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MUSICAL ODYSSEY

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You know Carnival is here when steel pan yards are alive with music in the wee hours of the night.

Pan music isn’t constrained to just Carnival season, a rich culture and history is beaten into every oil drum.

Exposing the colorful history surrounding the steel pan drum is Trinidadian native Kim Johnson and French-born Jean Michael Gilbert, the co-producers of docu-drama “Pan! Our Musical Odyssey.”

Written by Johnson, the 90-minute film intertwines fictional characters with true historic events to create an exciting watching experience for the audience. “Our initial idea was a standard documentary what you would see in like a Ken Burns jazz kind of thing. When we spoke to the third co-producer, who is a friend of Jean Michael and most experienced film producer, Bathelmy Fougea, he suggested that first of all the documentary part should follow characters,” Johnson said.

“It was a challenge to style and what I can say is we are more than pleased by the reaction of the public,” Gilbert added.

Johnson’s extensive knowledge of the history of steel bands allowed for him to write an informed cinematic production that threaded together historic events portrayed through a fictional character.

“For this film what I did was I took events that were factual and I joined them together so that one person could experience them,” Johnson said. “The character is a fictional character – even though I took the name of a real historical person – and I joined together various events that happened to different men or bands and I let one person be the thread that joined them.”

“Pan! Our Musical Odyssey” follows various musicians all in search of achieving the highest level in their art. Preparing for Panorama – considered the “Olympics of music” – where bands from across the globe descend on Trinidad to compete, Gilbert and Johnson feel that this showing of an artistic struggle is what sets their film apart.

“A lot of times these documentaries in the Caribbean are like poverty and violence and gang – very negative. Our film is extremely positive. It really shows the positive creativity of the people,” Gilbert said.

“A lot of movies about third world music and musicians see them just struggling against oppression, struggling against poverty, struggling against political oppression. These musicians are musicians. They are artists. They’re struggling in the context of their art, to make their art together, to be more creative and outdo the next artist,” Johnson added.

“Pan! Our Musical Odyssey” makes its New York debut at the Brooklyn Museum June 28, which has been newly dubbed “Steel Pan Day.” With performances from steel pan bands, Gilbert is particularly excited as the borough is very familiar with steel pan.

“It is a New York premiere and we are very happy to do it in the Brooklyn Museum because I think it is a prestigious place. It’s nice because Brooklyn is apart of the steel pan culture also,” Gilbert said.

Attend the free screening of “Pan! Our Musical Odyssey” at the Brooklyn Museum June 28 at 2 pm preceded by a short film titled “Doubles with Slight Pepper.” Visit caribbeing.com for more information about show times.

Reach reporter Alley Olivier at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at aolivier@cnglocal.com. Follow Alley on Twitter @All3Y_B.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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