UK-based Rian Rigault: Playing steelpan makes me feel special

Rian Rigault is a year four student at St John XXIII Catholic Primary School in London.  - Photo courtesy Kojo Rigault
Rian Rigault is a year four student at St John XXIII Catholic Primary School in London. - Photo courtesy Kojo Rigault

Even though Rian Rigault was born and raised in the UK, he’s aware of and connected to his Trini roots.

As he grows up, his Trinidadian father Kojo Rigault is teaching him about different aspects of TT’s culture like Carnival, soca music and the steelpan.

He’s also been taught that his father’s granduncle is Neville Jules who invented the bass pan and founded the Trinidad All Stars.

But last year, Rian decided to immerse himself even more in TT’s culture, and honour his family’s legacy, by learning to play the steelpan.

Rian, nine, told Newsday Kids, “I started playing the pan because I find it fun and I enjoy listening to it.

Rian Rigault plays with Mangrove Steelband and practises weekly at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. - Photo courtesy Kojo Rigault

“I like the sound it makes and I’ve always wanted to learn to play an instrument.

“I thought the steelpan was great to me because knowing that I’m Trinidadian and I can play the pan makes me unique.”

Since last year, Rian has been learning to play the tenor bass with the UK-based Mangrove Steelband.

The band practises several times a week at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. “Learning to play the pan was pretty hard at first but once I started to play it more, it became easier.”

So far, he’s learnt to play songs with different tempos: Own It by UK rapper Stormzy (slow tempo), classical song Cannon in D (medium tempo) and Boss Lady by Kes the Band (fast tempo).

When it comes to performance advice, Rian doesn’t have to look far.

His father was a singer with the now disbanded TT group New Creation.

In 1994, the band performed as a guest musical act for Dimanche Gras.

Rian Rigault began playing the steelpan in 2020.
- Photo courtesy Kojo Rigault

It also recorded one album – Spirits of Gold – in 1998 and also covered the songs of popular groups like Boyz II Men.

To date, Rian has only visited TT once but he is looking forward to visiting again.

Though he was only three at the time of his last visit and can’t remember much, he does remember the country was very humid.

Rian’s favourite soca song is Famalay by Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez) and Skinny Fabulous (Gamal Doyle).

He likes the song because it speaks about different people coming together as one.

Beyond music, Rian has a passion for sports.

“I like sports because I get to run around a lot and be outdoors, it is lots of fun.”

He currently a player with AC Fulham FC Youth Football Club and is a blue belt in karate.

He also plays basketball and has an interest in cricket.

He has basketball hoop at home and plays there almost every day.

So which does he find harder, playing sports or the pan?

“Playing the steelpan is harder than sports because you have to memorise a lot more things like notes. You have to memorise lots and lots and lots of notes.”

While he’s always active playing sports and the pan, there are times Rian likes to sit and read.

His favourite authors are Roald Dahl and David Walliams while his favourite book, at the moment, is titled The World’s Worst Children by Walliams.

A year four student at St John XXIII Catholic Primary School in London, Rigault wants to continue performing and be a singer like his father when he grows up.


"UK-based Rian Rigault: Playing steelpan makes me feel special"

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