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Trinidad & Tobago Panorama 2009 - HOME

An Analysis and Review
of Trinidad and Tobago’s
2009 National Steelband Panorama

by Dr. Jeannine Remy

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Trinidad, W.I. - The format of a panorama tune has evolved because of the early innovations of arrangers who actually gave the judges ideas for the categories of judging. Today some arrangers get so caught up in following the rules that their creativity is sometimes stifled. If one sticks to the idea of knowing that the judging is based on four main categories (arrangement, performance, quality of sound, and rhythm), then one can allow the creative juices to flow naturally.

To understand how the format of a Panorama arrangement evolved one must briefly study the early masters of arranging. To begin with the musical selections of the first panorama tunes were not that harmonically or melodically difficult. This gave room for the arranger to think about how to lengthen the tune into a steelpan arrangement. The first master of this was Anthony Williams from Pan Am North Stars who should get an honorary doctorate in music and metallurgy as a natural born genius in all aspects of pan. It is to his credit that we have the panorama format still intact. With his second panorama win in 1964 playing the tune “Mama Dis is Mas” he was the first arranger to add an introduction, modulate to the subdominant key and re-orchestrate a new section (background instruments) of the band playing the melody. The very next year Bobby Mohamed pushed the envelope even further by winning panorama with his arrangement of “Melody Mas”. The arrangement was not only about music but also about size, power and impact. This was the first time ever that over 150 players were on a panorama stage; he literally blew the crowd away! Musically if one listens to Bobby Mohamed’s arrangements one will find he does not always use whole sections of the verse and chorus in his arrangements. Hence we have one of the first uses of motivic development, which was later re-defined by Grand Master: Clive Bradley. “Melody Mas” had one of the first uses of jams (repeated chord progressions with an improvisation on top) and pitting the orchestra (call and responses between the backgrounds and frontline). In a nutshell Bobby Mohamed was experimenting with balance and orchestration. [music transcriptions of the two arrangers mentioned above can be purchased at under Canboulay Productions].

The signature sounds and experimentations of Ray Holman, Clive Bradley, and Len “Boogsie” Sharpe have also left a huge impact on the quality of sound in a panorama tune. Ray Holman started the whole thing with his “own tune” and Boogsie followed. Mr. Holman along with Earl Rodney, Robert Greenidge and others have colored up the chord progression with their knowledge of extended chords, reharmonization and their use and understanding of jazz styles. It is this author’s personal belief that arrangers are still searching for ways to be different and yet please the crowd. The impact of the crowd is not supposed to sway the judges in any fashion but their response cannot be ignored. This year the crowd cheered the loudest during the selection of Edwin Pouchet’s arrangement of “First in De Line.”  Although one would not expect the entire audience to be musically trained, the arrangement called out to them and drew them into listening to the different sections of the band...especially the cellos. The music spoke for itself and there wasn’t really a need for anyone to conduct the band in front and point to the sections of the band that we were suppose to listen to right now. That seems to be a new conducting style…jumping around in front and pointing to sections of the band they want us to hear.

Formally speaking the panorama arrangement would be classically explained as a double theme and variation: the double theme being comprised of the verse as the A section and chorus as the B section. We would expect to hear the following components of a panorama arrangement: a dynamic introduction and then the original verse and chorus. From there it’s up to the arranger to develop (do variations on) that verse and chorus melodically, harmonically, rhythmically, and texturally via orchestration and band balance. There should be some connection to hearing pieces of the original verse and chorus that relate to the arrangement even when the listener feels they can’t get any further away. That is the trick…how far can the arranger take the elements of the tune and still make it recognizable as the tune. Deep into the development of the tune the themes are churned and twisted like battle zone. That is the beauty of it all. The methods of getting us into the development of the tune vary from arranger to arranger but mostly we should hear bridges to modulations (key changes to different major keys or a minor variation), episodes of jam (sometimes called a montuno), stops, polyrhythemic patterns, hemiolas, crescendos and decrescendos, swelled rolls, percussive accents, a change in style or feel (like a Latin section) all compounded to add to the continued musical excitement of the piece. A good arranger will feature the themes in different voices and interweave a countermelody in another voice. It’s all about tension and release…keeping the audience and judges guessing “what next?” and then to “wow” them with what is next. There is no set order for any of these events but eventually in the last 45 seconds of the tune it is expected that the arranger will take us back home, after running all of the bases, and play the verse and chorus…or just the chorus. This is called the recapitulation. The final thing is the ending or conclusion that sends the final message to all of the listeners that the piece is coming to and end.

