A Life in Pan
Born in 1947 in Palo Seco, a small village in southern Trinidad, Michael Kernahan left his native country in search of musical opportunities, adventure, and, ideally, some income. After touring North America with a steelband, he settled in the United States on a permanent basis, and has found a career making high-precision musical instruments, known as pans, for bands and individuals in Florida. In Miami, Kernahan has been one of the guiding forces in the still-emerging pan scene, creating pans from discarded oil and chemical barrels. He also plays for a band called the 21st Century Steel Orchestra, serving as the leader and musical arranger. Steelbands, a creation of the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, are a relatively recent phenomenon in south Florida. This chapter examines the art of Kernahan, along with the characteristics of the Miami pan scene, in the context of the development of pan music in Trinidad, and also provides an overview of pan tuning as well as Kernahan’s 21st Century Steel Orchestra.
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