Vanya was born, in 1977, with an appreciation of music way beyond her years, with an ear that spanned time and genre. At the age of five she began learning the piano, and soon graduated onto a tenor pan. After joining Eclipse Steel Orchestra in 1989, by the time she was 19 Vanya was arranging all their other songs, and had input in their Panorama music.
As an adult, Vanya was also playing the guitar and violin, and owned all four instruments. She spent quality time composing, often incorporating jazz, soul and Latin music into her pieces; the original, innovative compositions of this pan woman reflected her gifts, and were the outlet for the talent she shared generously with the world. Between 2003 and 2009, Vanya penned three different bands’ Pan Explosion entries, all of which won first or second place in the competition.
A proud lover of steelpan music, she was widely respected as she contributed her talent to many bands, both national and international. Over the years she played in the UK with St Pauls and All Hallows, Eclipse, Mangrove and Ebony Steelbands. She also played in Trinidad with no fewer than eight bands: Laventille Sound Specialists, Petrotrin Phase 2 Pan Groove, PCS Silver Silver Stars, TCL Skiffle Bunch, Crescendos Musical, Tamana Pioneers, San Juan All Stars and BP Renegades.
Vanya was also part of Women of Steel, a collective for female pannists deserving of recognition for their individual talent, and of a platform spotlighting them and their musicality. The inaugural performance was at the Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Olympiad during the London 2012 Olympics, in collaboration with the then Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner Garvin Nicholas.
Vanya was a true pan woman, credited for her versatility and ability to play well and learn almost anything with pure, natural passion and drive. Her gifts were demonstrated throughout her life as a musician, arranger, mentor and friend – and they gave her the pleasure that only pan can give. She loved to inspire and encourage other musicians, often taking the time to discuss their development whilst willingly sharing her own experiences. She later used her considerable mentoring skills to work as a keyworker for young people for Haringey Council – many of whom also ended up playing pan.
Radiant, talented, stylish and affectionate, Vanya was caring and expressive in everything she did, to everyone she encountered. Vanya ‘ Pan Woman’ Reid will be remembered by the pan lovers of this world, who will love her and talk about her long after she has left our presence, because her presence was everything to so many.
The funeral of Vanya Reid will be held on Friday 13 December, when a collective of pannists from different steelbands will play together to represent this woman of pan, and to pay their respects. May she rest in music, love and peace.
ADDITIONAL WORDS | Debra ‘Pan Diva’ Eden, with thanks to Pan Podium (Issue 7, 2003)