The Amazing Jimi Phillips and His Steel Pan

Jimi Phillips playing pan!

By Ann Sebring

What a treat it was to watch a great performer and maker of the steel pan create one before our eyes. The latest invented instrument takes about five to six hours to make from old oil drums. Then it is sent to a factory to cover it in chrome. Then more hours of work for fine tuning again to give the pan that perfect ring. After Jimi walked us through the steps of turning an oil barrel into a beautiful and widely respected instrument, he demonstrated the tuning process. It was so magical to listen as he hammered and hammered until he finally created the first note in a new pan. The second we all heard that beautiful ring of the steel pan, “oh”s and “ah”s arose as our hearts melted at the amazing sound just pounding on metal from top to bottom could create. It was obvious he had won us all over at that very second.

Jimi Phillips - tuning a steel pan - Photo by Chaylee Posson
Jimi Phillips – tuning a steel pan – Photo by Chaylee Posson

The steel pan industry, though, is having a hard time producing good steel pans due to the diminishing quality of the steel used to make oil drums. Jimi, who has always loved being on the cutting edge of steel pan technology, is therefore in the process of turning sheet metal into steel pans. He’s made the first type, and it seems it is successfully satisfactory. The man is certainly an inventor and it was a joy to watch the progression of his ideas manifest themselves in a sort of time lapse, followed by the spirit of his talent as he played for us quickly after the demonstration. Later that night, he filled the air with beautiful melodies during our last dinner at the Pax Guesthouse.