Recently we have heard in panorama arrangements the influences of Boogsie Sharpe’s stops or silent breaks, and his Classical “Beethoven” tonic dominant endings. This year Boogsie had an extremely long break in his “Magic Drum”; only a hi hat could be heard keeping the count. The musical quotation/sampling “band wagon” was heard a few times. We will exclude Renegades from this because their tune was based on quoting music from the past in “Dr. Jit” but for me Amrit’s arrangement was like a test to see how many quotes of winning Renegades selections one could detect. Again Silver Stars shocked the audience with an introduction that used the “Olympic Theme”. I also think what was so shocking was the fact that the full band “tutti” was not used at the very start. Instead, the frontline instruments started their arrangement with the Olympic Theme. That was a different orchestrational introduction. We heard an introduction like this a few years ago when Despers started Band From Space with “2001 Space Odyssey”. The other quote I noticed was in Redemption’s arrangement of “First in De Line” where they used a fragment of Bunji Garlin’s “Green Banana”. One last originality observation on this year’s panorama goes to Carlton “Zanda” Alexander for his arrangement of “I’m not Drunk”. This is probably one of the first times I heard the original verse and chorus stated in the background instruments first. That was innovative and creative.

Other things in recent years that have affected the panorama arrangement are the length of the tune. The change from 10 minutes to 8 minutes means that there is less time to say more. If one studies some of the panorama music before the 8-minute time limit one will find that the variations were repeated. Now there is no time for hammering home your beautiful variation. Ray Holman’s music was notorious for repeated sections. One does not have the luxury of hearing his sweet chords a second time. Why the 8 bands and 8 minutes? The music industry has often regulated timings of tunes based on what will fit on the vinyl. Has it become that the musical manufacturing of selling DVDs has influenced this change too?

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The last thing to discuss is the balance and set up of the band on stage. Balance in the placement of pans on stage does affect the sound. This has nothing to do with canopies or no canopies but the balancing and mixing of the sound that the judges and audience hears without mics. There is no set rule to set up other than the arranger must know what parts are weak and/or what parts need to come out. The 100-player rule for large conventional bands this year had the audience waiting on the count. Those bands that had more than 100-players were not abiding by the rules. Bands like Phase II and Exodus (and maybe some others) were guilty of delaying the show. This must have affected their performance when the audience was booing them on stage for taking so long to set up. That must have been traumatic for the players as well. Imagine one is all geared up to play and you are suddenly tapped out. Someone has to give here. Either the players have to follow the rules or Pan Trinbago has to up the number again. All part of the Trini bacchanal I guess.

I would like to congratulate all of the bands that competed this year and I look forward to hearing all of the bands again next year. Each and every band did a wonderful job.

Last year I was thrown into the arena of announcing because I think they couldn’t find anyone else and I was their last resource. I have always been an armchair commentator and never in this life thought I would be called upon to voice my opinion on what I heard. Here are excerpts from some of the notes I took at Panorama 2009 as the bands were playing. I was not able to go around from panyard to panyard to listen to or prepare my comments for television. My commentating is the here and now. I am not able to physically write down everything I hear as it happens live but below is a synopsis of some of my scribbled notes.

Here are the notes I took on the bands as they were playing on stage:

First in D Line” – Winston Gordon

The group appeared smaller on stage.
The count was slow.
The intro was not as solid as expected.
Overall the engine room/drums were not balanced well and sometimes lost in sound.
The cello section had some nice countermelodies.
I noticed a reharmonization on the first variation but it stayed in the same key.
The tenors were generally unclear in the upper register.
The arrangement used a lot of motivic development from the chorus.
After the key change there were lots of percussive accents and the use of the one-note off beat hook from the chorus.
There was a minor section that had some question and answers between the low and high pans.
There was a real rough modulation that was not seamless.
Used a quote from Bunju Garlin’s Green Banana song.
There was a nice rise into the jam section.
Lots of chromatics up and down with the use of some blues licks.
Clear recapitulation
Used a classical ending.
Overall the arrangement did not have a direction and I felt it was searching for keys. It used lots of cliché licks and the tenor section was unclean most of the time.
The band was disadvantaged in that the show started late causing the audience to be on edge.

