Steel Pan Fusion, organised by Wade Austin, spent the summer touring the UK introducing pan music to new audiences. They were in Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds and London. In each city they included a pan artiste from the region collaborating with the band, including Kyron Akal, Dudley Nesbitt and Jenny Gilberg. In some places, improv workshops were delivered to local youth steelbands, which then were incorporated into Steel Pan Fusion’s opening act.
It has been a delight to watch this project develop. The album for this tour, Melting Pot, is available on Apple Music and these original pieces of music are simply divine. After thanking Wade Austin for pushing this project forward, I asked him the following questions to gain some interesting insights.
What is Steel Pan Fusion and when did it start?
Steel Pan Fusion was set up to support and promote UK-based steelpan soloists, giving them a platform to showcase their talent and to show the versatility of the instrument outside of a conventional steelband. I felt there was always a lot of focus on international steelpan artistes and wanted to change this. It began in 2013, having monthly events at Charlie Wright’s (Old Street, Shoreditch). Each month we invited different steelpan soloist to come and perform with us.
How was the tour this year in these cities and what were the best parts?
The tour was better than we could have hoped for, we have had a fantastic response; the feedback has been amazing. Best part is seeing how diverse the audiences have been, proving that we can reach people outside of the steelpan community and also that the steelpan can lead the band. The band wrote all the music on the album and seeing people up dancing and enjoying it is a great feeling.
What led to you become a steelpan musician and what else do you do related to steelpan?
Being from Trinidad I grew up playing pan. I started at a young age in my family’s band, Fonclaire, with my uncle, Milton Wire Austin. The panyard was right next to our house so that’s where I spent all my time.
I have my company, Steel Pan In Motion, that involves, teaching in schools, private lessons in my community and delivering steelpan workshops. I also play at various events and am a recording artiste and band leader of Steel Pan Fusion.
What are your future plans for Steel Pan Fusion?
We have a few more projects lined up and will be back in the studio at the start of the New Year, writing some new material and hopefully getting more steelpan soloists involved. This is just the start!