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Natasha Joseph, Pan Ambassador

Published: 
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Ambassador for steelpan Natasha Joseph. Photo courtesy Maria Nunes

Arranger, composer, producer, teacher Natasha Joseph has been an ambassador for the steelpan, representing T&T in many countries such as USA, London and Japan, Tobago Jazz, Barbados Jazz, St Lucia Jazz and Grenada Jazz festivals. 

After placing second in the Pan Ramajay soloist skills competition in 1993, Joseph went on to join the Panazz Players and toured extensively with the group. Panazz won the Sunshine award in 1997 for Best Recording by a steelband.

A self-taught musician, Joseph has shared the stage with many local and international jazz artistes such as Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Ken “Professor” Philmore, Elan Parle, Chantal Esdelle and Moyenne, Michael Boothman, Clive Zanda, the late Raf Robertson, Arturo Tappin of Barbados, Joe Baione, Kim Waters of the USA, Jeremy Ledbetter of Canada, Alexis Baro of Cuba, Charlie Sepulveda, Fidel Morales, and Gabriel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico.

For the past five years, she has been the steelpan facilitator for the FCB steelpan and jazz workshops in Trinidad, and also teaches steelpan and guitar privately. Her teaching includes stints at St Andrews Private School, Bishop Anstey Junior School, Sacred Heart Girls’, private classes in music theory, improvisation and steelpan rudiments, Blackman’s Private School, and founder of Music JYM (Juntos Y Mejorar).

In June 2012 she received her diploma in Recording Engineering and Production from The Audio Institute of America.

A well-known drillmaster, Joseph has helped to bring Phase II Pan Groove to victory in 2013 and 2014, and second place in 2015 in the National Steelband Panorama. She has been working with their arranger Len “Boogsie” Sharpe for the past seven years. She is also the arranger for the Starlift Junior Steel Orchestra, which placed fifth in the non-schools category for Junior Panorama 2015. She also arranges for Platinum Steel Orchestra, an all-female single pan band taking part in the National Panorama 2016, a first in the competition’s 53-year existence

Q: Tell us about your early years and your family…where born, where grew up, schools attended including primary, etc?
A: I was born in Barataria. Both of my parents were from south, so my early years between the ages of three to seven were spent back and forth between Thick village, Fyzabad, and Barataria. During that period, I attended Pepper Village Government School and St Theresa’s RC School in Malick. I attended Malick Secondary Comprehensive School, and I’m currently a student at the Department of Creative and Festival Arts, UWI, pursuing a certificate in music. My father was an ace pannist with Solo Harmonites. 

What attracted you most to the steelpan?
As a younger person growing up I did not like pan at all. I always found that it was too noisy until one day, I heard the beautiful arrangement of the song Sailing by the late Clive Bradley for the band then known as Fertrin Pandemonium and also, Catelli All Stars’ performance of Curry Tabanca. I was captivated by their performance and enjoyment of the music. 

What are some of your favourite pieces of Trini music?
The music of Clive Zanda, the late Andre Tanker and Earl Rodney.

Which of your work do you rate as the most satisfying and memorable?
Working with young people. The work I do with the Ethnic Jazz Club which is led by Chantal Esdelle, and Panazz Players’ history of performances, tours and recordings. I have learnt and continue to learn a lot from these experiences.

What is your favourite pastime/interest/ hobby outside of performing/playing?
Listening to music, playing table tennis and just relaxing.

What goals and or ambitions do you still have? What are your ‘steelpan’ plans for the future? 
One of my goals is to ensure all pan players have an applicable understanding of music theory. It will make a huge difference in the understanding, execution and the time it takes one to learn an arrangement.

Of all your shows, concerts, performances, which would you like a first-time audience, listener or viewer to experience? 
Kaisoca Quartet, which is led by Kyle Noel, is a group committed to keeping our culture alive while staying current. Other members of the group are Chantal Esdelle, Douglas Redon and I.

Of all your accolades, prizes and awards which do you rate as extremely special? 
Second place in the 1994 Pan Ramajay soloist skills competition. 

What advice would you give to the young people of T&T?
Never stop believing in yourself, there is no end/stopping point when it comes to learning. Apply yourself at all times, whether it be towards schoolwork, band practice or training. There is nothing that you cannot do—cannot means will not, so push yourself especially when things feel hard, and always have patience with yourself, your peers and your teachers.

If you could pick any singer and/or band to perform just for you who would you choose? 
Earl Rodney and Jason Baptiste

Do you play mas? What thoughts do you have for the improvement of Carnival, especially as it relates to the steelpan?
I have never played mas. But if I ever decided to play it would be with All Stars, I have loved their sailor mas since I was a child. I hope one day we can figure out how to have Panorama without the competition aspect of it. 

Who are the people who influenced and inspired you the most, in your career and in life in general?
My biggest inspiration and encouragement came from Mr Richard Gaskin who was my form teacher in Malick Secondary Comprehensive School. There is where I learned to play steelpan and was always in awe of his skills as a musician. He is a multi-instrumentalist with perfect pitch who taught me some valuable lessons in arranging and approach to playing music. Earl Rodney, Clive Zanda, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Robert Greenidge and the late Clive Bradley have also been great influences in my career.

What daily motto do you live by?
Once you believe you will achieve.

Describe yourself in two words, one beginning with N, the other with J, your initials.
Nice and Jazzy.

• If you have any suggestions of persons who should be featured in this series please email Nasser Khan at nkhantt@gmail.com