UN declares August 11 World Steelpan Day

August 11 has been officially designated World Steelpan Day.

At the United Nations, New York, from left, Director of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra, Kareem Browne; Steelpan Arranger, Dr Ray Holman; Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations, Dennis Francis; Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Randall Mitchell and President of Pan Trinbago, Beverly Ramsey-Moore

The United Nations made the declaration on Monday at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Introducing the resolution for the declaration of World Steelpan Day before the General Assembly, Randall Mitchell, Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, said the steelpan represents much more than musical versatility to the people of Trinidad and Tobago where it was born.

“It is emblematic of artistic excellence, community empowerment, endurance, self-determination, community, culture, heritage and identity and not least of all national pride,” he said, noting that the instrument was replicated and adopted throughout the Caribbean.

Mitchell said the instrument has gained prominence in more than 40 states in every corner of the globe.

“Some universities in Europe, Canada and the United States have academic programmes dedicated solely to steelpan music. In the province of Ontario, Canada, the steelpan has long been used as a teaching aide in the country’s multiculturalism programme which supports the integration of Caribbean and other immigrant youth into the Canadian school system and into the wider community, helping to build tolerance and understanding among and between communities,” he noted.

“The Steelpan allows for considerable tonal versatility and is used equally effectively to play local cultural compositions of soca, calypso, rapso, reggae and jazz as well as more complex compositions such as classical music in the genre of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and others. Such renditions have brought adoring audiences to their feet as much in the local Steelpan yards or “Panyards” as they are called in Trinidad and Tobago, as at some of the most prestigious concert halls the world over, including at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Royal Albert Hall, the Kennedy Centre and others,” he added.

Stating that in 2019, Port of Spain, the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago, was designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Music for its creativity through the Steelpan as a strategic component for sustainable urban development, Mitchell said in this context, it is irrefutable that the Steelpan meaningfully contributes towards the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.

 “I wish to underscore that the steelpan has the potential to create an enabling and sustainable environment through rural and small communities through income generation for small businesses involved in this industry thereby impacting its overall socio-economic development,” he added.

The draft resolution received co-sponsorship from 84 member states of the General Assembly.

Earl La Pierre Sr., leader of Afropan, the Toronto steelband which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer, said he is glad to learn that World Steelpan Day will be annually observed by the United Nations.