by A. Eric Mc Allister
Panorama 2011 has come and gone… laaard oh…this season was too long boy…not me and dem March Carnival. Thank God we don’t have them too often. But just as the season so was long so was it enjoyable. To be honest, I have never experienced an “un-enjoyable” Panorama Season in my several years of playing Pan.
The most enjoyable and satisfying feeling for me came after perusing the points scored in all four finals. In the Large category All Stars won with 278 points, followed by Exodus with 276 and Silver Stars third with 275. In the Medium category there was a tie for first place between Valley Harps and Katzenjammers both with 275 points then came Buccooneers with 269. In the Small category Arima Golden Symphony won with 283 followed by Merry Tones with 280 and third was Tornadoes with 275. In the Single Pan category San Juan East side won with 284 followed by T&T Defence Force with 279 and Fire Services with 272.
I wonder if anyone reading so far could figure out what has given me so much satisfaction?. Well in case you missed it…the highest points scored by ANY band in this year's panorama…at any stage mind you…were scored by a Single Pan Band and two Small Bands. I am proud beyond words by this achievement. For all of you out there who believe that the Single and Small Band categories are for hustlers who just come out
to make an easy dollar and waste the judges' time, I invite you to think again. Although the panels judging each category were made up of different people, the Single and Small Band adjudicators definitely recognized “something” in the quality of music offered to them on Thursday 3rd February at Malabar, Arima,
Trinidad. I wonder if even Pan Trinbago Officials were prepared for the quality of music they got at the Larry Gomes Stadium because if they were, I doubt they would have staged the show at that most inadequate arena for a Steelband Competition. But then again, we
‘small...’ so I suppose we had to take that. But we show-off on them, all of them and the points awarded will show that.
Arima Golden Symphony
Sadly, for all the satisfaction that Panorama 2011 brought, I cannot help but observe some glaring negatives as well. The thing that continues to rub me the wrong way where Single and Small bands are concerned is attitude. Attitude of not just the general public towards us, but also of our very players, who quite often take their bands for granted. All the public-at-large is interested in is the end-product, the music. That steelband administrators are at their wits end to ensure nightly full house practice sessions is of no concern to the public. When an arranger (and players too.., mind you) miss three to four nights practice (especially by the last week leading up to finals) because they have other commitments, is of no concern to the public. It clearly is of no concern to the Pan Trinbago officialdom because they refuse to rule against band-hopping, probably because their bands will be affected if they did.
Arima Golden Symphony
The competition overseers, Pan Trinbago, still can’t seem to grasp the sacredness of competition and the need for fair-play. The very fact that arrangers are allowed to ply their trade across the categories is the Genesis of the problem. To make matters worse it is
rumored that some unscrupulous arrangers work for more than one band (especially in the Single Pan category). This is further compounded by players who do the same thing which in my opinion simply nullifies competition. I know of a panist who performed at Finals this year with 1 Single, 1 Small, 2 Medium and 1 Large band. Quite an amazing feat though I wonder which Medium band he was rooting for, if any at all. No band in T&T could boast of having players beholden to them alone and while most of you think it is
laudable to play for more than one band in a competition I will tell you for free that the only bands not affected by this practice are the super large bands, the Big Five or Six or whatever. Since it doesn’t affect them nobody cares.
Arima Golden Symphony
In Tobago, the only native arranger hails from Redemption Sound Setters. In an effort to ensure a place in the finals, Tobago steelbands continue to hire top arrangers from Trinidad at the expense of their own home-grown talent. But wait, I tell you. Like the saying goes, what sweet in goat mouth does sour elsewhere. Less Tobago bands made the much-revered crossing to Port of Spain this time around and although the Medium category winner was from our sister isle, all other entrants ate the dust of their Trinidad counterparts. I may be wrong, but something tells me that it will become increasingly more challenging for Tobago bands to maintain their dependency on Trinidad come future Panoramas. But what do I know? I come from a Small Band in Trinidad.
Arima Golden Symphony
From my band, Merry Tones’ perspective, however, Panorama 2011 proved again that we made the correct decision to go Small and to so far remain that way. A head count in the second week of January 2011 revealed that we already had 55 (not counting the rhythm section and the odd crackshot) panists on board for the season. It is my understanding that many a Medium and some Large bands as well struggled this year to attract players. Because of our size and success over the years it has been relatively easy to achieve close to a full house at practice most nights. Indeed by the Semis when we performed with our full complement of 60 players, there were Medium Bands with less than 70 players and at least one Large band that didn’t fare much better.
Many years ago I sat in the audience at a lecture delivered by renowned musician Dr. Pat Bishop. She referred to panists’ mercenary multitasking as an example of creativity and
entrepreneurship and the like. This year during an interview with Alvin Daniell, at Panorama Semis, she opined that the “practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practicing” so cleverly written in Daniell’s “It’s Showtime”, was not evident in most of the bands she had heard on the day. Listening to her I wondered if she realized that dependency on the very mercenaries she once praised was the root cause of lack of practice. For too many panists today, Panorama is a time to “hustle”. Some band is always “looking for players to take dey tune”. Quite a few of them simply end up making numbers for a quick buck.
In closing end I can’t help but express my disgust with Pan Trinbago who again, for all our high quality performances, still could not see the wisdom in producing a CD at least of the Single Pan and Small Band Finals. But I am not at all surprised. I bumped into Pan Trinbago President Keith Diaz at Malabar on Finals night and complained to him about the poor choice of venue for the show. His response?…
“Ah try something.” If only he had “tried” to produce a CD or DVD of our finest hour, I would indeed have been happier.
A. Eric Mc Allister
Contact the author at his WST profile