Kenya’s musical journey

Kenya Williams with Guaico Presbyterian School principal Indira Rambaran-Mohammed and her grandmother, Magdalene Williams. - ROGER JACOB
Kenya Williams with Guaico Presbyterian School principal Indira Rambaran-Mohammed and her grandmother, Magdalene Williams. - ROGER JACOB

Do you love music?

If you do, have you ever thought about learning to play an instrument to experience music in a whole new way?

Well, that’s exactly what Kenya Williams did.

In 2018, Kenya’s love for music inspired her to learn how to play the steelpan.

“I always liked the pan and wanted to learn how to play it.

Now, playing the pan gives me freedom,” said Kenya when she spoke to Newsday Kids.

Kenya is 12 and she recently graduated from Guaico Presbyterian School. She learned everything about the pan from the school’s pan orchestra director and teacher Anne Noel.

However, learning to play the pan was not easy. Getting the correct notes sometimes became frustrating.

But Kenya did not give up. And she’s very happy she did not.

Champions: Kenya Williams (left) and Adrian James (right) are all smiles at the 2019 National Junior Panorama (primary) competition with the Guaico Presbyterian Steel Orchestra. Playing Nailah Blackman’s Iron Love, the school’s steel orchestra emerged champions. They also won the competition this year. - Kayon James

In 2019, and this year, Kenya played with the Guaico Presbyterian Steel Orchestra for the National Junior Panorama primary schools category. In both years, the school won.

When the school’s orchestra played Nailah Blackman’s Iron Love, in 2019, Kenya played the six bass and this year she played the tenor for their performance of Savannah Grass by Kes the Band.

So, which was her favourite pan to play? The tenor, because Kenya thinks it’s easier.

Whatever pan she plays, though, Kenya feels electrified when playing soca music.

“Something about playing soca on the pan takes me to a good place, a place of excitement and joy. I love that. Soca music has more rhythm (than other types of music) when you are playing it on the pan. It’s more hype.”

There’s just one thing: playing soca music on the pan is fun but Kenya is not a huge fan of listening to soca music.

“I don’t really relate to the lyrics in soca because very few songs express what soca truly is about.”

But playing the music is what matters. And it has already opened doors.

In 2019, Kenya travelled with the Guaico Presbyterian Steel Orchestra to Maryland in US. Spending one week in the state, the orchestra performed at the Culture Academy for Excellence’s graduation ceremony. They also performed at some other schools in the state.

Kenya’s memorable experiences from the trip? The food and getting to travel with her friends.

Kenya also plays with the Hill Toppers Steel Pan Academy. Her only solo performance, to date, was during Guaico Presbyterian School’s online graduation on October 6. During the ceremony, she also received the school’s special award for music.

In 2019, Kenya Williams played the six bass pans for Guaico Presbyterian Steel Orchestra at the National Junior Panorama primary school category. This year, at the same competition, she played the tenor pan which she prefers. Here Kenya is pictured playing the six bass. - Kayon James

Kenya also dances. She has been dancing since she was a toddler and her go-to dance style is hip hop.

Is it harder to learn to play pan or learn to dance?

Kenya said, “It’s harder to play a pan. Dancing is like easy steps. With the pan you have to learn a lot of runs and notes.”

But it doesn’t matter which is harder to learn, she enjoys them both and looks forward to developing her skills in both areas.

For now, Kenya practices her dance skills, on her own, at home.

After writing this year’s Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam, Kenya passed for Sangre Grande Secondary School. She now looks forward to starting the new school and putting in the work needed to become a pharmacist.

Why a pharmacist? She loves to help people and has always been interested in medicine.

“I’m looking forward to being in form one and meeting new teachers. I’m preparing by revising my work.”

Kenya Williams recently received a special award for music from Guaico Presbyterian School. She also played a solo piece on pan during the school's online graduation ceremony. - ROGER JACOB

Kenya is using the extra time indoors, due to covid19, to bond with her family. Together they watch TV shows and listen to music. She’s also learnt to cook.

Kenya thanks God, her parents, family, and friends for their support in everything she does.

She’s not sure if her new school has a steel orchestra, just yet, but it’s one of the first things she’ll be asking about when she registers for the school.

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"Kenya’s musical journey"