Mark Loquan and Maria Nunes will premiere Women in Pan – a ten-part web series exploring contemporary issues in pan through the lens of five outstanding women, on Friday.
The women featured are: Yuko Asada, Dr Mia Gormandy-Benjamin, Vanessa Headley, Michelle Huggins-Watts, and Natasha Joseph.
It is the second documentary web series under Loquan’s A Better Tomorrow banner. It was while working on the first, about Kareem Brown, in late 2021, that Loquan approached Nunes to develop a second series focusing on women, with special emphasis on exploring music literacy and contemporary issues facing the art form, a media release said.
These have long been areas of interest for Loquan. One of the songs on his Passion for Pan album in 2000 was named Woman in Pan, inspired by the way pan history had always focused on the men, despite the constant and consequential presence of women.
“I was observing the increasing number of women playing, composing, arranging, conducting, teaching, making and tuning pans, and visiting from abroad to play in Trinidad and Tobago,” Loquan said in the release.
For Nunes, the instrument as well as its pantheon of female pioneers had long been dear to her heart.
Given the number of women over the decades who have contributed immeasurably to the artform, and continue to, an early challenge was determining how best to approach such a vast subject, the release said.
“This doesn’t try to tell the history of women in pan – that was beyond the scope of what we could do,” explains Nunes in the release. “So Mark decided on five women he’s worked with on various projects over the last 20 years.
“In my mind, these were highly-accomplished women with their individual skills, experiences and insights, but who, as a holistic group, would be able to discuss a wide range of issues that they would have all faced individually or collectively.”
By March this year, everything was in place to do in-depth, wide-ranging interviews with all five women. Asada – who is Japanese-American and based at Northern Illinois University – flew in from the US for a few days to film.
“I reached out to Attillah Springer and Caroline Taylor to work with me on developing ideas for the best way to approach the project,” Nunes says.
With Springer leading the interviews and Taylor as associate producer, Nunes took on the lion’s share of the work to conceptualise and execute each stage of the project,serving as one of its executive producers (along with Loquan), as well as director, camera operator and editor.
With careful attention to making the series visually appealing and a rich representation of the women’s lives in pan, the interviews were shot with four cameras, and are complemented by archival video, audio and photos from a range of sources – including the women’s own personal archives and Nunes’ vault of material captured over the years. The final product is ten episodes totalling nearly 400 minutes.
The series kicks off with five thematic episodes ranging from seven-18 minutes long, followed by in-depth interviews with each of the women and averaging 60 minutes each.
The first of the issue-driven episodes — We Love a Challenge: Gender Issues in Steelpan – is followed by weekly episodes exploring the art and science of pan building and tuning; music literacy; leadership; and perspectives on Panorama.
The second half of the series, featuring the interviews, begins on October 14 with Headley’s interview, followed by Gormandy-Benjamin; Asada; Joseph; and Huggins-Watts concluding the series on November 11.
“It’s been an extremely rewarding journey to work on this project – it’s stretched me to further expand my horizons in the realm of producing video content,” says Nunes. “I feel a real responsibility to present their stories and perspectives in ways that they will feel very good about. There is equally that sense of responsibility to present a series that will hopefully have enduring value and also inspire other producers to create more steelpan-related content.”
Loquan said, “The goal for A Better Tomorrow is to shine light on people’s journeys in the pan world, showing that the people we see are a culmination of challenges overcome, experience gained, and knowledge being transferred to benefit or inspire others. The Women in Pan series does just that.”
Women in Pan begins at 7 pm on the Mark Loquan Music YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/MarkLoquanMusic), with new episodes premiering each Friday until November 11.