Salmon Cupid was born in the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies. It was there, growing up like so many youngsters on the twin-island nation of the Caribbean, where he first fell in love with and learned to play the steelpan. He began formally playing with St. Augustine Senior Comprehensive School (also known as the “Mean Green on Steel”) where he led the band in several music festivals and competitions. Under his captaincy, St. Augustine won the Panorama competition and came away with first place at the Steelpan Music Festival in Trinidad & Tobago. He also made several international tours with the school to Europe, for as he recounted, his experience on these tours confirmed to him that his idea of the electronic steelpan was crucial to the progress of steelpan although his “flash-of-genius” moment occurred years before.
In 1994, Salmon was selected by Pan Trinbago to be a “steelpan cultural ambassador” as part of the demand by schools internationally to teach and expose pan in Canada. He accepted that opportunity to expand his horizons and led him to migrate to Canada where he currently resides. With it came the offer of a permanent job with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) teaching music using the steelpan instrument at several schools across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In 2000, he boldly entered a steelband in the Kiwanis Music Festival in Toronto, which was previously unheralded. For the next six years, the band consistently won the competition.
Again in 2000, with the support of the students, parents, teachers, and community at large, he also founded an alumni band called the Toronto All Stars Steel Orchestra (TASSO).
They were made up of students who were under his musical tutorship during their elementary school years and who were determined to continue the cultural journey of steelpan. In 2004, TASSO won an audition to represent Canada at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival (AIYF) in Scotland. In 2007, the band participated in the Australian International Youth Festival (AIYF). The competition aspect of the festival climaxed at the Sydney Opera House and TASSO came away with the Gold award where they were the embraced as the first steelband to ever perform at that prestigious venue. In 2009, TASSO was invited to revisit the AIYF in Scotland. In 2011, TASSO participated at the Festival Orchestre Giovanili (FOG) where they performed in cities like Tuscany and the Rome areas of Italy. In 2013 TASSO toured Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague when they participated in a World Music Festival there. Please visit www.torontoallstars.com for more information.
Now to give an insight into the history of the E-Pan invention, it’s best to lend some background starting with the steelpan. The steelpan, also known as the steeldrum, is an invention born of the people of Trinidad & Tobago. It is an acoustic musical instrument indigenous to that nation which remains to this day, the only such invention of the 20th century and with the dawn of this new century and millennium it still manages to retain that title.
The inception of the steelpan can be traced back to the 1930’s. Since then and throughout the decades, the “cause célèbre” has witnessed advancement through numerous innovations. Considering the track record and history of most musical instruments, to accomplish that much in such a relatively short period of space and time is a remarkable testament to the talents, skills, and creativity of the people of T&T.
To get a better sense of the history of the instrument, we suggest you peruse the internet further, starting with the link that follows for a brief excerpt, extracted from the website of PanTrinbago (The World Governing Body for Steelpan), which is as good a source and authority as anyone can get.
We have all at one point or another heard the maxim which says, “Necessity is the mother of all inventions.” Well once again that point was proven as Salmon thought more and more about ways to improve and build on the status quo and bit by bit, his thoughts began to take shape, form, and structure. As he stated, “The idea was like a muse in my head and all I could do to think, kept my brain refocusing on it. It has always remained in my mind as I matured and sought ways to realize my dream to fruition.”
With regards to this latest innovation with the E-Pan, from the very start, Salmon made the decision to temper eager anticipation with a heavy dose of bridled restraint, as he chose to remain deliberately cautious in timing the release of this “electrifying” news to the global pan community and the public at large. Out of honour to the pioneers that originated and developed the instrument and art form, he strived to remain mindful and respectful of the steelpan pioneers in the “Pan Mecca” back home in T&T.
In learning from the experience of those who went before, he instinctively sensed it was the wisest way to go. Hence the delay in breaking the news earlier to avoid stepping on toes by making sure all the t’s were crossed and the i’s dotted, to best avoid the pitfalls of doing things the wrong way around. This venture has met the challenge of such an endeavour head-on, by putting the horse before the cart through ensuring that all IP rights have been duly and properly protected.
After secretly keeping his ideas under tight wraps, he consulted with trusted experts in “Ideas & IP” who mentored and help guide the concept under strict private and confidential non-disclosure protocols. From recorded documents of his idea with original paper drawings and notes, a Virtual Prototype was assembled. Thence Salmon Cupid stepped up the process to protect his intellectual property rights beyond standard copyright and trademark. In 2004, he did this by filing first for a USPTO utility patent which was granted in 2006. He then followed by filing for co-patents in global WIPO domains CIPO , EPO, and IPOTT . The quest for the patent-pending application back in his home and native T&T remains disappointedly “in limbo” due to the stubborn “pan politics” which is part of the local scene in T&T. There the invention of the steelpan is jealously and zealously guarded against “foreign” invasion in an obsessive-cum-possessive manner with borderline compulsion. Naturally expected, this can be tricky to navigate globally to balance commercial interests over domain property rights. While the E-Pan application was known to be first-at-bat, the IP authorities in T&T later refused to acknowledge the primacy of the E-Pan invention and patent. Collusionary attempts to discredit, devalue and decouple it then proved to be unsuccessful. The reaction was to subsequently piggy-back the latent technology on the prior art of the E-Pan patent. Unfortunately, the IP lawyers will continue to sort all that out in the courts of law. To learn more about the ongoing debate, please stay tuned. > An Interview with E-Pan Inventor Salmon Cupid
The E-Pan invention is in itself a novel and unique innovation. It is important to note and understand that the IP right protection which was sought and granted is for a utility patent and not an industrial design certificate as there is a distinct and important difference. A utility patent protects a new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. In a simplified sense, a utility patent on a product protects the function or structure of an invention or what it does as apart from an industrial design certificate which has more to do with the ornamentation.
