When Steel Talks
UK Panorama 2005
Notting Hill Carnival - 2005
‘Make Poverty History’
United Kingdom - The British Association of Steelbands celebrated their 27th Champions of Steel, Jouvert and Best band on the Road competitions this year with the theme, ‘Make Poverty History’. All Pan Musicians at these competitions wore the white wrist bands in support of this global effort. On the other hand, Notting Hill Carnival’s theme for 2005 was ‘UNITY IN DIVERSITY’ and you only have to take a look at the pannists to realise that the steel pan is the perfect machinery to promote this theme.
On the 27th August 2005, Horniman’s Pleasance, Kensal Road, London was the venue for the annual national steelband musical battle. Eight steel orchestras with over 500 pan musicians who practiced for hundreds of hours played thousands of pan instruments on the night; all vying for the prestigious title of the Notting Hill, ‘Champions of Steel’.
2005 saw Ebony successful in capturing their fourteen ‘Champions of Steel’ title since this competition began in 1978. The last time they won was back in 2001 and the loss of their pan yard earlier this year saw them overcome challenge after challenge to achieve this memorable victory. Ebony and their world renowned musical arranger, Anise ‘Haffers’ Hadeed, both currently hold the world records for winning the most Panorama competitions.
Three steelbands chose to play Oba’s ‘Action’ - Ebony, Glissando and Real Steel whilst Stardust, Mangrove and Croydon opted for De Fosto’s, ‘From Beyond’. Leaving Southside who played their rendition of Orville Wright’s, ‘In De Savannah’ and Metronomes who played ‘Dead or Alive’. It was certainly a musical war on the night and a great task for the judges.
Ebony’s catchy rendition saw them to the winner’s podium. Stardust led by the young and talented Brent Holder was truly the ‘dark horse’ in this race. Brent pulled out all the stops to lead Stardust to the runners up position in great style, the last time they achieved this position in this competition was back in 1989. This combination of Brent and Stardust seems to be a new phase in Stardust’s development for the future. Southside Harmonics led by their established musical director, Eustace Benjamin, certainly made their presence felt with their performance of In De Savannah that achieved third place. Southside returned to this competition in 2003 after a two year break. In fourth place was Glissando under the musical direction of world recognised veteran arranger Rudy ‘Two Lef’ Smith had the crowds wanting more of his sweet and tastefully arranged, Action.
Metronomes, one of the UK’s established steelband icon captured fifth place with their vibrant rendition of Dead or Alive musically arranged by the world renowned Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore. Metro last competed in this competition back in 2003. Leroy Clarke, the young and gifted arranger from Plymouth took Real Steel to sixth place with his musical arrangements. This is their fourth appearance at the National Panorama where they have showed great consistency and musical ability. In seventh place was last year’s defending champions, Mangrove, with their rendition of From Beyond musically arranged by the young and talented Kyron Akal. Mangrove was victorious four times in the last six years in this competition. Paul Dowie, musical director of Croydon Steel Orchestra with his young and talented players has only been in this competition since 2003 and has certainly instilled a great sense of competitiveness in his players, playing in the final position their enthusiasm on the night was truly awesome, this was noted through their melodious chanting of CSO before their deliverance of their rendition of De Fosto’s, From Beyond that afforded them eighth place in this year’s competition
This influx of young UK pan arrangers has certainly lifted this competition to another level and will no doubt continue to bring new life and enthusiasm into this annual event. We look forward to the wealth of steelband music yet to come in the future.
By: Robbie Joseph, Pan Podium - London
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