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New York Steelband Panorama 2009 Preview


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Still no ‘Carlos Lezama Outdoor Theater’
or ‘Rudy King Performance Center’

New York, USA - In a couple of weeks one of the greatest musical contests on the North American continent will commence.  The New York exposé of the annual steelband music competition branded as “Panorama” all over the world, takes place on September 5th at the Brooklyn Museum Grounds.  The New York amalgamation of this Trinidad and Tobago (the steelpan birth place) creation, is unique and full of artistic intrigue, drama and expectations -- not to mention, politics.  In addition, the event is tracked, followed and reviewed by tens of thousands of music lovers all over the world.  The panorama enthusiasts can be fervent, passionate and emotionally tied to all aspects of the occasion.

As in the past When Steel Talks (WST) will again produce our annual grades A thru Z report card of the New York steelband season.   Here’s a look back at 2008’s report card.

Panorama Tips and Essentials

  1. Visit the panyards before panorama itself - you have a better appreciation for the panorama, and the music on panorama night.

  2. Carry a light jacket just in case the temperature dips.  There is something about panorama night - it doesn’t matter how hot it is during the day - panorama night temperatures are unpredictable.

  3. Come equipped with your own print-out of the Tunes, Arrangers and order the bands are playing in (click here for the WST print version); the show producers have never provided such info.  Don’t hold your breath for that to change.

  4. Get to the panorama on time.  Some key orchestras are playing early.  If you want a seat get to the panorama extra early.  Be prepared to stand, or bring your own portable chair.  Maybe there will be more chairs this year but, again, don’t count on it.

  5. If you are on your feet and walking around, try to catch some of the bands doing their warm ups.  In a lot of ways, it is when they sound their best.  At that moment - you hear how steel orchestras are actually meant to be heard.  There is no telling what the sound system is going to do to the sound of the orchestra on stage.  More often than not - it’s not good.

The Bands

This year’s competition should be a very hotly contested one.  Five past panorama champions are vying for the 2009 title, in addition to the four other hopeful contenders.  For the first time in recent years, bands have had time, more or less, to settle in their panyards without the annual New York drama of hunting for a panyard.  Moreover, most of the bands have chosen songs that fit their personalities.  This bodes well for quality music arrangements and performances. 

Famed arrangers Pelham Goddard of Exodus, and Earl Rodney of Harmonites (in the ’60s & ’70s) - are also at the musical helm of Sesame Flyers and D’Radoes respectively.  Astonishingly, the three major tunes - Bandoleros, Pan Redemption and Magic Drum are each played consecutively by at least two bands (see the play order below).  We are not sure what effect, if any, this will have on the adjudication, but it is an odd occurrence.

Steel Orchestras / Details

Order of Appearance



Arranged by

1 DESPERS USA Bandoleros Wilfred Kieal
2 SONATAS Bandoleros Yohan Popwell
3 CROSSFIRE Pan Redemption Khuent Rose
4 PANTONIC Pan Redemption Keith Roberts
5 CASYM  Magic Drum Arddin Herbert
6 SESAME FLYERS Magic Drum Pelham Goddard
7 ADLIB * Magic Drum André White
8 D’RADOES Rocket Man Earl Rodney
9 HARMONY D Trini Way Duvone Stewart & Anthony Trebuse

The venue

This year’s panorama will again take place in the car park of the Brooklyn Museum - as it has for donkey years now.

The conservative estimate is that the Labor Day carnival festivities contribute upwards of $200,000,000.00 (two hundred million dollars) to the New York City economy.  The New York Yankees, Mets, Giants and Jets have all gotten new stadiums.  And the Nets will soon have a stadium in Brooklyn.  Yet there still is no performance facility that caters to the needs and specifics of the carnival activities. 

Indeed - still no Carlos Lezama Forum for Mas, or Rudy King Pavilion - like the world-class performing arts facility, the Mann Center in Philadelphia - for pan performances.  In 2003 New York’s Caribbean Youth Panoramic set a world record at the Mann Center.

Youth Steelband sets all-time audience attendance record at Mann Center

Prize monies?

For the past few years, the top prize has been reportedly $20,000.00.  It would be practical to report on exactly what prize amounts orchestras are actually competing for, and eventually receive depending on their placing - and also on appearance fees due the bands.  But up to now, and as has been customary in the past - official and publicized dollar amounts for this event are not readily available.  Even on the night of the event itself and during the competition - patrons and bands alike would be hard pressed to ever hear promoted what is at stake...  What makes this competition so different from any other? 

Maybe it would be interesting to note here, that even with a $20,000.00 “top prize,” it has in the past, cost some bands between $60,000.00 and $80,000.00, and more - to even take the stage at the panorama. 

* Defending champion

Next up: New York Panorama 2009...

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