Salmon’s invention of the E-Pan was inspired, “by the people, of the people, and for the people”. It is about the creation of a new addition (again note it is not a replacement) to the steelpan family of instruments employing state-of-the-art technology. It is not simply about another angle or twists on the miking and amplifying of the conventional steelpan. The E-Pan has current technology and uses specially designed hardware and software which in the end, results in a state of the art, self-reliant electronic steelpan workstation. In the case of the E-Pan, durable composite materials were used with electronics employing built-integrated circuitry to deliver software-generated-and-enhanced digital sound reproduction with the capability for not only true steelpan sounds but other voices in the orchestral range of musical instruments. This was successfully accomplished while maintaining the standardized methods of playing the traditional steelpan aided with the perspective of both an aesthetical and functional look and feel. The E-Pan is an advancement to prior art, in the similar sense that the classical acoustic guitar was advanced by the technology of the semi-acoustic electric guitar, then again by the electric guitar. The piano and pipe organ advanced into the modern electric keyboard. As with the playing of musical drums progressed from being played individually, then the acoustical drum kit as a drum or trap set played by an individual which could be miked, to the modern electronic v-drum kit.
Salmon Cupid as a pannist-musician in his own right, through his own personal experience and observations, in playing and listening to the music, noticed that the quality often came up lacking in the delivery of the truest sounds and tones. This was so, regardless of venues and even came into question with recording sessions. It was further complicated by the complex task required by the pan tuners to maintain that correct and required sound through repetitive tuning of the instrument. There is no doubt that these pan tuners are indeed experts and true artisans in their own right, but that does not diminish the logistics and recurring expense required to maintain the best sound in a steelpan. When you bring in the question of sound volume, the effect compounded the dilution of resulting sound quality, even with amplification. Capturing the true “ring and ping” steelpan sound in that atmosphere and environment was too often compromised and remained elusive, that’s up until the idea of the E-Pan arrived.
Then and still, pannist and pan-fans would constantly discuss the merits of the pan sounds of one steelband over the other. In fact, this was often the difference in advantaging an edge where performance and competition were concerned. Enormous time and effort is taken to properly place and set up the pans so that the “right” sound will emanate and capture the ears and judgment of the audience and not discount their hard work and practice rehearsals. Pannist quite often must act in a dual-role as stagehands and non-electric acoustical engineers. They get the instruments to a performance area, spend the time (often constrained) to make sure they are set up so that the audience and judges will hear the sound, conduct repetitive sound checks, then and only then can they and their band leader feel comfortable in going forth with their performance. That alone has sometimes allowed one group to win approval, even though the technical skill and talents of another were actually better. In the home of steelpan in T&T, pan-fans were and are still known to have the ability to distinguish and recognize particular pan sides, just from the sound alone and with no other identification. This is remarkable but also revealing.
While revolutionizing the manner in which the “steelpan” sound is delivered, the E-Pan maintains the basic and traditional way the instrument is played. The evolution will allow the pannist-musician to retain skill-sets learned from the traditional steelpan, lowering the learning curve with mastering the E-Pan and remain focused on playing the instrument by concentrating on the performance of music and development of the art form. This can now be done while far less attention is paid to the cumbersome and rigorous logistics hitherto involved with stage setting and sound delivery, especially for large and outdoor venues that are well-known as challenging environments for steelpan acoustics.
While the E-Pan not only delivers the “steelpan sound”, it also encompasses the full range of the orchestral symphony such as violin, guitar, piano and horns, which can also be blended with other sounds to favour and flavour experimentation, enhancing the musical versatility of the pannist. This will allow and afford them greater opportunities for valuable work, whether performing solo or as “accompanist”.
The classical and traditional steelpan musical instrument as it has evolved to this point and beyond will always maintain its place. But as pannists know only too well as musicians and artists, the search for an electronic version has always been anticipated. Top pannist the world over have long hoped for that companion electronic version, to allow them to have a well-tuned durable instrument in their keep. That “dream pan” it was hoped, would not require the time, effort and cost to maintain, especially if compared over the lifespan of the steelpan. This would allow them, especially as a solo artist, arrangers, and composers, the flexibility and versatility to practice, explore and create in traditional and new ways. Only their imaginations, musicianship and artistic creativity will limit them once this new tool is in their hands.
