by Dalton Narine
Another When Steel Talks Exclusive © 2012 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved
Anthony Williams revealed that he was tuning
mystical secrets, “mainly the first pans,” for his second Panorama
victory in a row (Mama Dis Is Mas). No wonder Desperadoes and
Highlanders never had a chance with the same song. Pan Am North
Stars claimed the first two Panoramas in 1963-64, yet Williams
wasn’t thrilled because he thinks the arrangers were judged as
amateurs. There’s more. “When
Guinness Cavaliers won the 1965
competition with Melody Mas, Williams chalked it up to their
high-decibel basses. “It created an impact,” he says. “When you lose
a competition and analyze why, and if you don’t know, you drop out.”
Panorama is a reptilian thing that roams the Savannah year after year, no matter how hard you try to break the word down. When I asked Keith Diaz, president of Pan Trinbago, if the beast is still in Pan, he didn’t flinch.
“That’s the nature of Pan, the trials and tribulations of the pan man. That’s how I became a steel band man who knows the belly of the steel band movement. You need to be strong. Hardcore. Tough decisions. The demands placed on a steel band man...The steel band movement is not easy.
“I knew George Goddard. I watched him walk up and down fighting for Panorama, and I said one day that I’d be in his shoes. I served under past presidents of Pan Trinbago, such as Arnim Smith, Owen Serrette, Patrick Arnold. You have to know the pan world. You have to know the belly of the steel band man. Rudolph Charles was a steel band man.” Well, all right, then! The beast still in this thing.
Grandmothers always said to wake the mango
tree before you try to pick its fruit. And that’s what
did with Prophet of Pan. Wait till next year when he has all the
horses (sure, you can very well read between the lines) and the
Robert Greenidge and him have ripened. Maybe the
following year he will have owned the tree up on the hill. Not the
one that some pan people think Judas hung himself from. White,
Liam Teague and the rest of the 35 Panorama
arrangers under 35 years old have the power to swing the music
toward the youth movement, which includes 82 percent that play Pan.
Pan’s spontaneous improvisations (as
opposed to the controlled versions embedded in Panorama
arrangements) is what an American music professor expects in
future Panoramas, where they pull out all the stops, because
he’s seen them do it in the pan yard. A few extemporizers come
“Boogsie” Sharpe, Ken “Professor” Philmore,
Duvone Stewart and
Ray Holman. A seismic shift? Naaah! A sea change, perhaps.
Cliff Alexis at
University reminds that Panorama is a show and you can hardly make
out the faces under the canopies. The finals happen at night, for
Christ’s sake, when the tone “is different.” The pans ring a lot
more. And it’s different from playing in the sun because the heat
excites the partials.”
A Carnival moon rising in the east throws
its incandescent light on the Silver Stars pan yard in the west as four panists rehearse a
controlled improvisation passage in preparation for leader
Pouchet’s call to order. Pouchet is being interviewed for a story
about two brothers and a band when he brings up the topic of race in
pan. “In 2008, we had the band’s 60th anniversary, and [elder
brother] Junior gave a speech about his early involvement in Silver
Stars. One part said it all. He used to play football and cricket;
swim and hike all over the island, and when he led Silver Stars he
became white. Everybody laugh. It’s the truth but nobody wants to
talk about it. Looking back at pictures of the band in the 1960s,
there were no white players, but some supporters were white. Whites
might have followed us and Dixieland because we were not involved in
Pat Bishop’s sister Gillian Bishop: “Gregory
Ballantyne called about Pat’s life and works - a long session we
had. Two days later he sang Archbishop of Pan on the telephone. I
was very emotional. Boogsie requested the Lydian Singers, and I
thought it was as backup singers but he said no, it’s a choral song.
When I’m listening to the piece in the pan yard I don’t have time
for emotion. Just the execution, the whole presentation breaking so
much new ground. I come here literally every night to watch him work
his magic. I have so much faith in him. His musicality. His judgement. Tremendous. He’s in a good place. He’s being fed by the
music. They both had respect for each other, and now the whole thing
is playing itself out in the music.”
Phase II is the only band in the Panorama, a
supporter in the yard said. “The heavens will open and angels and so
on will come down and give him victory. But the Savannah people
(judges) gonna give him second. Panorama is not an English-speaking
competition. They’ll open the door and slam it in your face, not
open it for you to pass.”
