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Pantempters Wow Japanese audiences!

Pantempters Wow Japanese audiences!
December 06
19:31 2019

Pantempters Wow Japanese audiences!

On Thursday, 5th. December 2019 –

The Pantempters Steel Orchestra has been making a big name for itself and for Belize from almost the time of its inception around the mid-1990s under the now Governor General, Sir Colville Young, and two weeks ago was no different when it played to the amazement and delight of audiences in the town of Yokoshiba Hirachi, which is the host town for the Belize delegation for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

The band’s trip was part of that host town’s festivities to sensitize their population on Belize and Belizean culture to build support for our Olympic delegation when it arrives in Japan. They invited the Pantempters to kickstart the celebration and 12 of the band members visited Japan to play steel pan music.

“It was a fantastic experience!” Band manager Ian Courtenay told the Reporter upon return to Belize. The Pantempters’ repertoire includes genres from a wide variety and under its main arrangers, Hershel Armstrong, Lyn Young and Sheroka Franklin, has been able to not only hold its fans but also increase its popularity.

But the highlight of the band’s performance was when they performed two Japanese songs that are well-liked in that host country, so Courtenay said when the audiences realized at the start of the performances that it was their cultural songs that were being played, the reception was overwhelming for the band.

Courtenay told the Reporter that the band put in a lot of hours into practicing to play the songs to ensure that they played the hits properly and when stage time came, their work was received by bouts of applause. “Two of the pieces were for schools and the way those children’s faces lit up and they got up and started dancing when they recognized that we were playing their song, it made that song so much different for us because of that reception we got!” Courtenay said with pride.

For people who are not musically inclined, Courtenay explained that while there is a language barrier for us, music has no barriers, so a Japanese musician reading music notes or playing by air can strike the same chords of a Belizean or Austrian folk song as well as his fellow Belizean musician who grew up playing the same tune, and vice versa.

The Pantempters band has evolved from being a University College of Belize band under Sir Colville’s tutelage, but as its initial members graduated and moved away to pursue further studies or job opportunities, it was taken out of UCB and transformed into a private entity in 1996. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) played a huge role in that process when it provided the funds for the current members to purchase the band. Those members now use whatever monies they receive from playing to maintain the equipment.

Surprisingly, we learned that none of the band’s members gets paid for playing with the band! So when we see the Pantempters Steel Orchestra pleasing huge masses on Carnival Day or any other occasion, with huge smiles on the faces of band members who are usually prancing to the beat of the music being played, it is all for free. And that ability to synchronize and harmonize does not come easily either. Those band members spend many hours practicing together twice a week during their spare time.

Courtenay says that anyone who has the love for the music and the time to learn can join the band. And the beauty about it is that playing steel pan music is not difficult to learn. The majority of its members are not people who studied music, he revealed, and they play mostly by ear. In a matter of months, one can learn to play steel pan music, he added. Children are as much welcome as adults, since the band is made up of four groups.

Courtenay shared that the Japan experience taught the band members that the band has a huge audience out there that it needs to tap into and that is the direction the band is now looking for the future.

“We play in the region several times but we don’t move too far out of our comfort zone too often and that is something that the leadership of the band has sat down and talked about. Maybe we need to look at opportunities to go further out. …from the reception that we got from Japan and Taiwan before this, we have something to offer. We can put Belize on the map by contributing our talent this way.”

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