Steelband Panorama 2011

 

2011 Panorama Info Complete

Showtime at the Savannah!

A When Steel Talks Review

“...With heart, faith and Steel. In the end there can be only one” - 2011 Panorama

One, two, three... nine, ten. It’s over! Good night, folks...

Ali

Like a scene out of the movie Rocky, or that classic still picture of the great Muhammad Ali, towering over the feared Sonny Liston - the now seven-time champions, the legendary Trinidad All Stars emerged victorious from the annual epic musical battle of the titans of steelpan music - PANORAMA. 

Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra on stage for Panorama 2011
Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra on stage
for Panorama 2011

Years from now when it’s all said and written, hundreds of thousands of people will give their brand of the story, in the then-“Galactic Steel Pan News Times” and tell you “I was there when the mighty All Stars rolled out of Hell’s Yard to the “Big Yard” and rocked the Grand Stand and North Stand with such an intensity, splendor and precision, that made all others run for cover as they took the coveted title home” - that of National Panorama Champions 2011. Indeed, this year’s title is more valuable to the participants and fans - than a Hollywood Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy all wrapped up in one.  100,000 plus people?  Well, in the era of facebook, Twitter and live streaming, this is far closer to the truth than ever before.

Panorama 2011As the judges’ scoring would later reveal, soon after the opening bell, a TKO was delivered by Trinidad All Stars in the first round of this heavyweight finals night competition. Playing in position number one, the world-famous steel orchestra scored high enough in that lead appearance position, to ward off any attempt of being caught from behind by the other nine formidable contenders.

Ah... But let us back up for a moment - let us relive this reality moment of global importance in the steelpan music community.  This was no ordinary panorama - no panorama is - in fact, all panoramas are unique and special.  However, 2011 was loaded with anticipation because of all the off-the-stage and behind-the-scenes activity that transpired leading up to the great event this year. This year’s finals  showcased winning steelband music franchises that were led by no less than five past-heavyweight champion panorama music arrangers.

The Return of the Big Yard 
Burning passion, drama, intrigue and controversy were in no short supply for this 2011 musical face-off.  For one, the return (after a four-year hiatus) of the iconic North Stand and Grand Stand scenario, with the fabled east to west performing monument known as the “Big Stage” sandwiched between them, formed a natural linkage to past panoramas where mystical, legendary and historical musical performances and feats have transpired.  Some of the greatest music performances of our time have been executed in Trinidad’s Queen’s Park Savannah during Panorama (who can forget classics like Play Mas, Rebecca, Woman on the Bass, Happy Birthday, Pan By Storm and Pan in ‘A’ Minor to name a few?).

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Today, I pledge to you as well that all the competitions which showcase the talent of our land, whether it be the Chutney Monarch, the Soca Monarch, the Panorama finals, in all these competitions...I pledge to you today, that in true equality and justice, that the first prize for all these competitions will be $2 million for every one of those competitions...”

Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Ministerial Intervention
It was back in late May of 2010 when the then-prime ministerial candidate Kamla Persad-Bissessar pledged TTD two (2) million dollars to the winner of the Panorama competition should she become prime minister. As fate would have it Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar won and by default the interjection of her administration, politics and herself into the Panorama conversation, became a certainty.

In actuality it was the Prime Minister’s cultural minister Winston (Gypsy) Peters who would become a lightening rod for acrimony within the pan community and pan season through his actions and comments. Just one of the minister’s now-infamous statements before the start of the season, that of “panorama is killing pan”, is in the history books, and his knack for executing creative math - giving with one hand and making it disappear with the other - has not endeared him to the steelpan community world-wide, and has distinguished him - to some - as sort of a villainous character coming into and out of this panorama season.  It was this “creative math” that saw Minister Peters calling for the reduction of stipends paid to steelpan musicians competing in the panorama, a move that enraged steelpan musicians and inspired a global online petition to the country’s Prime Minister.

