Trinidad and Tobago celebrates Steelpan pioneer Daisy James-McClean

Trinidad and Tobago celebrates Steelpan pioneer Daisy James-McClean

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago introduced the first female pannists, Daisy James-McClean.

As per the update, she is a pan pioneer, musician and lecturer; James-McClean made history in 1976 when she became the first woman to accompany a calypsonian—Brother Mudada—on the pan for a Dimanche Gras performance, placing second in the event.

She is a recipient of the 2005 Public Service Medal of Merit; James-McClean has been recognised for her long-standing contributions to the steelband movement in Trinidad and Tobago.

Reportedly, as a child, McClean was fascinated by the steelpan. Her two older brothers, Ancil and Fitzroy James, were members of the Casablanca Steelband and recognised her interest in the instrument. In 1944, at age 6, she began taking Fitzroy’s three-note ping pong pan and imitating his playing.

One day, when their mother was out, her eldest brother Ancil decided to take her to visit the Casablanca panyard, where she started playing the “kettle pan” for visiting tourists.

James-McLean became an occasional member of the Casablanca band, playing for a few hours a day unbeknownst to her mother, who was concerned about the stigma that was associated with panyards and women playing the steelpan. James-McClean persevered, and when her brothers started their own steelpan band a few years later, the City Syncopators, she finally got the chance to showcase her talent.

The organisation stated that as a teenager, she also joined an after-school drama group where she played the pan. After seeing her perform, her parents recognised her talent and warmed up to her participation in steel bands.

James-McLean was a member of both the City Syncopators and, later, the Starlighters steelband, often playing with them at weekly performances at venues throughout the country, including the Hilton Hotel.

Recognising a lack of support for younger players, she decided to open her own steel band, “The Harlem Syncopators”, in 1999, which focused on encouraging young pan players. She used her savings to buy the land where the band is now located on Quarry Street in Port of Spain.