Q&A

'Our Carnival culture — the arts — is gonna die with our parents' generation'

Steelpan is synonymous with Caribbean Carnival season, but for how much longer? Toronto's Joy Lapps-Lewis is on a mission to keep the music playing.

That's one Toronto steelpan artist's fearful prediction, but she'll fight to keep the music playing

Steelpan is synonymous with Caribbean Carnival season, but for how much longer? Toronto's Joy Lapps-Lewis is on a mission to keep the traditional sound alive. (Avital Zerner/Courtesy of Joy Lapps-Lewis)

When I was 11 years old, I attended a summer camp with my cousins. It was held in a church basement in the east end of Toronto, and I don't remember much about our time there beyond the friendship bracelets we made and the smile of a boy I had a secret crush on. But one thing always stuck with me: a steelpan lesson. I remember the excitement I felt learning the basics of the instrument. I loved the sounds that emanated from the steel, the discovery of its orchestral range and the fact that we were able to play Bob Marley songs for hours on end. My lessons ended when camp was over — but each Carnival season leaves me itching to return.

An instrument created from the discarded containers of industrial waste, the steelpan is a pitch percussion instrument. It's the only major acoustic instrument to be invented in the last century, and its creation story is riddled in myth and legend. But what is not debated is its indelible influence on Carnival traditions and the musical sounds of the Caribbean.

Steelpan is the ultimate community arts experience.- Joy Lapps-Lewis, musician

The Toronto Caribbean Festival was last weekend, and steelpan was in the air. Alongside calypso music and the masquerade, pan comple