The Injunction
Another source of theatre, drama and legalese was the unexpected removal of nine-time champion Renegades Steel Orchestra from the finals round of the competition. Renegades failed to make the cut-off point in the semi-finals round.  The organization took Pan Trinbago, the show’s organizers, to court for what was described as unacceptable minimum conditions for the orchestra to perform and compete at its best. The courts did not rule in Renegades’ favor.  Nevertheless what went on at that semi-finals was truly an embarrassment, and a shameful moment for the steelpan art form, performing artists and the promoters, Pan Trinbago - but that’s another story for another day.  Let’s just say Pan Trinbago should have been flogged and the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago should have intervened personally because of the disrespect shown to the Trinidad and Tobago national instrument.

The Promoter
No one is ever going to mistake Pan Trinbago for Don King, Simon Cowell, Donald Trump or Dick Clark Productions; however they did get the job done.  So let’s give them a round of applause. They really rarely ever get any respect. And yes, we understand that’s their problem and they will have to earn that respect and trust.

Many times throughout the season Pan Trinbago appeared punch drunk.  They were catching so many blows, they didn’t know their own name, how to behave and worse - how to count how many fingers were being held in front of them. There has been another Panorama for another year.  That in itself is an achievement.  Should it, could it, and must it become a much better event? The answer to that is a resounding ‘yes’!

Unfortunately, they (Pan Trinbago) were bamboozled by the minister (Winston “Gypsy” Peters) in broad daylight, they were taken to court by a member (Renegades), and they tried to mess with “Boogsie” over a song. These missteps could never have happened to Don King or Simon Cowell.

Pan Trinbago president Keith Diaz
Pan Trinbago president
Keith Diaz

The Media
Mr. Keith Diaz, President of Pan Trinbago called the Trinidad and Tobago media a bunch of free loaders and hurt their feelings - LMAO... WST can’t talk about the validly of this statement.  But the media coverage was better this year. The results of the panorama were in before Ash Wednesday in the newspapers.  That’s a rarity.  And there were some serious attempts to cover the pan season.  Some unforgivable lapses also occurred - like the lack of serious interest in the national Junior Panorama by the Trinidad and Tobago media. By the way: was there any credible real-time audio or video coverage of the Single Pan and Small Steel Orchestra finals?  One radio station which started to broadcast the event live abandoned the attempt early in the game because they said they had technical difficulties.  And there was the almost total blanking of the Tobago Panorama (with the exception of Tobago-based radio station Radio Tambrin).  Simply unforgivable.

Eric Mannweiler with Starlift Steel Orchestra in Trinidad
E. Mannweiler
 

The Rookie
Eric Mannweiler from Indiana, USA - a first-timer to the Trinidad panorama landscape, gave a unique and eye-opening account of his personal, almost two-month long panorama experience (something that is not often fully appreciated) within the framework of carnival, from the perspective of a foreigner. It is an interesting journal of the greatest music competition on earth; click to read his full log.
 

Leon "Smooth" Edwards pulling position number one for Panorama 2011
Leon “Smooth” Edwards (at right) pulls position 1 for Trinidad All Stars’ appearance in the finals of Panorama 2011

The Kiss of Death
There is just one other major tidbit that the Pan Gods threw into the mix.  At the order of appearance drawing held a few days before the finals - with none other than their famed arranger Leon “Smooth” Edwards doing the honors as the orchestra’s representative - Trinidad All Stars drew position one.  “Ouch!!” A deep, pregnant pause and sigh of real concern could be heard from Trinidad All Stars fans globally and simultaneously.  There had to be an undercover exhalation from their competitors, that one of the main contenders was seemingly removed from serious contention, before the competition even began.

Position one is commonly known as the ‘kiss of death’ in a competition of this magnitude.  It is usually looked at as the position where there is danger in being forgotten, or becoming increasingly irrelevant as the other competitors take the stage in succession.

