PAN-JUMBIE

Steel pans in my blood, says talented Peter, 81

BD – There is a saying in Trinidad: when steel talks, everybody listens.

Peter Harris has had an audience for many years.

The Trinidadian was 19 when he played the steel pans for the first time.

“It was really beautiful,” he said, explaining how he was walking through the streets of San Fernando, a city on the Caribbean island, when he heard music coming from somebody’s yard. Intrigued, he interrupted the musician to ask if he could give it a try.

Mr Harris tapped out a tune that was so impressive, the bandleader asked if he would join his group for a rehearsal.

Until that day he had never played any instrument at all.

“But I think it was in my blood,” he said. “My father played the flute and I had a brother who played the ukulele.”

Mr Harris’s first public performance was at a steel pan competition.

“That was a great experience,” he said. “I was playing three drums called the cello pans. Another guy was playing the bass.”

He and the bass player were supposed to match note for note, but that was not happening.

“He could not do it,” Mr Harris said. “But I did it. I saved the band from busting on stage.”

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