Steel Pan, Afro Jazz
Akinola Sennon started attending the Joseph School of the Arts in 1991, from age seven, learning to play the cuatro and studying the theory of music. He then moved on to playing two other instruments, the guitar and the piano at the said music school in Siparia, under the tutelage of Mr. Ashford Joseph. By age ten, Akinola was arranging musical compositions for his sibling to perform at his school concerts and recitals, since they all attended the same school.
Akinola Sennon started playing the steelpan in Standard Three with Mr Roland ‘Moose’ Joseph and at that point, he fell deeply in love with the instrument. During this time, he also played the guitar with the school and church choir. Miss Valdez, the school choir Mistress, was quite a huge influence in developing his musical ability. Mr Joseph nurtured his talent during that early period by taking him to many competitions and exposing us to the steelpan fraternity. Akinola Sennon remembers Mr Roland ‘Moose’ Joseph taking him to Pantrinbago’s Annual General Meetings and introducing him to various persons.
Akinola Sennon joined Siparia Deltones in 1996 for the Panorama season and also the Stage Side. It was there that he met Mr Carlton ‘Zanda’ Alexander. Akinola vividly remembers him asking him one day, “Young man, do you know your scales?” to which Akinola Sennon said “Yes.” He then instructed him, “Play me this scale,” which Akinola did. He then replied, “Ok, well do you know your chord scales?” Akinola again answered, “Yes.”He instructed, “Well play me this chord scale.” Akinola played the scale and he then requested him to play him the same chord scale from the 2nd inversion and that was where the trouble started. That was the beginning of a 17 year old relationship. Akinola has been his understudy since then.
Akinola Sennon was inducted as a member of the Coal Pot band which was led by Mr. Zanda. This band was basically a Kaiso/Jazz fusion ensemble with horns, vocals, piano, bass guitar and steelpan. He performed extensively at all the leading jazz and fusion shows throughout the nation, including Tobago Jazz Festival, San Fernando Jazz Festival, Sanch Apri Carnival, Siparia Jazz Festival, Point Jazz Festivaland many more. At age 18, he also began playing with Clive Alexander, Carlton’s older brother. This was also quite an experience and has significantly contributed to his overall development, especially his weekly performances at the Satchmo’s Jazz club on Ariapita Avenue for a number of months.
In 2003, Akinola Sennon became the captain of Siparia Deltones’ junior band and later went on to become the captain of the senior band. He has worked with the National Steel Symphony Orchestra for one year and the Pan in the Classroom Unit. Akinola Sennon has taught at Forest Reserve Anglican School, Fyzabad Presbyterian School, Iere High school, Palo Seco Government School and Trinidad Renaissance Preparatory School.
In 2009, Akinola played the role of the musical director for steel pan promotion in Canada, where, Siparia Deltones and I, did workshops throughout the country.
As an Arranger, he has composed for the Southern Marines Steel band Foundation placing 3rdin the Small Band Category of the Panorama competition of 2010. He won the Primary School category of the Sanfest Competition for four years in a row from 2010; three times with Forest Reserve Anglican School and one year with Trinidad Renaissance Preparatory School of which he is their musical director. Akinola Sennon also won the Pan for Blue Competition with Forest Reserve Anglican School in 2013.
He is presently the executive director and musical director of Siparia Deltones, where his intention is to have this instrument evolved globally. The designer of the band’s syllabus and course structure is what he is. Together with his band, Siparia Deltones, in 2013, they recorded an album with Hugh Masekela for which Akinola Sennon played the role of Project Coordinator and steelpan soloist.
Earlier this year, he travelled to the Netherlands to participate in the Amsterdams Conservatorium Van Summer Jazz Workshop where he is the first pan player to be accepted to be part of the prestige workshop. After that experience in the Netherlands, Akinola Sennon made a decision that the world should hear his voice more loudly via his pan. For whilst there he usually was approached and asked about his upcoming tours and albums due to students being overwhelmed by his playing ability. Akinola made the decision to do his first album, a project of the Deltones Institute of Steel Drums and music in collaboration with Berklee College, New England conservatory and Manhattan School of music students. Then he journeyed to the States where he auditioned students for the project.
This project was called Cousoumeh which received a record label contract from leading label Ropeadope Records. He also developed the concept of the album into a festival called the Cousoumeh festival. Both the album and the festival have been very successful thus far.
Akinola Sennon continues to work in the area of steelpan development, arranging and music education.
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