By Michael Lashley
If music be the food of love, then steelpan music is the next best thing to dhalpourie roti with curried mango on the side.
Once again, I was blown away by musical and artistic excellence, this time at the steelpan concert Snowflakes on Steel produced by the Pan Arts Network last Saturday at P.C. Ho Theatre / Chinese Cultural Centre in Scarborough.
So I am justified in claiming that my own celebration of Black History Month started off with a bang! I make no apologies for my strong bias: I have a weakness for sweetness. Tons of sweetness is to be found in music, dance, drama, art, photography, poetry, literary prose, etcetera, etcetera and so forth. And there are many other artforms that I have not yet mentioned: stage design, stage lighting and applied graphic arts.
All of that to say that I am immensely proud of the artistic and cultural production of Black people the world over, throughout the course of history. So let me make the links that explain why this year’s edition of Snowflakes on Steel is so special for me in the context of Black History Month during February.
The first of those links is that this year’s concert is the 18th-annual production of Snowflakes, an excellent example of perseverance and consistency, in a labour of love. It is fitting that we usher in Black History Month with irrefutable proof that we are capable of persistence in our work. We believe in our culturally based work and show persistence and tenacity, as key stakeholders in this endeavour.
This same perseverance is further enhanced by the fact that it is being maintained in the ideal spirit of cooperation. The Pan Arts Network and its three annual productions of which Snowflakes is only one are the joint enterprise of four steelpan orchestras: Afropan, Pan Fantasy, Panatics and Gemini Pan Groove. There is no unhealthy fighting among the four partners, just a friendly rivalry on the journey to excellence.
The key word there is excellence and the audience clamoured and applauded the excellence in musical arrangements and rendition by pannists who obviously enjoyed their performance just as much as their audience did.
Excellence is a powerful motivating factor. One of the prime objectives of Black History month is to remind us and our fellow Canadians of varied ancestral backgrounds that Black people have displayed and continue to display excellence in any and every field, including music and entertainment.
Returning to those twin areas, music and entertainment, I will now move on to my lagniappe, three of my special commendations for this year’s edition of Snowflakes. I can go to my house right now fully satisfied that my celebration of Black History Month is already in high gear.
In that high gear of my Black History Month, I must begin by publicly applauding the years of top quality music produced by one of the highly talented participants in this edition of Snowflakes, Mark Mosca, pannist extraordinaire, musical arranger and musical director, on whom I now bestow the title of “Maestro”. On behalf of your distinguished colleagues Salah of Salah’s Steelpan Academy (Montreal), Earl La Pierre of Aforpan and Al Foster of Pan Fantasy, I salute you!
Next, I shower praises on the percussion group Beyond Sound for the richest blend of drumming and choreography I have ever seen. Their artistic director and his / her team are destined to scale new heights of creativity.
Now for the tour de force. Many of us are aware that Thando Hyman-Aman, accomplished educator and educational administrator, is also a very competent singer. But when she belted out her version of Bridge Over Troubled Water, accompanied by pan music, I could hear Simon and Garfunkel screaming with me.
We were all in High Heaven!