Trinidad All Stars Panorama 2011 trophy & awards.  Photo:  Wendy Joseph
Trinidad All Stars Panorama 2011 trophy & awards.   
Photo:  Wendy Joseph

The Swagger is Back
Coming into this season it was obvious that Trinidad All Stars had gotten its swagger back. They sent a clear and unmistakable message to all would-be contenders, pretenders and wannabes:  watch out - Trinidad All Stars, the original Showtime band was ‘coming hard’ - when they chose “It’s Showtime” as their tune of choice.  The song was obviously composed for the defending two-time consecutive champions Silver Stars Steel Orchestra by their arranger Edwin Pouchet. Trinidad All Stars was taking on the defending champions head on, and they obviously knew if they were successful they would have beaten Silver Stars with their own tune, in prime time, and on the biggest stage.  One cannot help but envision Trinidad All Stars, as the great Muhammad Ali screaming at his opponents “I’m a bad man!”

If this predicament was supposed to slow down or curtail Trinidad All Stars’ belief that they were going to win, they clearly didn’t get that memo.  The playing in position one seemed to only strengthen the franchise’s resolve to a man/woman to get the job done early. Transmissions and communications monitored over facebook by WST  revealed comments like “play first - come in first” by players and fans. Confident indeed.

When you hear the name Trinidad All Stars, one immediately thinks of their great tradition - giants of pan - names like legendary leader, inventor and musician Neville Jules, and Beresford Hunte - general manager of Trinidad All Stars, both who are class acts and fearless leaders.  But it was their champion arranger Leon “Smooth” Edwards who gave real insight into what he believed was going to happen that night in his pre-panorama interview with journalist and When Steel Talks contributor Dalton Narine, mere hours before the competition: - “Trust me, we WILL win tonight. This song is every bit a classic as Curry Tabanca, Unknown Band, Woman on the Bass and Soca Warriors. When I do stuff like this I expect it to make history based on how the public accepts it. And this is no different. All Stars is about show, and we’ve put the show in “It’s Show Time.”  Leon “Smooth” Edwards

Time to rumble
With two (possibly three) out of the traditional big five (Exodus, Renegades, Desperadoes, Trinidad All Stars and Phase II) believed to be disadvantaged or disabled before the event even began {through the grapevine WST heard that many others included Phase II in this list because of the lyrics of Boogsie’s song “Do Something for Pan}  - the field was believed to be wide open for a possible upset.  Or so many thought.  Everyone was going to step up their game.

Every season must have its battle hymns that will forever be historically linked with these contestants, and in the minds of the fans who witnessed the event and will retell the story.

However, as actor Sean Connery explained in the movie “Highlander,” the brute could only be conquered “with heart, faith and steel.  In the end, there can be only one.”

ctv broadcasters
Two of CTV’s broadcasters

The Broadcast
The show was broadcast over the internet for the whole world to see by Advance Dynamics.  Yes, it is the same company that failed miserably last year on all levels.  They were rightly trashed unmercifully last year on the internet by the fans for their lack of professionalism, along with their partner-in-crime for the Panorama and Carnival venture in last year’s prime-time failure, the Trinidad and Tobago government-run media outlet CNMG (Caribbean New Media Group).

This year with one shot to get it right or face the gallows, Advance Dynamics actually delivered a broadcast of fair quality via CarnivalTV.net.  It would have been real ugly for them had they messed up for a consecutive year.  Oh, and by the way, there was no sign of CNMG anywhere.  They were not missed.

Eteinne Charles
Etienne Charles

Advance Dynamics (AD) brought in a fresh new young team to do commentary and presentation. That was a bold move.  The trio was made up of musician Etienne Charles and two other folks  not familiar to the panorama scene.  Etienne was credible in that he brought information from his own experiences. The other two, didn’t have a clue. They were just eye candy.  But to their credit they never said they were pan music experts, or ever tried to misrepresent their lack of knowledge about pan. However their delivery during the panorama was respectful of their audience and the pan community. And the presenters had to put up with AD’s inexperience in doing a live broadcast of this nature. The miscues and bad transitions were almost comedic. AD might consider adding an Edison Carr or Phil Simmons or Dalton Narine to this ‘youthful’ mix for some semblance of credibility for Panorama 2012.

