Sonatas' New Arranger intends to Make Serious Waves

Yohan Powell arranger, educator, entrepreneur and soloist


New York - August  27,  2004 

When Steel Talks provides an exclusive interview with the first-time New York arranger.  Yohan is currently the arranger for New York's Sonatas Steel Orchestra.  Yohan is also the house arranger of Trinidad's All Stars Steel Orchestra and protégé of Leon 'Smooth' Edwards.


Mr. Powell is also one of the founding members of the well-known group Panazz, and an arranger for England's Panorama. 


In his interview, he explains the differences between the NY and Trinidad panoramas.  Popwell feels that there is not much difference between New York and Trinidad, except that the former has limited practice time.  "Player for player, those over here (New York) are just as good as Trinidad players."  However, Popwell strongly suggests that New York bands should pay more attention to developing their own sound by securing better quality instruments.

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- An Opinion -

Will The Evil Empire Strike Again?
(Real or Imagined)

Web Posted - Friday, August 27, 2004
by When Steel Talks

It's that time of the year again in New York, when pan men, old and young, gather and exchange war stories of battles won, lost, and show their scars and blood soaked tee-shirts from past campaigns against the EVIL EMPIRE. Yes - there is an evil empire in almost every country where pan exists. The evil empire is that organization, group or individuals, real or imagined entities (through indifference, incompetence, stupidity or just plain evil) who are hell bent on making the pan man's life miserable, and stopping the pan movement from progress. The Evil Empire Exists.

I have heard much stories of the global reach of the Evil Empire. It appears to exist in Japan, the Caribbean, all over Europe and of course New York. Pan history is filled with the great battles and class struggles against the Evil Empire. In New York, for the past thirty-plus years, the pan people have "ordained" promoters of the New York panorama and labour day festivities as the Evil Empire.

Now really, in fairness to the NY Evil Empire they are not all corrupt, bad, miserable tortured souls who hate pan and panmen. There are one or two good devils among them (ha, ha). As a matter of fact, this year's New York panorama event, like last year, is being billed a "cooperative production between the New York-based steelband association and the Evil Empire." Of course everyone knows this is nonsense. But it has raised (quite publicly and loud) the question as to why panmen would allow themselves to be used and "walk point" for the Evil Empire. Everyone who has served in the military knows what happens to those who walk point.

The New York steelband association has some good pan people who have a genuine interest for the advancement and betterment of the NY steelband movement. They have not all fallen to the powers of the dark side. However, any association with the Evil Empire, given its past history, would be, and should be, viewed with suspicion, and presents the opportunity for a damaged reputation. Are we to believe that we are in the midst of a kinder, gentler, Evil Empire??? Indeed, many have begun to wonder out loud that this current regime of the steelband association, has accomplished nothing, other than bringing the New York steelbands back onto the dinner plate of the Evil Empire. This too, is a bit unfair. Let's give the New York steelband association another year before making that judgment. If the NY panorama prize purse does not exceed $250,000 US (exclusive of "appearance fees), with a $100,000 first prize - by next year, then there may be reason for serious concern about this current regime's agenda.

The experiences of New York's best panorama in 2001, which was strictly a "Pan Man's Joint" and devoid of any interaction whatsoever with the Evil Empire, taught pan men that great things can happen when they take care of their own business and the potential to control their own destiny.

Some have said that if the Evil Empire did not exist panmen would invent them. Therefore the Evil Empire may be nothing more than the figment of the pan man's imagination?? In 2004 pan people are solely responsible for their own successes, failures and expectations - irrespective of what the Evil Empire does - or does not - do. After all panorama is just one event, a ten-minute performance, which has always been a tremendous losing business venture for pan people.

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Share your opinions

Sept. 2, 2004
  • New York Arrangers'  Forum featuring Pelham Goddard (Marsicans); Clive Bradley (Pantonic and Radoes); Arddin Herbert (CASYM); Yohan Popwell (Pan Sonatas) among others.  Hosted and moderated by When Steel Talks.  Open to the public.  From 6:00 - 7:30 PM.
    Email: for more information, or with suggested questions.
    Venue:  the Pan Diamond (Pantonic's Pan Yard), at 1021 East 48th Street - (between Farragut Rd. and "Dead end")
    , Brooklyn, New York, USA.

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