Filmmakers travel to uncover steelpan communities in six countries
Los Angeles, California & London, England – “The time has come and we are ready to make this happen,” says British award-winning director Keith Musaman Morton, as he raises a picture of a rusted steelpan. “Who would believe that [the steelpan] has come to symbolize so much?”
Morton is one month away from beginning the second round of production for his documentary Panomundo, a documentary about the history of the steelpan (also know as the steel drum) and its influence around the world. Along with award-winning American director/producer Charysse Tia Harper, he is hosting a fundraising campaign on Seed&Spark, a film-only crowdfunding site, to travel to six countries to film how the steelpan is used in a variety of cultures.
“What we have realized is the pan is not only used as a musical instrument, but it is used to instil discipline and evoke a sense of freedom,” says Harper.
The steelpan was developed in the 1930s as a form of musical expression to coincide with the Carnival activities. With the colonial government (United Kingdom) imposing a no drum-beating ban and bamboo not giving the desired effect, poor communities turned to metal containers, also called pans. The men who would “beat” notes into these containers came to be known as panmen. Notwithstanding the oppression that was imposed by the authorities, the craft was developed even more in the 1940s and led to widespread popularity. In 1951, the Trinidad All-Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) travelled to the United Kingdom, which began the international voyage of the steelpan.
“It has also been a journey for us,” reflects Morton. “We had this concept at the end of 2011 and it has now transformed into a reality.”
The duo travelled to Trinidad & Tobago for three months in 2012 where they interviewed steelband members, historians, and government officials to learn more about the history of the steelpan. Additionally, filming took place in London and in Illinois, USA. The crew has been able to interview pan legends and figure heads, such as Ellie Mannette, the man who created a concave playing surface for the steelpan; Sterling Betancourt, a member of TASPO who introduced the instrument in London and Zurich, Switzerland; Cliff Alexis, a member of the National Steelband of Trinidad & Tobago that played with American performer Liberace; and Ray Holman, international pannist, composer and arranger.
“People have been inspired by this instrument to help others stay out of trouble, gain a sense of self-fulfilment and show off their musical skills,” explains Harper. “We have the opportunity to share their stories and let the world know how important the pan is.”
The crew – made up of Caribbeans, Europeans, Africans and North Americans – will travel to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Nigeria, Japan, and Switzerland over the next six months.
To support Panomundo, visit the campaign at Seed&Spark: http://www.seedandspark.com/
ABOUT KEITH MUSAMAN MORTON
The director/CEO Komonopromo. He is Black-British (his family is from St. Kitts) and he lives in London. Keith co-directed and co-produced A Brief History (2011), which gives a short introduction to Notting Hill Carnival in London. In addition, he directed Day One, which won the “Audience Choice Award” at the New York International Film Festival (April 2011).
He met Charysse Tia Harper at the New York International Film Festival and decided to work together. Their first project was T&T 50 in Fifteen, which Keith directed and edited and Charysse was the producer and DP. The project explores important events that have occurred during the 50 years of Trinidad & Tobago’s independence and it is told in 15 minutes.
Keith has been an advocate of supporting independent films that he hosts screenings throughout the year in London, but his big event is “Bringing Sunshine to October”, a month-long film series in October to commemorate Black History Month in the United Kingdom.
ABOUT CHARYSSE TIA HARPER
The producer/CEO Xplore the World. She is Trinidadian-American who resides in Los Angeles. She directed/produced The Other Side of Carnival (2010) that showcases the social and economic impact that Trinidad & Tobago’s Carnival has on its society. It has been shown at Caribbean Film Corner in Antigua, London and Berlin, as well as other festivals in the US and UK, where it won “Best International Documentary Short” (ITN Distribution & Media Festival 2011) and “Best Cultural Documentary” (New York International Film Festival 2011).
Her passion is educating through entertainment and helping others. She recently worked on a public service announcement (PSA) for Kids in the Spotlight (Sept. 2012) and directed/produced All Peoples: The Movie (Oct. 2012), an informational video about a charity in South Los Angeles. Charysee also recently completed a video for the American Red Cross for their National Volunteer Week (April 21st-27th 2013).
For more information on Panomundo and other Xplore the World projects visit: http://xploretheworld.biz/.