It’s International Education Week -- a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange. Florida Gulf Coast University started the week with some sounds from the Caribbean.
A steel pan orchestra kicked off the week and played at an outdoor pavilion on campus.
The bright music belies the instrument’s beginnings. The steel pan was born in Trinidad and Tobago by French-owned slaves.
Clifford Canes is the band leader of the Phase 3 steel pan orchestra. He’s from Trinidad and has been playing for 40 years. He said when he plays the steel pan, he feels a connection to his ancestors.
“After slavery, when they banned the drums from the Africans, the Africans were in search of something," said Canes. "And they came up with the idea to use bamboo to substitute the drums – what they took from us . . . this is a part of continued culture.”
His bandmates said Canes is a passionate steel pan teacher. Canes said he likes to teach the younger generation so the art form doesn’t die off.
Cornelius Catcho eagerly watched the steel pan orchestra. He was born in Belize, but lived in Trinidad for a number of years.
“The steel pan is original," said Catcho. "How many countries can tell the world that they have an original instrument like this? And everything's upbeat. The tunes. The lyrics. You know, there’s nothing sad about it.”
And that’s what Catcho finds so fascinating about the steel pan—that something born out of the history of slavery could be turned into an art that he said all West Indians can be proud of.
FGCU’s International Education week also includes a study abroad seminar, and multiple lectures on cultures from around the world.