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A pannist, panist, or panman, is a person who plays the steelpan. A professional pannist can perform solo pieces, play with a steel band, or accompany one or more singers or solo instrumentalists.

American pannist Jonathan Scales & band performing in 2011

Pannists often play with their respective bands in large competitions,[1] and generally memorize everything that they perform.[2]

The pannist's top position in a Panorama steelband is that of the captain. These large ensembles often include section leaders: accomplished pannists that monitor the various voices in the band.[3]

Influential pannists include Ellie Mannette, the "Father of the Modern Steel Drum" and an accomplished panman, and Winston Simon, the inventor and a skilled player of the "Ping Pong" pan.[3]

Rise of the Solo Steel Pan performer[edit]

The early efforts of steel pan education by the Narell family, (father Murray, and sons Jeff and Andy Narell), and principally pan pioneer Dr. Elliot Mannette, among others in the late 60’s has taken root in schools and college campuses across the United States where steel drum programs are popular course of study.

Solo steel pannist with backing tracks, Chris Arpad

The numbers of college educated steel pannists is growing in the US; and with the development of mobile computing and advancement of music software in the late 90’s, the rise of the career solo steel pan performer such as solo pannist, Chris Arpad in Los Angeles began to take hold.

Since the earliest beginnings of the instrument, Steel Pan Music has always had a distinct vibrant sound that makes it popular for entertaining at a wide variety of events. Technology has made it possible for a solo steel pannist to compete with full live bands for greater performance opportunities. Steel pans, whether as a soloist or full band have since become a viable staple entertainment for event planners.


  1. ^ Saldenha, Robert (May 2005). "Another Look At The History Of The Steel Band No. 2 1945 - 1949". Sam's Newsletter. Retrieved 2008-02-21. [dead link]
  2. ^ Woodall, Carolyn (2008). "Focal Point: Steelpan - Playing in De Band". Diversity Now. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  3. ^ a b "Steelband". National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-21.