Global - 2013 again turned out to be a bumper year for songs for this year’s Trinidad and Tobago national steelband panorama competition. Over sixty songs were submitted to When Steel Talks by songwriters from all over. Dat is Lie, written for Invaders Steel Orchestra by Arddin Herbert, Ricardo Jones and Roland Yearwood has just rounded out, this phase of the ‘Pan songs’ for 2013. As each Panorama season approaches annually, It is of course always the hope of these talented writers that their composition be picked up as the tune of choice by the competing steel orchestra franchises, thereby playing a significant role in the initial leg of the Panorama championship journey.
This year’s songs, as is normally the case, cover a host of topics and social commentary which include international & local politics, sports, humor, culture and much comedy. The varied backgrounds of the writers are sometimes as magnetic and compelling, as the attractive storylines of the musical products that their tunes produce. From old pros and national heroes, to current pop stars, to upcoming and future greats of the tradition – they are all here. Some even deliver what could be termed ‘the complete musical package,’ providing lead or score sheets with their When Steel Talks’ song submissions, an element often-requested but not always available.
The eclectic mix from this year included the well-established veteran writers such as DeFosto, Ray Holman, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Dr. Leroy Calliste, Alvin Daniell, Destra Garcia, Mark Loquan, Edwin “Crazy” Ayoung, Keith Prescott, Amrit Samaroo, Tellison Forde and not least of all Jimmy Chambers of Londonbeat, who wrote the 1990 global mega hit “I’ve Been Thinking About You.” For Panorama 2013, Chambers served up two unique selections including an ode to the mighty Desperadoes, entitled ’Rados.
In ‘tune’ with these stalwarts, were the likes of the creators of the more mainstream ‘pop’ styled-music of the Caribbean - like L’il Bits, “Iwer George,” Machel Montano, “Rikki Jai,” Karene Asche and Duane O’Connor and Kerwin Du Bois among others. In fact, the name of L’il Bitts’ tune for 2013 is ‘Panorama.’
The songwriters are well aware that although the Panorama competition is a local one, the global audience of When Steel Talks and universality of the Panorama event itself - through the vastness and immediacy of the internet - provide an international platform to showcase their abilities and material. Moreover there will be continued interest in these songs long after the Trinidad and Tobago Panorama has passed. Indeed the songs have taken on a life of their own and have become fan favorites. Of course there is always the opportunity for songs not chosen for the Trinidad and Tobago Panorama, to be selected by orchestras in the upcoming Panoramas in New York, the United Kingdom, Grenada, St. Lucia and Antigua & Barbuda to name a few. Who can forget, for example, songs such as Shadow’s “Stranger” and “Dingolay,” Andre Tanker’s “Ben Lion,” Carl Jacobs’ and David Rudder’s “Trini to the Bone,” Johnny King’s “Darling” - while passed upon and not played in the Trinidad & Tobago Panorama in their respective years – were destined to become part of the greatest panorama tunes of all time when chosen in the New York event, a few even delivering to bands which played them, the championship title?
With the advent of mobi devices, tablets and other portable, internet-ready gadgets - the delivery system to an eager and receptive audience has changed – clearly favoring the receiving audience. Songwriters’ music is no longer confined to, or blocked by, narrow-minded and frankly – disinterested – musically-deficient and under-achieving program directors, and egotistical on-air disc jockeys. Moreover, the one-and-done disposable mechanism that is prevalent in the Caribbean pop music industry, has been completely (like the rest of the world) supplanted by the on-demand and always available nature of the internet, its devices and users . The shelf life of the proverbial, so-called “pan tune” has now been extended to simply – “whenever.”
Again, beyond the great music of many entrees are the culturally significant storylines that are talking points of the day. The comedic wit of “Iwer” George and Caribbean humor are on full display in his tune named Bubble:
Need we say more? This song has been picked up by La Brea Nightingales as their tune of choice. Their arranger is Terrance “BJ” Marcelle.
A couple of the songs like One for Bertie focused on the life of recently-passed steelpan genius Bertie Marshall. Quite a few tunes focused on Trinidad and Tobago’s success at the 2012 London Olympics. Can we say Gold? The combination of Keith Prescott and Tellison Forde gave us a couple musical gems like Culture Rise Up and Splinters that were both thought-provoking and ‘jammin’. The spirit of Panorama was well represented in Clive Telemaque’s Bounce and Drive, Edwin Pouchet’s and Alvin Daniell’s Shock Attack and DeFosto’s & Mighty Jamma’s We Come Out to Play. And then there others like Sapna (The Dream), The Last Word and My Band - that instinctively suggest that they will have an extended shelf-life and will be heard from for years to come.
The production and arranging were excellent on several of this year’s submissions - featuring the arranging talents of some of the greatest musical minds of the Caribbean – Frankie McIntosh, Junior “Ibo” Joseph, Pelham Goddard and Leston Paul - to name a few. And let’s not forget the great work by Kareem Brown and other young producers.
Hats off to all the writers, producers, arrangers and musicians!