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Josanne Francis - SteelpanArtist-in-Residence - Strathmore

Josanne Francis Quartet

steel pan Capitol Heights, Maryland
Photo Credit: photo courtesy of artist
Josanne Francis - SteelpanArtist-in-Residence - Strathmore

Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, and a resident of Capitol Heights, Josanne Francis blends the sounds of her Caribbean roots with the urban soundscapes of Maryland as well as an eclectic mix of influences from America and abroad, all through the soothing notes of her steel pans.

​​Steel pan emerged on the island of Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1940s. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the British colonial government had banned percussion instruments to control violent street encounters between rival groups during Carnival. In 1939, a musician discovered that the head of an oil drum dented in precise ways could produce distinct pitches; “steel pan” was born. Easy access to 45-gallon steel drums by way of a U.S. Army base and a booming oil industry provided the perfect complement for resourceful locals eager to create music. A homegrown industry quickly grew, as finely tuned, multi-note drums were crafted out of oil barrels. Orchestras that had performed on frying pans, dustbins, and oil drums gave way to steel pan ensembles. Today, the music has achieved international popularity, and steel pan is Trinidad and Tobago’s official national instrument.

Modern steel pan orchestras perform reggae, pop tunes, and, of course, interpretations of the calypsos so closely associated with the island. Josanne is no exception. She expands upon traditional calypso sounds by incorporating jazz, Indian, funk, rock, and classical music into her repertoire, which she presents in a variety of ensembles, from her solo work, to duets, quartets, and finally sextets.

An internationally acclaimed musician and educator, Josanne has performed at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, the Strathmore Music Center, the San Juan Conservatory of Music, and Haiti’s Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival. Dedicated to the power of music in the lives of youth, Josanne is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Maryland. She also founded an educational program, Steel on Wheels, to ensure accessibility and visibility of the steel pan across all communities.

Josanne will perform with her quartet, combining the cool melodies of her steel pan with bass, drums, and keyboard.

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