Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams post provides an article excerpt about Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc's history with kanes.
This post also includes several YouTube videos of Kappa kane masters' twirl offs and non-competitive demonstrations of kane work. Selected comments from the discussion threads for two of these videos are also included in this post.
The content of this post is presented for historical and cultural purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks also to all those who are featured in these videos. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. is a historically Black Greek letter fraternity. Using the letter "k" instead of the letter "c" in words is a custom among members of Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity, Inc.
Click the tag "Black fraternities and sororities" and "Kappa Alpha Psi" tags below for additional pancocojams posts that may include information, comments, and videos about this fraternity.
DEFINITION OF "TWIRL OFF"
"Twirl offs" are competitions between two or more persons from the same Greek letter organization or from different organizations*. The purpose of the competition is to determine who has the highest level of "cane work" skills. People competing in twirl offs appear to already be acknowledged by their peers as "kane masters" (cane masters).
*I haven't seen any videos or comments about a fraternity member having a twirl off between a sorority member.
The earliest mention of "twirl offs" that I've found is from 2008 [Note the video given as Example #1 below].
"Cane work" skills comprise more than just twirling the cane, or "cane work" refer to twirling the cane in certain ways. Here's a comment from a sometimes contentious greekchat.com discussion about stepping and cane twirling. (That online discussion among members of various historically Black Greek letter organizations began in 2002 and continued through 2006:
"03-19-2002, 09:48 AM
Location: baton rouge
Talking Baby UM back....
Man, it's been a minute since I have been up in here... up in here.
I see things haven't changed much.
It is amazing how quickly dicussions can get heated in this camp.
Well let me put my two cents in.
I do agree with DoggyStyle a little. Frats should do what they do and what they do, only. However, I am sure that some where down the line, some organizations have bitten the styles of other organizations. Nevertheless, we all have a unique style that is "Often imitated but never duplicated." I don't care how many organizations started with, used, or incorporated a kane into their history.
NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT KANE like a NUPE (notice I didn't say Kappa) KNOWS ABOUT KANE ... and I'm not just talking about founders either.
You can twirl it, flip it, roll it, catch it and even hook it.
But until you get in the KUT, you don't know anything about it!
THAT IS THE DEAL WITH THE KANES.
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc."
I'm assuming that "get in the KUT" means become a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
As of the date of this post's publication, the only references that I've found online to "twirl offs" and "kane masters"/"cane masters" pertain to members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc, and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
I've also read the some members of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. step with canes, but I don't know whether they twirl, or have twirl offs, or acknowledge any of their members (or any other female) as "cane masters".
Please suggest improvements for this definition for "twirl off".
Also, please share information about "twirl offs", including when historically Black Greek letter organization twirl offs were first held.
From http://www.gmu.edu/org/mumunupes/history_kane.htm The History of the Kane
[Note: This article excerpt is given without any photographs and their captions although that content is an important part of this article.]
"Why Kappa’s Have Canes
The use of walking sticks and canes may very well date back to centuries B.C. to the times when shepherds would tend to their flocks. This ties into the early roots of Christianity and leads to the candy canes of today being striped the way they are (3 thin stripes and 1 solid stripe) to remind us of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and the blood of Christ. The shape was believed to be chosen because the cane, if pointed upward, resembles the letter "J" for Jesus. The history of the cane also ties in with the African Rights of Passage, and was a symbol of manhood that had to be carried by initiates wishing to become adult members of their respective tribe.
Dealing more directly with the evolution of the cane and how it relates to the Fraternity, canes started off as assistive devices, and later turned into social status symbols for society. In the 1700's and 1800's, canes were a fashion embellishment. One "wore" a cane. These old canes were decorative, objects to be admired and be proud of. They became collector’s items and represented the true sign of a Gentleman.
Members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity have always worn or carried canes since the beginning of the Fraternity in 1911. Although unintentional in its inception, this occurrence soon became an unofficial tradition of Kappa men, as Kappa’s have always strived to be noble and productive members of the community. Members of the Fraternity then proudly adorned the cane, being the symbol of a Gentleman who exhibits such characteristics.
This type of display became commonplace up until the 1950's when Black Greek Letter Organizations, on an undergraduate level, began to practice what is known today as "Step Shows". Undergraduate members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity took part in the trade and soon incorporated the use of their favorite item, the cane, into the routine. This was something that spread to many undergraduate chapters during the 50's and 60's. Stepping was catching on at an accelerated rate among the African American fraternities and sororities during this time period.
It was not until the mid to later 1960's that the undergrads of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity began to decorate the step canes with the colors of the organization. The usual design was to pattern the cane with a crimson and a cream stripe from tip to tip which can be made out below in the photo.
All throughout the 50's and 60's, canes used in the art of stepping were standard canes of approximately 36 inches in length, give or take half a foot. Eventually, as stated before, the canes would be adorned with the Fraternity colors of crimson and cream, but they were still standard length. Members of Kappa Alpha Psi would perform routines know as "Taps" where the canes would be beaten on the ground in time with the rhythmic beat of the step show.
The turn of the decade would reveal an evolution in cane stepping known today as "twirling". Undergraduate members of Kappa Alpha Psi in the 70's, not content with Taps alone, would then create a new form of cane mastery which involved much more skill and talent than merely banging the cane on the ground in a certain beat.
During the 70's, members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. began to "twirl" canes.
Now that "twirling" had become the new style of cane stepping among Kappa undergrads, members were constantly searching for better and faster styles. One problem that Kappa’s faced during this time is that they were still practicing the step show routines using the standard sized, 3 foot canes which can be seen above in both photographs. Kappa’s widely found that while standard length canes worked fine for tapping, they became a hindrance when it came time to twirl. Thus, cane stepping evolved once again with the birth of the short cane, which can be seen below.
