Letter from Sweden
Södertälje is a town, situated 40km south of Stockholm in Sweden, with a
population of approx. 80,000. Currently, it is the town with the most
steelbands in Sweden. There are only two other towns with steelbands in
Sweden and they have only one band each. Hot Pans in Stockholm and Sweet
Pans in Lund (in the south of Sweden).
By Ulrika, Per, Lasse and Ingrid
In the summer of 1989, a danish school steelband from Copenhagen visited
Södertälje (this was the same band who inspired Ari Viitanen in Finland to
start playing pan). The headmaster of Södertälje's school of culture and
some of us teachers heard them playing, and we immediately felt, that this
would be something that would interest our students.
Ingrid Bergström, one of the teachers had at that time been playing steelpan
for two years with Hot Pans in Stockholm. She was the only one who knew
anything about the instrument. Ingrid had connections to Rudy Smith in
Copenhagen, and he built a set of steel pans for Södertälje.
In autom 1990, we started a teacher steelband at the school of culture. One
year later, we also started two pupil groups (age 9-12 and 12-16).
The school of culture in Södertälje is a school that is subsidized by the
local community. Our students play in their free time and pay a fee for
their lessons. We have a wide variety of subjects that include most musical
instruments as well as dance, art, drama, etc.
Today, we have three 'voluntary' steelband in this school. Two have been
playing since 1991 and we started a new band with beginners (10-12 years old),
last autumn. This year we have also started two steelbands that take lessons
on a non-voluntary basis, i.e. via their school. This makes a total of six
steelbands in Södertälje.
The voluntary bands rehearse once a week, 80 minutes each band. We work two/three
teachers with each group. To date, the students do not read music. We show
them phrase by phrase, how to play the various tunes. The repertoire is a
mixture of different musical styles such as popular music, calypso, swedish
The school of culture where we rehearse, is situated in the centre of
Södertälje, and we share our room with other orchestras. Our dream is, of
course, to have our own room where the students come ad practise whenever
they want to.
When we look back at the four years of pan playing in Södertälje, things
have changed quite a lot since we started. The first year, we had to carry
the pans from the ground floor to the top floor and back again for each
practice session. Now, we play on the ground floor with a special storage
room for the pans next to the rehearsal room.
As teachers we feel, that we have learnt a lot during these years. All of us
were steelpan beginners, more or less, when we started our first student
band. Now, we feel more comfortable about choosing tunes and arranging them
for the band in a correct way. It is also important to us, to play in the
teacher band, where we are able to develop our own pan playing.
Once or twice a year, Rudy Smith comes to Södertälje to tune our pans. We
depend on his professional skills and his know-how. We are unable to tune
our pans, and, without doubt, we still have a lot to learn about playing the
During our steelpan history we have had a lot of opportunities to play our
pans in public, at concerts, in and around the city. This time of the year
we are especially popular at different outdoor festivals. Last weekend, we
made our first tour abroad with our two oldest steelband Panditos and Flash
in the Pan.
We just returned from Finland where we had a great time with ari Viitanen
and his steelbands. We were really impressed by all the steelpan aktivities
that Ari has built up in Karjaa. We have had the pleasure of listening to
the Steel Pan Lovers earlier, when they visited us in February 1994. We were
impressed then and became even more during this stay in Finland.
Now, we hope to meet our finish steelpan friends again soon. Perhaps in a
festival with other school bands, either from Scandinavia or other countries.