Having said all that however, pan folks got what they craved most:  a steady video stream, good and clear camera shots and good audio. And with that, AD’s ‘execution’ has been put off for another year.  Fans should look forward to having their copies of the DVD. And another thing, AD:  on your website you called Etienne Charles a saxophonist. Etienne plays the trumpet. It is recommended you not make too many of those types of mistakes with pan people. They do know their pan info, and people connected with the art form. And as you are very aware, they are a passionate community.

And one more thing - on your facebook page we are glad to see that you are honest. There isn’t one steelpan organization on the globe in facebook that you “like”. But at least you like Roti and Bake & Shark. LOL.

The Battle Hymns
All of the songs, or Battle Hymns if you like, were amply appropriate for the return to the Savannah. Three bands (Trinidad All Stars, Silver Stars and Redemption Sound Setters) would enter the contest with “It’s Showtime” as their tune of choice.  There were three bands with ‘professors’ in their own ‘right’ leading their musical charge. The one via south Trinidad chose “A Raging Storm” (Fonclaire), the second via the Big Apple co-wrote and played “Doh Be On Dat” (Invaders), and the other via Illinois selected “In She Rainorama” (Starlift). Two bands went ‘nationalistic’ with this carnival season’s runaway hit “Trini” (Desperadoes and Siparia Deltones).  Another band (Exodus) performed “Calling Meh” a song about the lure of Pan, Panorama  and the Savannah. And of course one of the most intriguing songs of the season resonated with pan people as a worldwide theme, battle cry and offered a challenge to step up to the plate and “Do Something for Pan” (Phase II).

The Contenders

Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra on stage for Panorama
Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra on stage

Trinidad All Stars - At a few minutes before 8:00 p.m. on Saturday evening, the following message came across the facebook lines “Hellyard posse leaving the yard now, heading to WAR - Saturday at 7:47pm via BlackBerry”. It had begun. The Duke Street orchestra was on its way to an appointment with destiny.  Dressed in red tops and white trousers topped off with gold-banded red hats, the spiffy-looking Trinidad All Stars took the stage at the appointed time and delivered a typical All Stars performance that simply dared anyone to catch them.  They embraced the ‘showtime’ theme and never looked back.  Trinidad All Stars has historically saved their best performances for last. And as we all know now, they delivered the TKO from the opening bell for their seventh National Championship title. Oh, and they took home TT two million dollars (USD $315,955) also.

Special notes by journalist Dalton Narine -- Clive “Zanda” Alexander, architect and musician:
“‘It’s Showtime’ by All Stars was a true reflection of the rhapsodical aspect of SHOOOOW TIIIME, a serious interpretation; not a matter of taking things and pushing them here and there. The guys had the power of execution to do it. Silver Stars didn’t give me all of that. I had given Phase II the edge because the band was able to organically take all the elements of music, and give you a conclusion that satisfies all the elements of music in terms of balance, energy, drive and rhythmic interpretation.” 
 

click to see or hear performances 
 
Exodus Steel Orchestra on stage
Exodus Steel Orchestra on stage

Exodus - The four-time panorama champions let it be known that the big XO was back in form. Dressed in their traditional colors of black and white, they again elected to appear canopy-less, opting to go instead with the rising stage setup and sonic reflectors in the rear. After a couple of challenging years the band from East Trinidad took the stage from position two, and as the final scores have revealed, the only band to best them on the night were the eventual winners, by two points. Their tune of choice was “Calling Meh”. They took home TT $1,000,000 (USD 157,977) for their efforts. Led by one of the most accomplished musicians and songwriters in the Caribbean, Pelham Goddard, Exodus remains one of the most professional franchises. This has been a year of vindication as the big XO received a public apology for the debacle that took place two years ago at Panorama 2009.