This new evolution of the short cane during the later 1970's has remained constant to this day, as can be seen in this recent photo of Kappa’s stepping.
Thus, the full-length cane, as well as standing straight up in order to perform a "Tap", has been sacrificed, making way for twirling ability and speed.
Backtracking for a moment, a very important part in cane stepping history was the acceptance of this trade by the Grand Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. All the aforementioned events have involved the undergraduate members of the Fraternity. However, cane stepping, even from its beginnings during the 1950's, has not been considered an official part of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. until as of late. The National Organization was slow to accept this as an official part of the Fraternity, even though undergraduate members, across the entire United States, were widely participating in the art and tradition of cane stepping.
Cane stepping became an official part of [Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. at the 66th Grand Chapter meeting in 1986] and a dazzling competition was held in front of hundreds of onlookers during a picnic in Washington's Rock Creek Park to illustrate the skills of the trade. Several groups participated, performing frenzied and entertaining steps."
Example #1: Kappa Alpha Psi Presents the Kanemaster Association
mloh601, Published on Oct 24, 2008
Minnesota Konclave '07 Featuring G Phi, GE, BZ, & Eta Chi Kanemasters
selected comments from this video's discussion thread, with numbers added for referencing purposes only:
1. deltric latham, 2009
"The Krown is worn by PACO, and if anybody wants it, I'm not hard to find. I welcome any challengers:-)!( with open arms) We are all Jedi Knights, and I am YODA! Respect it or check it! Long Live Da KaneMaster Association A.K.A. Da Justice League!"
2. deltric latham, 2009
"Our KaneMaster Association does not accept mediocrity in the realm of twirling. You must be approved by us to be considered worthy. We are the standard. Yo!"
3. deltric latham, 2011
"The KANEMATER ASSOCIATION members are: Paco Villa BZ; James Keith GE; Mike Leonard G PHI; Santagio Eta CHi; Shannon Theta Delta;
New prospect: Steve (Eta Chi)
Honarary Members: D. Jefferson EE; Zorro Eta Chi; Johnny Eta Chi; Ali (bham legend; D-Fen GE; Fred; Andy Raglin G Phi; Showtime G Phi; Ricky Punch GE; Crowmartie BZ;."
4. Kreamery, 2011
"Great work Nupes... But a New generation of Kanemasters has risen... I know FOUR guys from Arkansas and Louisiana who are WELL WORTHY OF KANEMASTER STATUS.... Videos will be tagged very soon, so I hope your eyes are quick enuff to keep up..."The Torch is Ready for Passage"
Gamma Sig- UAPB
Alpha Sig- Southern University
Ce-YO Nupes of Louisiana Tech
" Boys Is Sick" YOU WILL NOT BE DISSAPPOINTED!!! Yoooo!!!!!!"
Example #2: Kane Twirl Off at 2011 Kappa Alpha Psi Conclave
Benson Blake Photography, Published on Aug 27, 2011
Kane Twirling competition at the Centennial Family Picnic - July 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, IN. Congrats to winner Drew Brown!
selected comments from this video's discussion thread, with numbers added for referencing purposes only:
1. Drew Brown, 2013
With regard to the competition in the video, the TOP competitors agreed on the winner before the prizes were awarded. The audience automatically factors in originality, trick difficulty, showmanship, costume, style, etc. Artists have bad days too.
Experienced artists know how to impress the audience. Hell, I already know exactly what I'll be doing next time (and roughly how the crowd will respond).
That said, if I lose the NEXT cane competition: "The audience is wrong!"
2. Drew Brown, 2017
"Well . . . . It's been 4 years since I commented and roughly 6 years since the competition in 2011.
I haven't lost a competition yet.
The audience was right."
3. Drew Brown, 2013
"I've been in several competitions. I've beaten whole step teams (by myself). I've competed against singers, strippers, dancers, and cane masters.
In all of the competitions, "something" controversial happens. Nonetheless, I value the judgement of 6000 people in a field over that of a few people.
I don't win every competition. Still, I accept the judgement of the audience and do my best to learn why I did not win.
I've never been in a competition where I felt the audience was "wrong"."
4. Randall Jordan, 2013
"Working the wood, its understood!!! - Lil KeKe
Congratulations on the 1st 100 years &
Congrats to Drew Brown on this victory. The results have been mixed due to obvious opinionated statements & personal preferences of Kane Twirling Styles. I guess the Showtime @ the Apollo rules didn't anoint an agreed upon victor this year. James Keith & Paco Villa killed it, while Drew Brown showed other facets of this artform. Nonetheless, this video was hella tight!
Young Gents of Houston"
Example #3: Kappa Kane Master 30 Years Later
James Logan, Published on Aug 14, 2014
They asked this Kane Master from Western Kentucky University if he could still twirl his Kappa Kane.He said, "Once a Kappa Master always a Kane Master.I'm not new to this.I'm true to this. "
Example #4: Best Kappa Kane Kompetition Ever: Paco vs. Pretty Mike at the 100th!
zulubeat, Published on Oct 1, 2015
KAPPA HISTORY MADE AT THE CENTENNIAL KONKLAVE SUMMER 2011. Master Kaners Paco Veela vs Pretty Mike square off in an epic battle for the ages, right in front of 721 Hunter Ave. Bloomington, Indiana.....the very first Kappa house of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc
Example #5: Kappa Alpha Psi: THE Kane Master (Stephen Storey: Eta Chi)
Filmswave Clubhouse, Published on Jan 9, 2018
THE Eta Chi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi at The University of Alabama. FA' 2K9 Kane Master Stephen Storey
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