Augustine Leith “Pepe” Francis
Global - There were many highlights, high points, low points and things that were straight up strange in the realm of Pan in 2011. Augustine Leith Francis (also known as Pepe Francis), director of Ebony Steelband Trust and chairman of the British Association of Steelbands, received MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) honors for services to Steel Pan Music. The theme of the year was "Do Something for Pan," the charge led by none other than the legendary Len "Boogsie" Sharpe. And J'Ouvert in New York was again a steelband paradise.
The steelband music movement and by extension the steelpan instrument itself continues to enjoy much growth internationally. A considerable amount of college, high school, middle school and community steelpan performance groups and organizations became realities this year. The future of pan seems boundless within the educational institutions in North America.
Pat Bishop (right) with Exodus
We lost some great warriors, titans, giants and beautiful souls. Cultural icon and Trinity Cross recipient Pat Bishop passed. She was extremely well-known for her work with Desperadoes Steel Orchestra of Trinidad & Tobago; click for more on Pat Bishop.
Dr. Geraldine Connor passed. She wrote, composed, directed and produced the very successful Caribbean musical called Carnival Messiah. She arranged for Ebony in the UK and Invaders Steel Orchestra in Trinidad and Tobago; click for more on Dr. Geraldine Connor. Pan pioneer Rudolph 'Fisheye' Ollivierre also passed.
Ralph MacDonald passed. Ralph’s music is world-renowned; he is the co-composer of such hits as "Just The Two Of Us" (Bill Withers), "Where Is The Love" (Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway) and "Calypso Breakdown" from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack - to name but a few. Together with ace steelpan artist Robert Greenidge, Ralph was a visual and dynamic driving percussive force with the iconic Jimmy Buffet band; click for more on Ralph MacDonald. In New York, Despers USA lost the beautiful spirit, young panist Latavia Deane.
In clearly one of the strangest points of the year was how the Trinidad and Tobago government snookered the 2011 panorama participants in broad daylight. The panorama players' stipend was reduced by TT$200 per player last year. With approximately 10,680 panorama pan players, that comes to a total reduction of just over two million (TT$2,136,000) dollars. At the same time the government announced an across the board $2,000,000 dollar first prize for each of the panorama, soca monarch and chutney winners. Time out! Are we missing something here?! Ah... $2,136,000 - $2,000,000 = $136,000. One could say that it might appear that the Pan musicians themselves footed the bill for that first-ever two million-dollar first prize... hmmmm... And there was even an extra bit left over - $136,000 - that the Trinidad & Tobago government saved 'on the backs' of the players of their country's national instrument. The pan players were hoodwinked and swindled.
We won't even add the registration fees that are supposedly paid for each player to participate. And we won't dwell on the abject unfairness in raising the winning purse in Panorama of the large steel orchestra category - that has a membership of 120 players (people) by 100% (the first prize was TT$1,000,000 the previous year) while raising Chutney and Soca Monarchs (single participants) by insane percentages of 1000% and more, when compared also with the same previous year. Can someone say sucker? Pan folks need to brush up on their math skills.
On the Panorama music scene overall, youth could not be denied. Arranger Andre White of ADLIB and Mangrove Steel Orchestras took both the Panorama championships in New York and the UK competitions respectively, while Khan Cordice of Hell's Gate took Antigua. Veteran champion arranger Leon "Smooth" Edwards took the prestigious Trinidad and Tobago panorama competition with Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra. For their efforts they were awarded that strangely-arrived at 2 million dollar prize we spoke of earlier. Check the WST Timeline for additional panorama winners
There were some very interesting steelpan music releases in 2011 that are definitely worth checking out. NYU Steel released it's highly anticipated CD called NYU Steel plays Philip Glass, Andy Narell released "Andy Narell" Alive, Liam Teague unveiled “Open Window,” Andy Akiho premiering No One To Know One.
Trinidad and Tobago officials' lost their mind and didn't cover the 2011 Junior Panorama competition. Yup - that's right - the very future of the steelband artform and culture in the Land of Pan - the youth, in several cases performing at the same level as their adult counterparts - zip, nada, in their very own country... Hey - but on the triumphant note, Michelle Huggins-Watts became the first woman to win a national Trinidad & Tobago panorama competition.
A quick look at the 2011 archives of When Steel Talks' Online News shows that major steelpan news came from every comer of the planet. So in this regard the globalization of the steelpan continues big time. Here are just a few of the areas that made the WST News highlights list in 2011 -- Connecticut, USA - Illinois, USA - Iowa, USA - Maryland, USA - Yorkshire, England - St. John’s, Antigua - Michigan, USA - Ohio, USA - Kingston, Jamaica - Vancouver, Canada - Leicester, England, UK - Texas, USA - Little Hampton, UK - Ontario, Canada - Pennsylvania, USA - Lagos, Nigeria - Indonesia, Jordan, Israel, North Africa - Colorado, USA - Montreal, Canada - Leeds, UK - Kentucky, USA - Brooklyn, NY - North Carolina, USA - Washington, D.C., USA - Grenada, W.I - St. Vincent, W.I.- Auckland, New Zealand - Aberdeen, UK - Boston, USA - Guyana, SA - Maine, USA - London, England - Los Angeles, USA, - St. Lucia, W.I. - Gibraltar - Denmark - Barbados, W.I.- Ipswich, U.K.- Kingstown, St. Vincent & the Grenadines - Wisconsin, USA - St. George’s, Grenada, W.I - Princes Town, Trinidad, W.I. - St. John, USVI - British Columbia, Canada - Rockland Country, New York, USA - Rockland Country, New York, USA - Middletown, Ohio, USA - St. Thomas, USVI - Seattle, Washington, USA - Massachusetts, USA - Oklahoma, USA - Indiana, USA - Texas, USA - Florida, USA - New Hampshire, USA - Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA - Arizona, USA - Delaware, USA - Tyne and Wear, England - Germany - Tennessee, USA - Michigan, USA - Alberta, Canada - Doonan, Australia - Utah, USA - Suffolk, England - Wisconsin, USA - California, USA.
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