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Cayman’s ‘Father of Steel,’ celebrated

Local News 22 Dec, 2022 Follow News

Cayman’s father of steel pan, Earl La Pierre

Earl La Pierre with Pandemix

Earl La Pierre receives ‘Father of Steel’ award from Zarek Deosaran

Panel discussion with (l-r) Mr. Olujimi “Jimmeh” La Pierre, Earl La Pierre, Chambria Dalhouse, and Zarek Deosaran

By Christopher Tobutt

Earl La Pierre is the father of steel pan in the Cayman Islands, and so it was fitting that there should be an evening dedicated to his music and his achievements at the Harquail Theatre on 15 December. It was called, “A Celbration of Earl la Pierre,” and featured special guests including his former pupils, who have now gone on to forge their own careers in music.

He introduced steel pan here from its home in Trinidad & Tobago back in the 80s. He gave some demonstrations in schools, and, of course, the kids loved it. Pretty soon, steel pan bands were starting in schools all over the Cayman Islands, and Caymanians were doing what they love to do: taking music from somewhere else and making it their own. Even today, he never tires of encouraging young people to play, and he has a way about him that makes playing the steel pan really joyful and infectious. Young people love it, and fall in with the discipline of being part of a band; showing up, not letting the others down.

In 2010, he was given the Cayman Islands GOLD cross award for a lifetime of high quality engagement in the preservation and celebration of Caymanian culture

The first part of the evening featured a video, with the many different pan students he has taught, and whose life he has changed. His actions brought Cayman steel pan onto the international scene, and young musicians from here have travelled all over the world. Next came his own band, the Pandemix, who played a medley of songs including, Love’s Theme by Barry White and Africa by Toto. There was a solo performance next from Joshua McLean.

Next was a panel discussion featuring Earl, Chambria Dalhouse, a composer and film scorer who played at Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Mr. Olujimi “Jimmeh” La Pierre, and Zarek Deosaran, a Caymanian music producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist who is based in New York, but who began his music career as one of Earl’s student. 

Thanking Mr. La Pierre, Mr. Deosaran said, “You took me to Canada, and you let me think: ‘ I can make music my career. I can really do something with this,’ and that was an avenue I didn’t know that I had. I didn’t know a musician was a real job, but it is.” Mr. Deosaran went on to say that now, thanks to Earl La Pierre, many more Caymanians opt for a career in music.  

Ms. Dalhouse had a similar story, and took to playing the steel pan from the moment she was introduced. Earl recalled her enthusiasm: “This lady has been around from when she was small, and she was just there for me. She said she wanted to play the biggest pan and she tried it and liked it.”

After the interview, Mr. Deosaran presented Earl La Pierre with a ‘Father of Steel’ award, and Mr. La Pierre enchanted everyone with a solo rendition. He didn’t stop, either, when the backing track didn’t come on cue, but just launched into a glorious piece of pan improvisation; steel notes sounding like a thousand silver stars in the night sky. Earl then played, “Silent Night,” and Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata.

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