It bears noting that the first production versions were introduced after extensive and costly R&D on the prototype to make the vision into a reality. The Coat of Arms E-Pan is geared to allow musicians to develop familiarity with the steelpan using state-of-the-art technology. A driving focus at this point for NAPE, Inc. (which was a major concern), was to get a first generation product to commercial market that was affordable and accessible. This new version of the E-Pan now comes with true built-in pan tones/sounds from tuner to tuner of choice. This came into effect as of September 2013. It also comes with the capability for the owner to upload their own tones with the use of USB ports (user will have to send the wave files to NAPE, Inc., we will format it to your E-Pan and we will e-mail the file back to you for upload. Each E-Pan has its own encrypted code). Many musician-pannist and enthusiast of all ranks, pressed us for the need to get our “less expensive/more affordable” product out there sooner-than-later, as they see it as the flag bearer and are eager to prove it in the steelpan world. (See note below*)
Salmon has been for some time kept up a lobbying effort with the T&T authorities responsible for steelpan development. It presses them for the necessary need and to digitally record and sample the tones of the Master Tuners of T&T for posterity before they move on. This is not only for the legacy, but as a suggested solution where a private-public co-sponsored venture can be used to not only off-set associated start-up costs with respect to ROI, but also to generate yet another source of income for the tuners through royalty/licensing agreements. We must seize the opportunity to honour and reward them while they are alive, not when they have passed on.
The rest, as they say, is now part of the history. Of course, there will be the usual debates following the exposition and growth of this idea. No different than what was encountered when the electric guitars and the like first emerged. The traditionalist and purist amongst them will offer their criticism, but detraction will also be countered and tempered by pan-fans and progressive-minded pannist all over the globe. Salmon intends to engage the top pannist, with a concerted focus on the youth and the young in mind and heart, building a coalition by employing dynamite and dynamic performance presentations.
He envisions and senses that over time and with prudent marketing, critics will dissipate and they too will be won over to embrace the instrument. He foresees it finding a niche and earning its rightful place in the evolution of pan. From skin-drums to tamboo-bamboo and dustbin cans and covers.to pan-round-the-neck with the ping-pong and do-doom from discarded oil drums.to the metallic silver-chrome finished steelpan from factory-made drums.leading to the futuristic E-Pan. Once again taking pan to higher heights, alas following the call to “do something for pan”.
So it was with all this in mind that in 2006, Salmon Cupid founded New Advanced Product Evolution, Inc. as he prepared to reveal the Functioning Prototype of the World’s First Electronic Synthesized Steelpan called the E-Pan as proof-of-concept and to garner feedback and good faith reviews during the alpha-testing phase.
Salmon took some time off from his busy and hectic schedule when he traveled home to proudly unveil and demonstrate the prototype to the people of Trinidad & Tobago traveling throughout the nation. His road-show visited schools, media outlets and of course the major panyards, where the likes of world-renowned and respected steelpan pioneers like Len “Boogsie” Sharpe and Jit Samaroo took part in the alpha testing of the invention in their natural element.
In 2010, with the Production Version in hand, Salmon met with the Honorable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago (under the PNM regime) Patrick Manning. In 2011, he met with the new Honorable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago under (under the People’s Partnership) Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
He also met with high-level officials in the Pan Trinbago organization; Secretary Richard Forteau, Vice-President Bryon Serrette and President Keith Diaz to showcase his innovation of the national steelpan musical instrument.
In 2010, Salmon took Production Versions of the E-Pan Tenor and Double-Seconds to major West Indian/Caribbean style carnivals around the world where steelpan is part of the festival celebrations; Trinidad & Tobago’s Carnival, Toronto’s Caribana, Booklyn’s Labor Day Festival, London’s Notting Hill Carnival and Florida’s Miami-Broward One Carnival.
On October 28, 2011, BP Renegades became the first conventional steelband in Trinidad and Tobago to use the E-Pan in competition. That competition was The Trinidad & Tobago Steelpan Jazz Competition. Courts Laventille Sound Specialists became the second band to use the E-Pan during their performance in that same competition in November 2012. BP Renegades also used it at that Jazz Competition in 2012. CASYM Steel Orchestra from New York, under the arranging leadership of Duvone Stewart, became the first steelband to use the E-Pan during their performance in a Panorama competition. CASYM won the New York Panorama 2013.
Keeping step with the times, Salmon Cupid also developed and produced an iTunes App to enable people from all over the world access to playing and learning about the steelpan. It does so with popular multi-versatility by being the first to feature the entire range of a steelpan orchestra in one App, first to give the user the option of playing different style instruments, the ability to change octaves within each style/range, all within the same App. This fits squarely with Salmon Cupid’s dream and vision to expose the presence of the steelpan to see it increasingly grow on the world stage, taking the pan movement to higher heights.
As the world comes to learn more about the E-Pan and as different institutions and individuals gravitate towards owning this new technology, Salmon Cupid focus is on realizing the feasibility of the commercial aspect of his business venture. He proudly acknowledges the trend that awareness and sales are on-track and growing around the far reaches of the globe in regions apart to name a few such as; Europe, North America as well as different parts of the Caribbean.