Phase II Pan Tuner Willing to Teach in Grenada

Press - by Lincoln Depradine
June 13th, 2010
About the Author:
Lincoln Depradine, a communications and marketing professional, is author of “White Frock & Coals Dust: The Story Of A Community Called The Wharf.’’ It’s available at bookstores and online at

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Steelpan in Grenada often seems to be taken for granted; treated with the same attitude that West Indians had towards our cricket team of a generation ago – we were winners and always will be there in winners’ row. That is, however, until we virtually woke up and found that the West Indies cricket team was winning no more, and we now crave and celebrate a sporadic victory.

Similarly, as a matter of course, everyone expects steelpan music to be there every year when Spicemas rolls around. As Grenada Carnival Committee (GCC) chairman Colin Dowe puts it, “Carnival comprises mas, pan and calypso.  We need all components.’’
There was a gasp, therefore, from the GCC, carnival lovers and cultural aficionados, when the Grenada Steelbands’ Association (GSA) announced what some interpreted as a boycott of carnival 2010.

The GSA, like steelband movements everywhere, is beset by a litany of problems. They have included what pannists consider as a “lack of respect’’ for panmen and panwomen; underfunding or lack of funding altogether; and late payment or non-payment of monies owed to steelbands.

In respect of the GSA, it said it had decided to “abstain from participating in the 2010 National Panorama Championship’’ because of an “ongoing impasse’’ with the GCC. One of the central complaints of the Association was non-payment of outstanding prize monies from pan competitions of last year.

However, the GCC and GSA subsequently reached an agreement and steelbands are having a Bomb Tune Competition on “Pantastic Saturday,’’ August 7, and will participate in other carnival activities.  Each competing steelband, comprising a maximum of 45 pannists, will play any one song composed by veteran Black Wizard, who has more than 40 years involvement in culture in Grenada. All participating bands will receive the same cash prize.
One of the challenges not raised in the imbroglio is the dearth of skilled and professionally trained Grenadians capable of tuning steelpans. There is one known reputed pan tuner in Grenada – Wilfred Harris. There is at least one other, Dudley Dickson, but he lives overseas.

One of the world’s foremost pan manufacturers and tuners, Dickson wants to return to the Caribbean from Europe to teach young people the skills he has acquired in almost 50 years in the steelpan business.

Dickson, who is based in Britain, has been making annual visits to Trinidad for that country’s carnival panorama competition. He has a contract as pan tuner for Phase II Pan Groove, which placed second in this year’s panorama championship in Trinidad & Tobago.

Following the Trinidad panorama, Dickson travelled to Grenada where he expressed a willingness to start workshops here and in the rest of the Caribbean to teach young people the art of manufacturing, servicing and tuning steelpans. He said it was not the first time he had made the offer to Grenada. “I always wanted to come back to live in the Caribbean and pass my knowledge on,’’ Dickson revealed. “At the moment, I’m doing a small thing at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. I also have a five-year contract with Phase II. This is my third year. I come down every year and tune all their pans. Phase II has about 120 players.’’

Dickson’s involvement in pan in Britain began in 1964 in Birmingham with Trinidad All Stars. As a pan manufacturer and tuner, his services are utilised by steelbands in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. He’s also a well-known figure in the burgeoning pan movement in South Africa.

Mr. Dickson said part of his plan is to address the shortage of available pan tuners in the Caribbean. “I won’t have the strength for that much longer and it’s time for me to pass it on to the young people. As much as I have plenty work in Europe,’’ he said, “I see that it’s necessary for me to teach my people the skills that I have learnt.’’ He envisages conducting youth workshops in Grenada and other Caribbean countries, and assisting in opening avenues for the youngsters to find steelpan tuning jobs abroad. “If I find that a young person is very good and can do things to my satisfaction, I can always get work for that person in Switzerland, in Holland, in France,’’ Dickson claimed. He added that “right now, there are over 300 steelbands in South Africa and a tuner goes there once every two years for about a week. There is plenty work. Pan is just growing like wildfire all over the world.’’