Continuing any tradition in another land takes a lot of work and Debbie Lara knows that. Over a decade ago in order to get her daughters to connect with their Trinidadian roots Lara decided to register her girls in classes to learn more about Trinidad and Tobago most famous instrument steelpans which are made out of discarded oil pans.
“This group was put together just as a vehicle for my kids to excel in music so we put together a family band so that they can practice together, socialize together and also give back to the community,” Lara said.
Today Lara is the director of Pan Lara, she organizes the group and schedules them for performances.
As time went on other members joined the group and they began to perform more shows around the region.
Today the group uses the steelpans as a way to showcase Caribbean culture to others. Apart from performing at the Kennedy Center in DC and various festivals the group holds workshops regularly to teach others about the pan.
Sheldon Thwaites a drummer in the group says he wants to bring the pans to a global audience.
“I hope it sparks interest, you know, most people just want to be excited by something different you find in society in general,” said Thwaites.
The band mates who are mostly high school students see the steelpans as more than just an extracurricular activity said Maya Lara founding member of the band.
“My heritage is from Trinidad so we felt that we needed to connect with the culture,” said Maya Lara.
At the end of the day it is music that brings them together. For Nathaniel Hope the steelpan was the only instrument that stuck with him after trying other instruments as a kid.
“Playing the steel drums to me is basically like art, the way you put your feelings into it, it will show in the audience,” Hope said.
The band does not compose of only first generation Americans of Caribbean decent. It is open to anyone who has love for the music and wants to learn.
Some members joined after seeing the band perform. Although a musical group, they spend time working on entrepreneurial skills to help them succeed.
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