There are so many absolutely brilliant steelpan videos available online and sadly, often times the most soulful, surreal ones are literally flying under the radar and garnering virtually no interest. Many of these pan videos in question, which push the boundaries as far as uncharted pan possibilities are concerned, spend years online without ever breaking 1000 views.
A few weeks ago, we published an article entitled, ''The Questionably Low YouTube View Counts os Stunning Steelpan Videos'', where we discussed Len ''Boogsie'' Sharpe, Earl Rodney and The Mighty Jamma, and how their videos have consistently paltry view counts. This is in spite of their consistent displays of natural virtuosic pan ability and agility. Although we never discussed the exact reason for this strange phenomenon, we will post another three videos which give further credence to the thus far unstated point we have been making with regard to this phenomenon of overwhelingly underrated, under-appreciated pannists on YouTube.
Cultural Appropriation is a One-Way Street
Andy Narell is a perfect example of the one-way street design of the steelpan world, and we discussed the extreme length of his cultural misappropriation in a recent blog post. However, the following video is a shining example of how cultural appropriation fails in terms of gaining a wide audience when the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak.
The video description says,
''Four Stick Steel Pan transcribed by Khan Cordice. Played by Kareem 'TJ' King. This was a draft version. Will do a better version and put it up some time when I get time. I was doing this as an audition piece for my Masters. The HARDEST piece for Double Seconds that I have ever come across!''
After watching this video a few times, there is no doubt that this young pannist is pushing the limits of the instrument and the ideas about what can be accomplished with the pan through a skilled mind and agile hands such as these.
I often see this piece performed by buskers on the streets of Europe, sometimes by 5 piece classical ensembles, and other times by a solo accordionist. For the most part, the performers of this classic Bach Fugue are of Russian or Eastern European descent and they are some truly gifted and talented musicians. However, it is an extremely rare occasion, if ever that one has the opportunity to see a pan soloist performing this piece at a high level, such as in the above video.
Currently, the preceding video has only 921 views at the present time, despite being live on YouTube for more than 3 years. Needless to say, in the classical world, talented negro musicians are few and far between, and while this video is evidence of cultural appropriation, it is proof that cultural appropriation does not work for negroes in the same manner that it works for Europeans.
In the case of this particular video, although it is evidence of cultural appropriation, it is done without pretense, in complete humility. It is clear that the young gentleman in this video is playing with a great respect and appreciation for the classical music culture which is he is appropriating. These facts also serve as a distinction between cultural appropriation, which can stem from respect and cultural appreciation in its best form, and cultural depreciaton and disrespect, which inherently drive cultural misappropriation.
Singing Unplugged While Accompanying Yourself on the Pan and a Kicker Is Possible
Swan Walker is a musician who is a joy to watch, if not for the simple fact that he is an original act. For any pannist who has attempted to sing while accompanying yourself on the pan is familiar with the challenges that can present themselves in such an undertaking. A big challenge is projecting your voice loud and clear enough that it can be projected over the sound and overtones emitted from the pan, which is a difficult task especially when performing unplugged, outdoors.
As Swan Walker is also utilizing a kicker while playing and singing, it is safe to say that he is literally a very busy man and a veritable one-man band with a pan. Although this moving, soulful video has been on YouTube for over 7 years, it has only garnered 461 views.
When You See A Busker Playing Pan and You Feel the Urge To Snap A Photo, LEAVE A DONATION FIRST
This video is self explanatory and a reminder that buskers are artistes who are already giving of themselves freely by offering their music in the public domain. Taking a photo without leaving the artiste a donation is literally stealing from the artiste's perspective, which is the reason why this pannist became so visibly upset in this video.
Although busking is one of the oldest, hardest, most under-appreciated professions that exists, the practioners of the artform who earn a dignified living through originality and their own personal style are truly extraordinary individuals who are worthy of great respect. Buskers such as this can serve as a musical reminder to the masses that there is a better way to live life, and that buskers are performing artiste's who are not some free, sideshow photo opportunity for thrifty tourists. If you have time to take your camera in your hands and snap a photo, then you definitely should have the time to stick your hand in your pocket and give the artiste the donation that he deserves, instead of subjecting yourself and the busker to the embarrassment of compelling him to demand a donation from you!