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When Steel Talks - Special - Post-Trinidad and Tobago Steelband Panorama 2005

           Date: 2.25.05

Post Panorama

Ray Holman
Drill Master
Phase II Pan Groove
2005 T&T Steelband Panorama Season

  Ray Holman - composer, arranger, and performing artist assisted Len "Boogsie" Sharpe at the latter's request as drill master for this year's eventual Trinidad and Tobago 2005 steelband music panorama champions, Phase II Pan Groove.  The coming together of these two giants in the steel pan music world is nothing new, as they have been friends for almost forty years. 

Ray Holman says that for him, the 2005 panorama season took an unexpected turn.  He had not planned to play any major role because of his own heavy schedule of commitments this year.  However, when Boogsie asked him to help out because of his health, he did not refuse.

 
The job as drill master had long hours but was a  very enjoyable and rewarding task.  "It was a nice [music] piece to work on, and the players were very cooperative."   He also had full support from Boogsie, and was pleasantly surprised with the end results for Panorama 2005, which found Phase II back as champions for the first time in years after several close brushes.   Once again Phase II played a Len "Boogsie" Sharpe composition, Trini Gone Wild.  The vocal version was performed by veteran showman Colin Lucas.  Holman said that he thought the music was exciting.
 
"The band improved by leaps and bounds... at the finals they were at their peak...I could not hope for anything better than that..."  These were just some of Holman's comments as he chatted with When Steel Talks in this exclusive post-panorama interview.
 
Holman's job was multi-faceted, and included getting across Boogie's musical message to the players.  He helped by tidying up the orchestration and ensuring that the band played as a unit - which was his biggest and most important challenge.  "Especially when you're dealing with a group of 120-plus players..."  as he put it.  He instituted the practicing/drilling of the steel band, section by section which, he said, was uncommon to them.  The variation in approach was not difficult because so many players in the steel band were youths who were flexible and open to change. 

Holman also said that he would always double check with Boogsie to make sure the result was what the arranger (Boogsie) had in mind, and that the steel band was presenting what he expected to hear.  "He gave me a free hand.  Boogsie was very easy to work with."  

As Boogsie and Ray go way back and have a long history together in steel bands like Starlift and Pandemonium, the arranger had a lot of trust and faith in the talented and accomplished Ray Holman.  Boogsie also had Holman take charge of at least one other area he himself traditionally oversaw. This left him free to concentrate almost solely on the task of creating and arranging.  According to Holman, "in a position of leadership there are times when you will have to do some unpopular things."   One such measure was the institution of a cut-off date for pan players to perform with the steel orchestra.  To be considered for the stage presentation of the one hundred and twenty-strong steel band, players had until three days before the finals to master the competition piece.  The discipline appears to have paid off; it has been a great year for the steel band, now savoring sweet success for 2005. 

 

Musically, Holman says that the piece was not over done or too long.  "There was a lot of excitement and harmony, it was passionate - a lot of emotion was put into the piece."   He also took time to set the record straight about erroneous reports appearing in the Trinidad and Tobago print media.  Holman says there was no truth in their reports which stated  that the musical arrangement the steel band performed on Finals night on February 5, "was almost completely different" from the version presented two weeks earlier at the semi-finals.   "The fact is that the arrangement was not changed after the semi-finals because the musicians were in a comfort zone."  Emphasis was placed mainly on tightening the execution of the panorama piece in the run-up to the final competition, according to Holman.

 

Noting that in the panorama competition steel bands play calypso music "which is dance music," Holman said that he found this refreshing.  Phase II in particular did not allow itself to be held hostage to all the criteria in the varied categories which had been instituted for the panorama competition, which Holman believes "is spoiling the pan music."   He said that the music had become very sterile and uninteresting after the early 90's because of the attention paid by bands to the judging categories.

 

Responding to the change in rules by Pan Trinbago to allow selections from past years to be played in the 2005 steel band panorama competition, Holman says that personally he would prefer new music - that is - selections chosen from the actual competition year.  He was of the opinion that carnival and competitions should highlight new music.   "Panorama is not the place for old music.  No one sings old music in calypso competitions.  You want people to be inventive and creating new things" says Holman.  "I think we should be encouraging people to write music for the instrument."

 
Holman is also not in in favor of pan yard judging, deeming it unfair not to have all the bands adjudicated under the same acoustical conditions [and by the same judges].  As for the two-week time lapse between the steel band panorama semi-finals and finals, Holman was bluntly against it.  "The interval between semi-finals and finals is too long - people lose their excitement."  The time between the two competitions was much shorter in the past, as Holman remembered.  As he said it moved from "four to fourteen days!"

All this and much  more was shared by Ray Holman in this candid When Steel Talks  exclusive.  Check out the entire audio from the interview on this page.

 

Ray Holman (left) with Len "Boogsie" Sharpe (center),
of Phase II Pan Groove after their
Panorama Night performance

2005 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved

Pictures at Panorama Finals

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