Trinidad’s Music Man

Trinidadian Seion Gomez’s career as an award-winning steel-pan arranger is panning out wonderfully.

Seion Gomez
If cruisers visit in February, they may see Gomez playing during the islands’ Panorama steel-pan competition.Yaisa Tangwell Photography

There was never doubt about which instrument Seion Gomez would play. After all, the award-winning steel-pan arranger was born in Trinidad, the birthplace of steel pan. His father was a founding member of Phase II Pan Groove, a steel band celebrated for its musical innovations. Gomez first picked up the sticks at age 9 and was arranging for steel bands across Trinidad by age 18.

Nowhere is Gomez’s talent on greater display than at Panorama, the annual steel-band competitions that take place in the islands. “Panorama is the Super Bowl of steel pan in Trinidad and Tobago, and throughout the Caribbean,” he explains.

Gomez established himself as a star at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Panorama, held every July, leading the Sion Hill Euphonium Steel Orchestra to six consecutive titles. But this native son takes special pride in leading the 90-member Buccooneers Steel Orchestra in Trinidad and Tobago’s Panorama, held in the weeks before Carnival in February.

“When a performance is going well, the experience is like heaven,” he says. “You close your eyes, and the music takes you. The more you listen, the more you hear, and you can’t let it go.”

What do you enjoy about playing steel pan? It is a mix of different emotions. At one time, it’s going to be this big boost [of] energy and a real cool and continuous vibe. Then other times, you’ll get that calm, soothing sensation.

What makes for a winning Panorama performance? When it’s well-organized, and you have good music on well-tuned instruments—those are ingredients for a perfect performance.

How are you raising the level of steel-pan performances? As an instructor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, I have the opportunity to mold young minds to create something new. We’re getting some ingenious ideas; I think you’re in store for some really good music.

Top Spots in Trinidad & Tobago

Chaud (Port of Spain, Trinidad): It has a mix of cuisines but with a local touch. Their ambience, food, service and setting are all quite nice.

Maracas Beach (Trinidad): I think visitors know the beach because of Richard’s Bake & Shark [a well known street-food restaurant specializing in shark]. But for me, it’s all about relaxation.

Nylon Pool (Tobago): It’s warm, serene and relaxing, with the ocean water just above your knees. It’s a gorgeous place to be.