Festival Time” - Pelham Goddard

The intro was energetic.
The tempo was good.
They had a clean sound and good balance on stage.
The original verse and chorus was stated clearly but the original tune didn’t have much melodic range or harmonic interest.
Good clean breaks were done.
Nice cello solo and feature.
Good use of hemiola.
A scalular rise added nice tension to the arrangement.
Use of swelled rolls for dynamic contrast.
The tenors had some nice percussive “brass-like” punches.
The basses were walking at times “quarter notes” a good change/style.
The arrangement had lots of chromatic ups and downs.
There were feelings of Classical music in this arrangement in the cellos and basses.
There was only one repetitive section that was probably a jam.
The arrangement used different scales (not major or minor…more altered half whole combinations).
Had a tight ending.
Overall the stage presence of the performers was enjoyable to watch. Each player was performer not just a player. The only downfall was the choice of the tune and time the audience had to wait. I think we counted Festival Time was played about 15 times before we actually heard the arrangement. This was due to counting players on stage.


Pan Redemption” – Robert Greenidge

Good tempo throughout the entire piece. All parts could be heard and nothing was lost.
Nice rising intro and tasteful use of a chromatic scale.
This was a good choice of tune because of the melody and beautiful harmonies.
The verse and chorus were well articulated and true to the original.
The chorus leads to the feeling of redemption with interesting chords swelled dynamically by the players.
The first variation had a nice use of reharmonization. There was a good formula of frontline and backgrounds coming together at just the right moments.
The arrangement was full and rich.
The second variation had the backgrounds playing the melody with the frontline playing a wonderfully constructed countermelody.
Variation 3 had good motivic development that went right into a jam.
The minor section had trilled swells, which allowed the backgrounds to be heard.
There was a unison shouted section by the band.
The basses were most welcomed in this arrangement. They were heard and very tasteful.
The colour of the chords used were very Trini in that there were lots of 69 sonorities.
This was a textbook arrangement that feature the whole band musically.

First in De Line” – Edwin Pouchet

The count off was faster than any band that had played so far.
A dynamic introduction, which sampled the Olympic theme as a programmatic element.
There were some very brave dissonant harmonic moments, which was welcomed from the same old cliché chord changes always heard.
The introduction made the listener aware of the offbeat hook from the chorus that acted as a percussive accent throughout the arrangement.
The players looked young on stage.
Silver Stars captured the audience’s attention from the intro on down the tune.
The cellos were featured in two distinct sections (1) they played the theme (2) they had a Latin feature.
Another interesting arranging moment in the basses. A thunderous boom and it wasn’t a mistake.
The tenors had a lot chromatic rises and work to do.
There were dynamic swells that added tension to the arrangement.
The jam sections were very different and percussive. Very vertical sounding.
There were good modulations and the arrangement never lost interest.
By time the band had reached the recapitulation the crowd had already interrupted with cheers twice.
There was an excellent drum solo that energized the ending.
Overall very exciting, full of new sounds, fast tempo, young players and the singer at the checkered flag.

Pan Rivalry” – Leon “Smooth” Edwards

The introduction was solid and the count off was a good clip of a tempo.
As expected, the performers are seasoned making their articulation clean and concise.
The rolled sections of this arrangement were clean.
The arrangement had a lot of pitting between the backgrounds and frontline.
Very tight harmonies and chromatic scales.
The modulations and development of themes were flawless.
The cello section was featured in a very long horizontal fashion.
There was plenty of motivic development and the reharmonization was noted.
The arrangement sounded like a conversation between different sections of the band.
The engine room was powerful and the pans had good quality of tone.
The recapitulation was clear and the tune had a powerful ending.
Overall for me the arrangement did nothing new. The performers’ skill sold the piece.


