Barbados: Riddim Village . . . Free pan classes


In Barbados, the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) is sponsoring free pan classes in Queen’s Park, conducted by David “ZigE” Walcott and Terry “Mexican” Arthur, two of the country’s ace pannists. Both musicians expressed their disappointment at the cancellation of Barbados’ Crop Over 2020. Barbados Today reports:

David ZigE Walcott and Terry Mexican Arthur will be teaching steel pan playing under a project called Riddim Village.

In an exclusive interview with Bajan Vibes, the duo explained that the lessons were a part of the vision of Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. “The idea is one from the Prime Minister, John King and the NCF. The initial thing came from the PM wanting to get people who fall into the cracks involved in something,” Mexican said.

ZigE said: “I think this is her [the PM’s] way of preserving and teaching. It is also about building that relationship with people.”

“Before the COVID-19 NCF wanted to have for all the persons who may not be working or looking for a career change or other means of making money. They came up with having major players in the arts in various disciplines basketry, drama, sound engineering, lighting, music producing, pottery, film painting, 24 or 25 different disciplines,” he explained.

The pair, who were identified by the prime minister, as the ones to lead the pan drive. “Riddim Village is part of a larger cultural project which covers close to 25 disciplines. When the two turned up to the initial meeting for the project they said the crème de la crème in respective areas were present. It was at that time they realised how huge the initiative was,” ZigE told Bajan Vibes.

Present were big names such as: Mike Sealy, Omowele Stewart, Poonka, Stefan Walcott among others. “We were chosen to do the steel pan element of it. In preparing for this we came up with the name Riddim Village. Terry and I were going to teach not only pan but aspects of steel pan pan yard as well as African drumming,” he said.

ZigE, who has been playing pan since age 11, said it is an honour to be called. “It was surreal. This is huge,” he said.

Mexican has been playing pan from age ten. The musician said he has experience in teaching pan. “The project is more than playing pan. The knowledge will be passed on. We all have stories. I was teaching music and percussion at Irving Wilson School which was different. That was autistic, death and blind students. It was interesting I did that for two or three years …” ZigE explained that the NCF is going to record sessions so that persons can go back and watch. For classes members would download a pan App and be taught virtually but there is still need to have the physical. The first week will be done virtually but then from next week we would do the physical.

There are about 12 people, including one male, who will make up the first class. The duo is hoping that people pass by the park, see it happening and join in. Classes are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evening at five. Interested persons will have to go through the formality of registration. They must also attend a certain number classes and be punctual.

Out of the project the pair came up with a song, which is gaining popularity. Terry is the one behind the creation of Riddim Village. “Blood had this enchanted riddim so he sent it to me in January. I tell him I would come and play on it. I came up with a melody. As soon they lifted some of the restrictions I went to the studio and worked on it. ZigE and I recorded it and did a video and that is what we used to promote the pan project,” Mexican told Bajan Vibes.

When asked, the two shared their thoughts on the cancellation of this year’s Crop Over festival.

Mexican said it was such a huge blow to him that the only thing he didn’t do was cry. “I have some friends in America where all they live for is to come Barbados for Crop Over . I was actually looking for the bands they wanted to jump in. I was doing all the preparations for that, getting everything ready. I just a feeling I said I feel this COVID may affect Crop Over. He explained: “Then someone called and told me: ‘Wait you aint care that Crop Over get cancelled?’ I couldn’t believe it the only thing I didn’t do is cry. I does be putting the music on Facebook giving people the back story what studio it made in. Now nothing, Crop Over lick up. You can’t go out and play. I know how important it is for everyone collectively to relieve that stress.”

While ZigE was disappointed his thoughts went to how could the time spent making Crop Over 2021 better. “It was a little hard to swallow. But I also look at things as a blessing in disguise. I am one who thinks Crop Over needs some kind of reform. Maybe we can take this time and ask: How can I make the festival more attractive because the festival has now gone to gaining more competitors? We have Jamaica, Guyana doing carnivals. Next year we shouldn’t be going back to the same page. It should be a new page, new plan, new Crop Over.

“The festival needs balance of culture and music throughout not only at the beginning. I think this is the time that we should revisit the true essence of Crop Over. Bring back Cohobblopot!,” the pan player said. (IMC)

For full article and video, see

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