The decision of the Cousoumeh Caravan to marry the potency of the steelpan with its rich heritage, in a musical form where the players become the actors, and the music they bring forth, becomes the message, is reaping large dividends for the Siparia-based group.
The story of the pan, told through the amazing instrument, dance, drama and spoken word, so impressed the people of Chicago during the Cousoumeh Caravan’s riveting tour in August, that it has evolved into a proposed 15-city, US tour for the group in 2018.
Akinola Sennon executive director of the Deltones Institute of Steel Drums and Music (DISDAM), of which Cousoumeh is a project, confirmed the request for the caravan to continue the journey of The Life of Drum, Story of Steel, in collaboration with the Chicago’s Culture Arts and Music Organization, (CAM), and the decision to accept the offer.
He shared that not only the message, but the delivery of the phenomenalism of the instrument mixed with its heritage, by players ages six to 32, had such an evocative effect on the audience at Chicago’s Woodstock Opera House, that it clinched the deal for the group.
Prior to that groundbreaking concert, Sennon said from the time the players arrived, they whetted the appetites of residents throughout the Woodstock and Crystal Lake area, as they accepted invitations to share music at high schools and fairs, and also cultural exchange with local pan band, Potts and Pans, led by CAM’s director Matt Potts.
Explaining the production is a biopic of the drum, Sennon said the approach –using that masterful interplay of visual, words and sound to tell the story, left people in tears of disbelief that this instrument embodied all of that history, with which they identified.
“It is a riveting tale of personified genres of music that all started with drum, an African slave woman who gives birth to jazz and calypso, whose progeny becomes Steelpan. While the orchestra played, the narrator set the framework. In the background, a projector forced the eyes of the audience to focus on the visuals of the haunting images of the slave trade, its brutality and the descendants who found connection to their past in the creation of something new, with an old soul.”
He said the sold-out crowd, which already had an appreciation for the instrument through the work being done by Prof Liam Teague who teaches at the University of Illinois, only had praise for the production during a meet and greet post-show event.
“But we created some new ambassadors of the pan. Undoubtedly, the legacy of the drum, her children and the prodigy is a story still to be told. Steelpan has now evolved out of its novelty stage and must find resonance in his birthplace and those who live him around the world,” Sennon said.
A 50-member ensemble will set off for next year’s tour.