Written by: Sandra L Blood
Hailing from the predominantly wetland country, Guyana, of 214,969 square kilometres, but with a population of approximately 780,000, is former Christ Church Secondary School student, pan tutor and entertainer, 22-year-old born, bred Guyanese, Darius Austin.
The Wortmanville, Georgetown resident, now director of Darius Austin Steelpan Entertainment, and certified electrical engineer, says of what inspired him about pan: “I came from a music family, but they play traditional instruments, and I never knew anything about pan. Obviously, pan was in Guyana as there are about 28 steel orchestras and many pan competitions and events, but it’s only eight years ago, I learned that pan existed.”
One of three siblings, Austin, who has never been exposed to formal music, states that he was introduced to pan in Guyana, self, through the Parkside Steel Orchestra’s pan school, Pan Wave Academy, in mid-2012, introduced to the double guitar, but “learning them was very easy.”
With natural ability like some of T&Ts master musicians and pan arrangers, the late Clive Bradley – who couldn’t even play pan, yet was a Beethoven on a guitar and of a music arranger; Boogsie Sharpe and Dr Pelham Goddard, Austin was directed to the double seconds, but was still unchallenged seeing him eventually mastering every pan.
A participant in his country’s Panorama competitions, and semi-finalist at the recently-hosted International Pan Ramajay competition hosted in the mecca of pan, T&T, Austin plans to test his skills at the mecca’s Panorama come 2021 or when next borders open up.
Showing up high and mighty at the fifth PanMotion virtual live concert on July 9, hosted by Panograma Entertainment out of Barbados, Austin delivered an eighty-two-minute scintillating package including six of his local guest artistes.
As the virtual and physical audiences got settled during the fifteen-minute pre-concert, music from the Parkside Steel Orchestra entertained, giving way to Austin promptly at 8PM, and to an assortment of local and international renditions of artistes’ works including The Isley Brothers, Gregory Abbott, Betty Wright, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Ella Mai, Bob Marley, Busy Signal, Tanya Stephens, Teejay, Prince Swanney and Popcaan.
Guyanese guest artistes showcasing were: Reigning two-time Junior and Senior Pan Solo Champion, and only person to retain the title, and, spoken-word artiste, Hanani Ben Lewis; reigning Junior Calypso Monarch, Omaiah Hall; lead singer for top-ranking local band, Heat Wave, Nekeita (Tennica De Freitas), who performed one of her own compositions, Rise, in recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Nekeita issued the message to black people to “rise up; stand up and fight; pray…remember that black is stronger together when united….”
Other guesting were members of the Guyana National Steel Orchestra, 592 Jamming Bros (Tirese Thomas and Andrew Charles); and Gospel singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, and, grand-daughter of one of Guyana’s prolific calypsonians, the late Lord Canary (Malcolm Corrica Snr, also former Guyana government minister and parliamentarian), Faith Corrica.
Social media recorded Austin, also a ten-time National Junior Calypso Monarch and 2018 Junior Soca Monarch and People’s Choice Awardee, and his cast, as amassing over 1,000 views and attracting international audiences from Martinique, Canada, Kenya, Cuba, Nairobi, Dubai, USA, his homeland, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Some regulars on the live were: GT Crew, Platinum Steel Orchestra, World Governing Body for Pan, Pan Trinbago, Republic Bank Exodus Steelband, Sherwin Cooper, representing BP Renegades, Jossane Kerrice-Felix, D’Avion D. Meusa, Sons of Steel, Trsiston Brewining-Japsi, Kern Summerville, DHM Clothing, Earl La Pierre Jr, Althea De La Rosa, Earl Brooks Jr.
Just when many a youth were exposed to positive opportunities, and are still, but choose to adopt a questionable lifestyle, 22-year-old Austin remains positive with the understanding that, “Racialism has been here from the time of memorial, but we must spread love,” claiming that he spreads love through music.
“There will be some who are wayward, but we must think positive,” he asserts.
Austin thanked all for viewing, hoping that his show was enjoyable. He also expressed appreciation to Nevin Roach and the Panograma Entertainment team, ShutterUp Photography, the Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL), and the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company and Broadband network (GTT).
To stay connected to Darius Austin: @steelpanguru