“ Dr. Jit” – Amrit Samaroo

There was a unison start and the tempo was well defined.
The original verse and chorus was true to the original.
Good use of dynamics…more so than other bands had done so far.
I heard all of the pieces Armit quoted from his father like Somebody, Guitar Pan, Pan in A minor, Bee Melody, Iron Man etc and I stopped writing them down. It was a test (in a sense a mosaic) of tunes from the past.
At times I felt that the pieces were not cohesive in their connections in and out of each other.
Amrit has the signature sound of his father. It is in his genes.
He used a lot of running lines (like a run on sentence), and his arrangement was connected more horizontally as compared with the vertical percussiveness used by other arrangers.
The recapitulation was brief and the conclusion was strong.
He is a good composer, arranger and pannists. We have many more years of hearing from him. He is slowly becoming the Dr. Amrit of pan…mark my words. Give him a chance.


“ I’m Not Drunk” - Carlton “Zanda” Alexander

The intro was off on it’s own, no themes I could detect from the original verse and chorus (through-composed).
The first noticeable difference was the original chorus was stated in the cellos.
This was a brave tune to select in that there is not much melody or harmonic elements to work from.
The arranger was aiming to please the crowd with a tune everyone knew.
The use of jazz elements was prominent in this arrangement.
The arranger used mostly the hook of the chorus as the basis for his development.
It was hard to detect the verse but it must have been cleverly hidden somewhere. That means there was a balance problem on stage.
The hook of the bass line was used as an ostinato.
The tenor line was simple and the chords were beautifully reharmonized to keep our interest.
Most of time we hear chromatic scales up to another key, the arranger chose the opposite and played a chromatic scale down to the modulation.
The drummer had some good fills but the hi hat was not always clean sounding.
The arrangement was full of motivic development on the chorus. He gets an A+ for that. The reharmonization was pitted through the entire arrangement. Well done.

Magic Drum” – Len “Boogsie” Sharpe

There was a solid count into the intro; it was not as long as previous years.
There was singing done in this arrangement to add to the excitement.
The verse and chorus were clearly stated.
Boogsie is keen at harmonization. I believe I detected some harmonies above the melody.
The background instruments were clearly heard even though several basses were probably pulled off stage because the band had to been thinned down to the 100-person count.
The arrangement had some very complicated layering and contrapuntal lines.
There were lots of parts in the music, which to me sounded like a conversation between the backgrounds and frontline instruments.
The motivic development was exciting and different sections of the band were featured equally.
The signature of Boogsie was heard in the polyphonic passages that utilized the shifted accent/pulse into a hemiola.
There was a very long stop that unfortunately had to be controlled by a hi hat click.
The Magic Drum is a piece of music that will probably survive the test of time.
There was a Classical ending.

Editor’s note:

Click here for more Dr. Remy

Dr. Jeannine Remy
Department for Creative and Festival Arts
University of the West Indies (UWI)
Gordon Street, St Augustine
Trinidad, W.I.
1 (868) 645-0873 (Direct Line)
1 (868) 663-2141 (Fax)

Dr. Jeannine Remy

Dr. Jeannine Remy lectures music in the Department for Creative and Festival Arts at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Trinidad. She currently teaches courses in percussion, steelpan (arranging, history, literature), world music, and music of the Caribbean. Dr. Remy first visited Trinidad in 1989 as part of her doctoral research at the University of Arizona. She subsequently received numerous faculty research grants, including a Fulbright in 2000-2001, to research and archive Trinidadian steelpan music. Moving to Trinidad in 2003, Dr. Remy became the first foreign female arranger for large conventional steelbands competing in panorama and music festivals. She continues to be an active composer, arranger, adjudicator and musical commentator in cultural music. Remy recently took a 70-membered contingency (Golden Hands Steel Orchestra and the UWI Percussion Ensemble) to PASIC in Austin, TX in 2008 to perform a production entitled The Rainmakers: A Tropical Journey in Percussion and Steel. Dr. Remy composed the music and Franka Hills-Headley, founder of the Golden Hands Steel Orchestra, wrote the script.

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