Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 23rd 2017 Contents B2 life
guardian.co.tt Thursday, February 23, 2017
Carnival lovers give it their
all, whether designing a cos-
tume, preparing a calypso for
the big yard or fine-tuning an
arrangement for the Panorama
finals. It's especially so for Ak-
iela Hope, an editorial coordina-
tor and writer at Guardian Media
Ltd, whose love for the steelpan
shines brighter each Carnival.
One of the front liners in Phase
II Pan Groove for the past 14 years,
this creative mother of one is also a
seasoned actress with a Masters De-
gree in Mass Communication from
the University of Leicester.
She plays the double tenor, an in-
strument many fear because of the
intricate placement of the notes.
Hope, however, has mastered that
particular pan with an ease and flu-
idity in her wrists that most people
The band is gearing up for their
performance in the Panorama finals
this Carnival Saturday, playing the
composition Red, White and Black,
sung by Damian Alexander and com-
posed by Len "Boogsie" Sharpe.
Hope admits she always had a
knack for the steelpan---she has al-
ways been able to listen and memo-
rise notes on the spot. She can read
music at grade three.
When asked what led her to pan,
she recalled her Mucurapo Junior
Secondary days where Mrs Jackson, a
Senior Comprehensive teacher,
was seeking students to play
for the school Panorama
"I immediately jumped
at it because in those
days I was involved in
everything from Girl
Guides, to football (as a
keeper), aerobics and a bit
of gymnastics," Hope said.
"For the first year (1993),
Trinity, Woodbrook Secondary and
Mucurapo came together to create a
band; we practiced in BWIA Invaders
yard in Woodbrook at the time.
"The following year when I was in
Senior Sec, Mucurapo schools did it
on their own and used T&TEC Power
Stars yard instead.
"That same year a band member
asked if I wanted to play in the adult
band and as much as I wanted to say
yes, I had to ask my mother first.
"Strangely enough, she agreed
without a fuss, so I began my jour-
ney playing 'big people pan' in Power
Stars as a young teen. Many don't
know I actually started off on the
bass---and I used to climb and wine
on it. (Laughter.) I no longer do that,
but I am definitely dancing up!"
Hope was then introduced to
Brian "Bean" Griffith,
who taught her how to
roll her sticks properly.
("Believe it or not, he
still bothers me about it,"
Hope quipped, laughing.)
She continued to rep-
resent in competitions and her
next pan journey would take her to
Phase II in 2003, which began when
a couple of Power Stars members
decided to audition for them after
a falling out with the band. They
asked Hope to come along.
"I was scared; I didn't want to
go to a big band like that and get
dropped---that was a big thing back
then. Nevertheless, I agreed and they
took me to the captain and told him
I came to play. The captain asked,
'What pan does she play?' I was so
frightened I couldn't even talk, so
they answered and said, 'Put her
on any pan.'
"There was space in the guitar
section so I was placed there. Now
the strumming and the
amount of music I was
giving it was strange---I
never saw so much music
on a guitar pan before, but
I made the cut! The song
was Music In We Blood,
I'll never forget that."
Years later, Hope and
a band member would
journey to South Trinidad
with Phase II's leader Len
"Boogsie" Sharpe to do a show with
Petrostars, which included Carlton
'Zanda' Alexander (now the current
arranger for Desperadoes Steelband).
The ever-observant Sharpe, how-
ever, noticed the double tenor sec-
tion was weak.
"We told him we would take over
and resurrect the section," Hope
said, smiling. Of course, we had to
re-learn the stage-side repertoire on
a new pan---which was hard---but we
did it by visiting Sharpe during the
day. Since then I have been playing
double tenor, which I love!"
Hope has had many a musical ad-
venture with Phase II, touring many
Caribbean islands and also playing
in Germany for the 2006 World
Cup. As she puts it, it's one love in
the band. Working with Sharpe has
also been quite the experience, she
said, as some of his methods are a
"For example, the way he gives the
music..." Hope smiled.
"He calls notes, sometimes ten
to 15 notes all at once. He sings
the phrasing and only then we are
allowed to touch the pan, but that
develops your listening and playing
"Another strange thing
about him is when he is
arranging for one pan, he
actually hears the music
for all the other pans at
the same time, which
blows my mind.
"The thing is if you
don't know Sharpe, you
just don't. Like any oth-
er person he has his ways,
but once you know him, you'll see he
has a really big heart."
She is also quick to quash the no-
tion that pan is a hustle and the pan
players are unemployed and uned-
ucated (and if they are, it's only in
"There are people from all walks
of life in every steelband in T&T and
for the most part, they are involved
in it for the love of it.
"Trust me, it is not easy working
a full-time job and practicing pan
at night, especially at Carnival time
(when you lack sleep), but I don't
mind. I love what I do.
"Being involved in the arts is such
a refreshing thing. You get to meet
people and learn new things and it's
a great stress reliever.
"I can boast that the panyard is
the safest place to be right now so
I would encourage anyone to learn
to play pan. You will definitely enjoy
Hope has had
many a musical
Phase II, touring
Germany for the
2006 World Cup.
Phase II Pan Groove
tenor player Akiela
Being involved in the arts is such a refreshing thing. You get to meet people and
learn new things and it's a great stress reliever.
"...it is not easy working a full-time job and practicing pan at night, especially at
Carnival time (when you lack sleep), but I don't mind. I love what I do.
I can boast that the
panyard is the safest place to be right now so I would
encourage anyone to learn to play pan" ---Akiela Hope
Links Archive February 22nd 2017 February 24th 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page