28 Apr Roots to Riches
Less than ten years ago a group of young musicians, mostly high school students, were playing steel pan drums into more than a hobby.
Brooklyn Metro Steel Orchestra’s players, in 2015, had come from a long line of steel pan history; they were young and guided, and so it became a way for life predicated by their grandparents who played for the same reason, two generations before.
At this time, the recalibrated orchestra lacked funding; and desperately in need of practice spaces and participatory costs for events and competitions, Pan Times reported them “nearing the end of its run.”
It was a good run too.
Almost forty-years-old, the original steel pan side started out of East Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Crown Heights and Flatbush, back in the 70s. Caribbean diaspora formed these steel ensembles alongside many other neighborhoods in New York City, beating the rhythm and soul of the islands into North America; while celebrating and sharing the very heart of Caribbean Carnival.
During these early, rootsy years these neighborhoods became known as the heart of steel pan in North America. They made a name for themselves and they spawned a legacy that would carry them through several decades, through hard times and splitting up, proving eventually into a loyalty and love that would not die.
In 1998, they organized into a not-for-profit, now with the children of the original steel pan players as second generation, and times were still tough and scattered. Many left the original Metro Steel to play in other bands, Pantonics, New York NuTones, Umoja, D’Radoes, Despers USA and Harmony.
With all the many orchestras, one thing was common; where Metro Steel blood was involved, winning was happening.
By 2015, it was the THIRD Generation of pan players, many, the grandchildren of the originals, who came back to play for Brooklyn Metro Steel. They seemed on the brink of collapse; but as it turns out, they were actually on the brink of a Rebirth.
They raised money the old-fashioned way, reported President of USSA (United States Steelband Association) and Metro Steel Orchestra Band Leader, Panist and Administrator, Anthony “Big Tony” Joseph; and received help from many of the old timers, who not only brought their grand kids back to play, but helped out financially, and in other ways. They spent a critical period of lying low, practicing hard, not performing publicly and saving and raising their funds, while teaching grandkids and young friends, the craft of the steel pan drum.
When the North American Carnival audience experienced the new-old Brooklyn Metro Steel Orchestra for the first time in more than a decade, it was 2019 and they were placing fourth in Youth Pan Fest in New York City.
They returned the following year to win at the Youth Pan Fest and at WIADCA Steel Pan Jamboree. By the time they hit Miami Carnival in 2021, there were the Champions they had come back to be.
They say that a great Set Back precedes a great Come Back, and Miami Broward One Carnival Host Committee Inc. wishes heartfelt Congratulations to these 2021 Steel Pan Champions, Brooklyn Metro Steel, for their Perseverance and their Come Back. We are looking out for you in 2022!
This year, the Miami Carnival Panorama competition is on Oct. 7th, 2022.