Exodus is all about business. They are never going to beat themselves.  They embody the personality of their manager Ainsworth Mohammed and work ethics of their drill master Pat Bishop.

click to see or hear performances 
 
Silver Stars Steel Orchestra on stage
Silver Stars Steel Orchestra on stage

Silver Stars - The two-time winners and defending champions had a lot riding on this panorama. They had won two consecutive panoramas (2009 & 2010). A win in 2011 would have put them in a very distinctive category.  To date this is a special record that only a single steel orchestra holds. That is Renegades Steel Orchestra - the only franchise to have ever won three consecutive panoramas in the Trinidad and Tobago heavyweight category.

Arguably Silver Stars set the tone for this year’s extravaganza with their tune of choice - “It’s Showtime”. Their flashy performances and theatrical approach in addition to the music, have clearly changed the focus of the panorama and opened debate about the pros and cons of such an approach.  Nevertheless, Silvers Stars brought a very high-energy performance to the stage that its fans and players totally enjoyed.  They were ‘dressed to kill’. They looked spectacular and their ‘see-through’ canopies were innovative and looked fabulous.  They were able to enhance the visual nuances without too much compromising of the sonic advantage of the traditional metal canopies.  It worked well.

Silver Stars put on a show that included opening curtains and closing fireworks. They took home TT $750,000 (USD $117,169) for their efforts and third-place honors. It was in 2008 that Silver Stars left the Medium Conventional Band category to mix it up with the big boys.  In doing so they have clearly left an undeniable mark on the heavyweight division of Panorama.  The Silver Stars brand under the musical direction of Edwin Pouchet is to be reckoned with.  They are the first group in twenty years to mount any serious or sustainable threat to the ‘lock’ the ‘big five’ maintained on the national panorama championship through their musical prowess.

click to see or hear performances 
 
Phase II Pan Groove on stage
Phase II Pan Groove on stage

Phase II Pan Groove - ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ was clearly on Boogsie’s mind when he shot the early salvo across the bow of Pan Trinbago. It not only got their attention, it connected.   The blow hit Pan Trinbago so hard they stumbled across the ring mumbling something about ‘rule 5.1’ changes and ‘lyrics’ watch.  In any regard, once smelling salts were administered in their corner and their heads cleared - that nonsense about lyrics and rule 5.1 was dropped and an addendum issued. Like the great Ray Holman said on the matter, “Pan don’t play lyrics!”

The five-time champions led by the legendary and often outspoken Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, came into the finals tied for first with Silver Stars after the completion of the semi-finals round. Sharpe, a lightening rod for change and/or debate and no stranger to controversy, clearly delivered some body blows and a right cross on the chin to the embattled Pan Trinbago, the producers of the panorama, when they became central characters in Sharpe’s composition for panorama,  “Do Something for Pan”.

Not affected or distracted by the noise surrounding the tune - Boogsie led his troops again on the single-minded mission of capturing the crown. Mr. Sharpe’s signature Caribbean motifs with a funk attitude were in full evidence.  The venerable Ray Holman drilled and provided musical support to the orchestra.  Boogsie Sharpe holds Mr. Holman in high esteem, never shying away from an opportunity to let folks know that he was influenced by Ray Holman in his formative years.

Dressed in all black, the band’s outfits complemented the green and gold color scheme of their racks.  Phase II, like Trinidad All Stars, continues to enjoy global support and generate international appeal.

Boogsie still did his thing and gave the community another musical gem that will be analyzed and studied for years to come. Boogsie is in a musical class by himself.

They took home TT $575,000 (USD $90,551) for their efforts and tied for fourth place.  Prior to this year on finals night, Phase II had been in the top 3 for nine consecutive years.

