciate them; we appreciate what they do’’.

Jones was joined at the event by other founding OSA members such as its first chairman Arthur Soman and veteran pannist, arranger and tuner, Tommy Crichlow.

“I hope that they can maintain this innovative event, and probably use it as our celebration of the World Steelpan Day on the 11th of August,’’ said Jones.

He also suggested the future transformation of the event into “more of a show of the steelband talent in OSA and around OSA’’.

Wilson said OSA was grateful for the support and collaborative assistance of its board members, from individuals such as bass pannist Wendy Jones, and from the Organization of Calypso Performing Artistes and its president Henry “Cosmos’’ Gomez.

According to Wilson, he was “very satisfied’’ with Friday’s event, and described the “Appreciation and Awards Night’’ as only a “beginning’’ for OSA.

“This is going to be an annual event,’’ he promised. “We’re going to do a lot of things in the future, including acknowledging people who are around the bands supporting and helping, pan tuners and arrangers.’’

Gomez, who was MC for the night, commended the steelbands, saying it’s “good to see that bands can come together in a spirit of cooperation’’.

He also praised Wilson not just for his leadership of OSA but also for the “humility, dedication and financial skills’’ that he brings, as a director, to the Festival Management Committee, the Toronto Carnival organizers.

Wilson’s input has made a “huge difference in the festival’’, said Gomez. “He stepped up in a big way and helped to save the festival this year.’’

During the night, OSA also presented trophies to representatives of the steelbands that finished in the top three at the 2023 Toronto panorama competition, “Pan Alive’’.

Afro Pan, Toronto’s oldest steelband, was third this year; Pan Masters was second; and the winner was Pan Fantasy, which triumphed with an Al “Allos” Foster arrangement of the Olatunji composition, “Engine Room’’.