The best way to hear steel pan is live, in the open air – there is nothing as romantic as listening to its rich chiming harmonies drifting on the wind on a warm starry night. Throughout the year Port of Spain hosts events in which pan features prominently, but in the run-up to Carnival, it’s well worth taking a tour around the city’s panyards, where the musicians gather most nights to practise their compositions for the Panorama competition. Visitors are welcome (crowds get quite sizeable as the big day approaches), and there’s always a bar and somewhere to sit and take in the music – though bear in mind that you may hear a section of a song being practised over and over again rather than the whole thing. Panyards are also open at other times, though the scene isn’t as animated.
If you don’t have a car or want to get a better insight into pan, one of the best ways to visit the yards is to take an evening tour with Gunda Harewood of Island Experiences. Details of Port of Spain’s better-known panyards appear in our Carnival Listings section; Phase II, Invaders, Silver Stars, Renegades and All Stars usually draw the biggest crowds. For full listings of the country’s pan bands, visit pantrinbago.co.tt.