Special Notes by journalist Dalton Narine -- Clive “Zanda” Alexander, architect and musician:
“What I heard in Boogsie’s music was the ability to build a composition with a rhythmic feel, and to take that rhythm through the music and express it and broaden it and extend it. “Do Something for Pan” comes out of the speech rhythm of
Do Something for Pan, Do Something for Pan; and you hear it in his whole arrangement organically flowing out with 3-Dimensional ideas. Boogsie was able to play three rhythmic feel at the same time. That’s a mind that’s 3-Dimensional.”

click to see or hear performances 
 
Invaders Steel Orchestra on stage
Invaders Steel Orchestra on stage

Invaders - Under the musical direction of Arddin Herbert Invaders Steel Orchestra has begun to establish its voice and identity.  The storybook organization has never won a national panorama title but may be on its way toward achieving that goal. The orchestra was definitely a crowd favorite at this year’s competition. Dressed in colors that matched the logo of their corporate backer - Caribbean Airlines - Invaders impressed the audience.

The current face of Invaders is young and the band is on the rise.  It was great seeing this historically significant and distinguished organization in the finals along with its ‘offspring’ - Starlift and Phase II Pan Groove.

For Invaders’ efforts, it tied with Phase II for fourth place and also left with TT $575,000 (USD $90,551).

Special Notes by journalist Dalton Narine -- Arddin Herbert, Arranger for Invaders and Power Stars:
“I do music for an overall sound, allowing history to say ‘this is what Arddin Herbert was about.’ I would think what I have is unique, not a carbon copy of other arrangers. I arrange in the panyard. I like the vibes and energy there - doing it on the fly. ”

click to see or hear performances 
 
Fonclaire Steel Orchestra on stage
Fonclaire Steel Orchestra on stage

Fonclaire - Ken “Professor” Philmore came to the 2011 bout with a vengeance to right a wrong that the world of pan - almost to a man -  acknowledges was done to this son of the South some twenty years ago in these same Savannah grounds. In 1990 Philmore lit up the Savannah with his composition and arrangement of “Pan By Storm” for this same Fonclaire Steel Orchestra. They lost that 1990 contest by half of a point. And this was after they had lost the 1989 contest by a point. In 1991 they lost by two points.  Talk about painful experiences.

This year Philmore was armed with “A Raging Storm” - a tune written specifically for Fonclaire Steel Orchestra by calypso and soca standout The Original DeFosto Himself.  The song immortalizes what transpired that finals night some 20 years ago (a tribute to a Panorama championship title which should rightfully have been that of Fonclaire, and Philmore as arranger, in the ears and opinion of the majority).

There was a lot of anticipation going into the 2011 finals that this could be the year that a South band brought the Panorama title home. This turned out not to be that year.  In any regard, Fonclaire delivered a credible showing and looked great.  Their dramatic intro with thunder and lighting was impressive and the thunderbolts insignia on their uniforms looked real cool.

From a musical standpoint Professor and Fonclaire presented one of the most musical and cohesive presentations of the evening. Special mention to the orchestra’s rhythm section - they were taking no prisoners.  Check Fonclaire out on the DVD when available.  Because of the way Ken “Professor” Philmore spreads his voicing and executes his movements the orchestra should sound really nice. By the way, “Professor” looked real comfortable in front the band this year.  He was enjoying himself and his presence came across well.

They took home TT $500,000 (USD $78,112) and sixth place in the finals for their efforts.

click to see or hear performances 
 
Desperadoes Steel Orchestra on stage
Desperadoes Steel Orchestra on stage

Desperadoes - For the franchise where second place is not an option, the legendary music institution from the hills of Laventille came into the season looking to add to their leading ten national panorama champion titles.  It has been a while since the name Desperadoes has been hoisted in the winning spotlight.

In the absence of their regular champion arranger Robert Greenidge, Desperadoes called on the leadership of proven past glory.  None other than the respected Beverly Griffith was summoned to lead the orchestra musically in this year’s campaign.  The marriage between Beverly and Desperadoes had already driven down champion’s row together years before - so expectations were at their peak. Also, assisting Mr. Griffith were Eddie Quarless and Andre Robley.

