New Mission East Ambassador: Master of Steel Pans Wants to Change the World | Mission East

New Mission East Ambassador: Master of Steel Pans Wants to Change the World


New Mission East Ambassador: Master of Steel Pans Wants to Change the World
New Mission East Ambassador: Master of Steel Pans Wants to Change the World

Mission East's new music ambassador, Gregory Boyd, is incredibly skilled on the so-called steel pans. When people listen to his music, he hopes that the audience understands the symbolism: The poor can rise out of their misery, like his shiny steel pans that were once simple rubbish bins.

By Svend Løbner, journalist

The sound is both soft and crisp. The tones succeed and mingle with each other in authentic harmonies that evoke images of salty beaches, swaying palm trees, pavilions of bamboo and the serving of exotic drinks.

But we are not in the Caribbean. The notes, however, are flying out of a window in an ordinary apartment in a grey residential complex in Aarhus.

The Poor Man’s Piano

Gregory Boyd comes from the South of the United States and is based in a modest apartment in Viby near Aarhus. From there he  is touring Denmark and the rest of the world with his steel pans. For it is the steel pans that cast this soft and crisp sound.

"My drums are made from a 200 litre oil barrel which is normally used for waste. You shape the lid like a bowl, and then you heat up areas of the bowl, so that each part emits a certain tone," explains Gregory Boyd.

"I have always felt that steel pans are a special instrument. It is not only because of the sound, but also because of the instrument's origin. It comes from poor people, people who did not have anything. "

Crazy Enough to Change the World

Gregory Boyd knows what it means to be poor. When his parents divorced, he lived with his mother in a miserable apartment, where rats ran across the floor.

"I have been poor for the greater duration of my life, and I know what it feels like to be in a position where no one thinks of you. To be in a place where people just walk past you on the street. I feel that this situation needs a soundtrack, and I want to give my small contribution. "

People can Rise

"I have chosen Mission East, because they help people directly from person to person. Likewise, my steel pans address people individually. Just like the drums that came from nothing people can rise out of poverty. I might be crazy, but I really think that I can change the world," says Gregory Boyd.

Where do Steel Pans Come From?

"Steel pans come from Trinidad in Cuba, where authorities in the 1800s took away the African drums from the local population, because they were afraid that the music would unite the people in revolt. Around World War II, the population developed new instruments, made of cans and buckets in different sizes, giving them different tones. Different musicians eventually developed the instrument we know today as  steel pans, "says Gregory Boyd.

When Gregory Boyd became the leader of The Martin Band in high school, several teachers, students and other parents told him that he would not be able to achieve the same things as white people can. "I often came home crying. Finally my father said to me: 'You are made of the right material, son. It'll be okay - believe me!'" Photo: Svend Løbner.

Gregory Boyd played at the opening of ‘Hjerterum’ (‘Room in the heart’) in Svendborg, where all proceeds from the second hand shop go to the work of Mission East.

Photo: Susanne Madsen