Leon “Smooth” Edwards, arranger of champion
Trinidad All Stars, recalled that when he tried late in 2011 to
reach Clive Telemaque, one of the band’s crack-shot players, here’s
what filtered through the ear piece: “I in the studio and
[Goddard] arranging my song.”
“Well, he brought Play Yourself after the recording,” Smooth said, “and that song was making more sense to us than any other. It was in the mood of what we kinda wanted to do.”
Trinidad All Stars is a musically promiscuous big band. Bet on it.
Katzenjammers’ driller, has
unusual conductor skills. But one needs to relax and hear the band,
not watch Ramsey throw waist. You always knew when a passage was
about to turn the corner because he telegraphed the move like a
traffic cop. From the get-go you realized that the Tobago band had
Medium Band championship in hand. Everything else was gravy.
Like the fast bowler’s pace of the music. Like when Ramsey takes a lil wine on the flag girl or loses his cap as he crabs across the
face of the frontline pans the way a fancy sailor with a nip in hand
thinks he owns Park Street.
Siparia Deltones should be thankful that
Carlton “Zanda” Alexander a) hails from a musical family,
his father’s shoemaker shop in Siparia over the years having become
a repository for creativity, and b) Zanda and his brother Clive
Zanda had been collaborators at the late Schofield Pilgrim’s
informal school of Pan jazz and jazzalypso that included Boogsie
Sharpe and Barry Howard and
Raf Robertson, among a host of elite
pioneers a few decades ago.
Only 12.55 a.m., and arranger
still hasn’t got over the 2.30 a.m. blues he’d been harboring all
week since the semifinal when his complaint that his Tobago
Redemption Sound Setters, carried children, including a
10-year-old, during the 49-band marathon that took about 17 hours to
complete the course. Take note, Diaz.
Boogsie Sharpe, who composed more than 35
Panorama pieces, took Bishop of Pan to Peter Minshall for his
blessing, the mas man having been a dear friend of Pat Bishop’s.
Come to find out that Minsh, who waved a huge silver flag during the
band’s performance, suggested Archbishop, according to the
bad boy, because she was more an archbishop than a bishop. Point
well taken. Hear Boogsie: “The song will live on, maybe 20 years or
more.” Meanwhile, the band sported its best-tuned pans, perhaps
ever, what with
Bertrand Kelman’s magic with the hammer. And
bassist Korey Vincent on the G-Pan Six letting on that he revels in
the sound. “Louder than an ordinary six.”
“Professor” Philmore speaking at 3 a.m.
when the Grand Stand was thinning out, said just before he dropped
Vibes that his presentation should remind of funk. “Old school,
that’s what it is.” Hey, hey, hey! Stop that! Storm was 22 years
ago. No need to revisit. Everybody knows the lowdown, though the
‘Gades would never acknowledge what went down that classic night.
Memory doesn’t serve them right, you see. Or, maybe the rest of us
imbibe in a parallel universe. I have the gospel truth, you have
yours, and, hell, never the twain shall meet. Not on this score.
Back to the Phase. Archbishop vamped chords
that would have made a harp wimp, the easterly wind strumming
them across the Savannah like UMOs, pulsing the music to breathe - like
the sound of a slow jam.
Once the lights are switched back on the
stage and the metronome of the pan stick slapping the side of a
double second drives the
Trinidad All Stars frontline, four deep,
and catapulting the motor off the cliff while taking thousands in
the audience on a wild ride, “Smooth” might have referred to the
experience as a conversation among the drums, though it turns out to
be a rollicking roller-coaster adventure...players bobbing and
weaving through the welter of notes during the free-fall into the
dry river, which hurries passages out to sea, to the deep, from
whence the music came. “Smooth” just giving back, that’s all.
The broken dream of the short sailor suit nobody picked up, as my friend, poet Mervyn Taylor, a true-true mas man would stutter step in conversation; the half-past Carnival Sunday doze of a mas maker slumped over his sewing machine; the gutting of the flesh in the Carnival - all of that to follow Dimanche Gras and J’Ouvert. For now, though, the pan making a face in chrome. For real, Bro.
So it hang, so it fall, bloggers.
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