The band’s tune of choice was one of the runaway hits for the 2011 Trinidad Carnival season, “Trini”.  Initially, eyebrows rose across the globe when it was revealed that Desperadoes was entering the competition with “Trini” as their choice. It just didn’t seem like a tune that would suit the group’s personality. And again the perceived limited musicality of the tune seemed like an obstacle. However, who better than a master like Beverly Griffith, with a musical juggernaut like the irrepressible Desperadoes as your vehicle - would you want taking on this challenge? Then it hits you: if this comes together properly this could be a slam dunk.  Some of the most beautiful musical passages ever arranged for pan were done by Mr. Griffith.

Desperadoes remains one of those steel orchestras that can be recognized as soon as you hear them.  That classic Desperadoes sound is unmistakable. The arranger cleverly weaved musical themes that represent the diverse multiculturalism of Trinidad and Tobago - including Spanish, Chinese, East Indian and African. There was a subtle hint of the country’s National Anthem and of course the past monster hit “Trini to the Bone”.

Desperadoes looked great, dressed in the country’s national colors, and sounded great.  Their working of the canopies to look like a complete village from the aerial shots was awesome.

They took home TT $425,000 (USD $66,395) for their efforts in a two-way tie for seventh place.

click to see or hear performances 
 
Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra on stage
Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra on stage

Siparia Deltones - With both steel pan instruments and players clad in Trinidad and Tobago’s national colors and hailing from South Trinidad, Siparia Deltones put on a credible performance and are serious contenders in this heavyweight conversation.

Under the musical direction of arranger Carlton “Zanda” Alexander  Siparia Deltones dropped down a masterful musical storyline like only one other in the history of panorama music could - and that’s the late Clive Bradley.  While Bradley found ways to go - and deliberately went - out of his way to accommodate all levels of musical thinking, understanding and appreciation, Zanda on the other hand “doesn’t play that”.  He challenges, or should we say ‘requires’ - the listener, audience, judges and/or student to come with a minimum amount of experiences, history and feelings. He is not going to serve it up to you on a silver platter.  That’s too easy.  But it is indeed all there.

For 2011 Siparia Deltones came with Benjai’s Trini. Trinidad & Tobago’s culture is wrapped up in Pan, Calypso and Carnival.  These elements are the basic tenets used to tell ‘Trini’s’ story.  Zanda’s interpretation of “Trini” is a venerable history lesson on the musical movements that are both instinctual, and form the foundation of the Afro-Caribbean Calypso spiritual and cognizant musical understanding.

“I’s ah Trini, ah Trini, I’s ah Trini, ah Trini”, Zanda never moves from the central theme of the song. “Are you a Trini?”  Zanda seems to ask, and at the same time reminding the listener who he or she is.  If you are a real Trini, then - here is a Trini movement for you... and here is another one... and if you think that was something here is another one - that, from your great, great, great grandfather’s time.  Now deal with this movement that only a Trini fancy sailor could move to.  And we get to the minor mode that is fighting music for a Trini Jab Jab or Badjohn.

Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra on stage
Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra on stage

On the surface “Trini” appears to be simply a melody on top of a basic two-chord structure. And there lies the beauty of Zanda’s telling of the Trini’s 500-plus-year story through these movements that he skillfully moves around the family of steelpan instruments in Deltones, while all the time keeping the melody.

He challenged the audience, musicians, the dancers and the storytellers “do you know where I’m coming from? This is your history  -- this is you...  If you sing to these [musical] movements, you are singing as a Trini.  If you dance to these movements you are dancing like a Trini. If you feel the story behind these movements you are part of the Trini experience.”  And when he dropped Kitchener’s “No Wuk for Carnival” motif, well: it was over:  Goodnight.  All “Trinis” understand this.

Cerebral, spiritual, instinctual, natural, cultural - whatever you want to call it - it is just a matter of time before the judges finally pick up on what Zanda has been doing (hopefully). Clearly the young people in the orchestra have, and their ancestors would have also. Yes, Zanda is eccentric and a non-conformist, but he’s also one of the baddest panorama arrangers out there.  We suspect if Deltones had the class instruments to bring out what Zanda is doing, this conversation would be over.

And in a two-way tie for seventh place with Desperadoes who played the same tune, Siparia Deltones also claimed TT $425,000 (USD $66,395) playing in the penultimate position on stage that night.

Oh, for the record, it was only back in 2008 that this enthusiastic band of young musicians competed in the Panorama’s Small band category, also lead by Zanda.  In 2009 they leap-frogged straight into the Large steel orchestra arena, bypassing the Medium option completely; Siparia Deltones has not looked back since.

click to see or hear performances 
Redemption Sound Setters on stage
Redemption Sound Setters on stage

Redemption Sound Setters - They were the sole representative of sister isle Tobago in the heavyweight division and stepped into the ring with the intention of teaching their southern relatives a thing or two when “It’s Showtime.” Dressed for prime time, Redemption Sound Setters put on a performance filled with choreographed steps. Led by arranger Winston Gordon, the orchestra gave a very colorful rendition of the song.

Never in short supply of enthusiasm and/or confidence, the orchestra made another credible showing in the final phase of the competition.  As one of Tobago’s finest, Redemption Sound Setters has had a virtual lock on making it to the finals, but has not yet cracked that glass ceiling to the panorama championship.

They took home $400,000 (USD 62,490) for their efforts and came in 9th place.

click to see or hear performances 
 
Starlift Steel Orchestra on stage
Starlift Steel Orchestra on stage

Starlift - Led by Liam Teague musically with “In She Rainorama” Starlift presented an interesting performance.  Undersized in a division where size matters, Starlift’s showing was commendable.  Liam Teague’s arrangement presented some thought-provoking and at times attention-grabbing voicing and colors to tell the story.

Teague’s approach to steelpan music storytelling is not as boisterous as is the norm with the genre, but nevertheless it is loaded with motifs out of the calypso and panorama tradition.  Teague’s classical influences bring an undeniable musical sound and well-constructed approach. The only thing missing was the madness and heat of carnival. That may have more to do with Starlift being moved out of its historical home a few years ago, and presently not having the traditional surroundings of community 24-7 as a constant reminder of who they, as a band, represent - to generate that spirit.  When a band is moved out of its community it can lose its soul. Teague did a great job in spite of these probable challenges.  His arrangement and the band’s performance of “In She Rainorama” is definitely recommended listening.

They too took home TT $400,000  (USD 62,490) for their efforts and finished 10th overall.

Special Notes by journalist Dalton Narine -- Liam Teague, associate professor of music, Northern Illinois University, arranger for Starlift:
“I go for more impact in terms of power, and try to maintain a nice balance between musicality and getting the audience involved, and to please the adjudicators as well. It’s quite a balancing act.”

“When I arrange a piece of music, I look at the elements of the melody, like using motifs that stick out to me and would stand out. And I try different ways of manipulating those motifs, be it rhythmically or harmonically. I strive for a lot of melodic material in the basses and other times they’re more complimental. As a composer I think about the full spectrum.”. As a composer I think about the full spectrum.”

click to see or hear performances 

The ‘tale of the numbers’ for the last 10 panorama competitions:

  • Trinidad All Stars has been in the top three 9 times in their last ten panorama entries (3 championships).

  • Phase II Pan Groove also has been in the top three 9 times in their last ten panorama entries (3 championships).

  • Exodus has been in the top three 7 times in their last ten panorama entries (2 championships in that period).

  • The other 2 championships in this period were won by Silver Stars Steel Orchestra, which only started to mix it up with the heavyweights in 2008 when it moved up in class from the medium category.  Since then Silvers Stars, in four attempts, has been in the top three 3 times, with two of them resulting in championships.

With the exception of the bands noted above: Trinidad All Stars, Phase II Pan Groove, Exodus and Silver Stars - Only Starlift (in 2006 - 3rd place) and Desperadoes (in 2005 - 3rd place) have also finished in the top three in the last 10 panoramas.

 

Get full results on the Panorama, and read all about Trinidad & Tobago Panorama 2011

 



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