Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - Just in case you haven’t heard, Duvone Stewart is now a two-time champion Panorama arranger for the illustrious Renegades Steel Orchestra. And from our perspective, in 2019, Duvone Stewart earned the title Master Arranger. His name now resides in a place that is time-honored and very rare. Furthermore, he is at present, one of only thirteen men who have walked the planet, and to have won a minimum of two Panorama Championships.
Duvone Stewart is a profound asset to the international music community - and not to mention, a national treasure to Trinidad and Tobago.
He is perched to be a driving force in the global steelband music community. And as such his genius must be, should be and—if he remains on this path—ultimately will be recognized as such.
We expect Duvone to be fully engaged in the international university and educational circuit - as his knowledge, experience, counseling and genius is sought. Steelband music programs that have not already booked Mr. Stewart, could end up bringing up the rear; additionally they would be depriving their students access to a living master. The well-spoken musician has much to offer.
Duvone Stewart (left), with Renegades Steel Orchestra - 2019 Panorama Finals - photo by Robbie Joseph
And now we return to the conclusion of our tale...
When last we spoke (post semi-finals) the Duvone Stewart-led Renegades were facing a choice between a “garbage bag” and/or (as we now know) a “tuxedo” - divorce or marital bliss. And coming out of the 2019 Trinidad and Tobago National Panorama semi-finals Renegades was on track to hold on to the ‘trophy’ with their second consecutive championship. And although the other contenders for the throne were in the rearview mirror, they were closing in (like lions, tigers and bears - roaring, growling, and snarling); moreover, the lead had been narrowing.
Ultimately, what the world experienced on Panorama Finals night was indeed a love story as told through the musical arrangement of Duvone’s talents, and the impeccable musicianship of Renegades Steel Orchestra. Filled with high drama, artistic and theatrical intrigue, Renegades gave a prime time-ready production that thoroughly entertained and thrilled the audience. Capturing of the hearts and minds of a new and younger generation of Renegades supporters was a done deal. ‘Duvone + Renegades = Championship’ was the new normal for them because of their age.
Clearing the musical requirements hurdle ahead of an extremely motivated assemblage of nine of the best steel orchestras in the world - in the ears of the judges - was the challenge.
By the way - to the event organizer Pan Trinbago: ‘Prime Time’ is between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Not - repeat, Not between 11:15 p.m. - when the first large band Desperadoes Steel Orchestra began, and 3:50 a.m. the next morning when results were given. As the great Ray Holman said years ago in a WST (When Steel Talks) interview - “Prime time is for the best. Look at television. Anything to do with the media - you want the best; you want the prime time. Prime time is not 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning.”
The 2019 large steel orchestra finals was one of the best Panorama competitions in years. It was very competitive, hotly-contested and produced a very high level of music. All the orchestras performed brilliantly.
As expected, from position one, the legendary Desperadoes mounted an uncompromising and splendid finals night performance with Carlton “Zanda” Alexander’s interpretation of Nailah Blackman’s “Iron Love” and dared all others performing in their wake to catch them.
With the bar now set, we know now that only one orchestra - the eventual 2019 champions, Renegades, was able to catch and pass Desperadoes. Subsequently, for 2019, Desperadoes would have to settle for 2nd place - three points behind Renegades. Zanda’s unpredictability combined with Desperadoes’ attitude of “We own this” continues to be a hallmark of this ‘marriage.’
Trinidad All Stars, famous for their Panorama finals night performances, made the biggest jump on the night as they moved from 6th place in the semi-finals to third place on finals night and four points off the lead of the champion Renegades. They were indeed impressive in their “Smooth” delivery and reworking of the tune.
Just a side bar of note - throughout the Panorama season, Renegades, Desperadoes, Trinidad All Stars, Invaders and Phase II mounted very effective messaging, marketing and promotional campaigns through various social media platforms that indeed positively exposed their brands to the wider global audience. In addition they successfully generated excitement and name recognition around their respective franchises, and no doubt increased their market share of the steelband music audience.
Along the way the topic of ‘sampling’ vs. ‘quoting’ became an matter of contention. Why? Really? Really. When did this become a problem? This has always been around. It is simply part of the suite of tools the arranger uses in his or her musical interpretive genius as a storyteller - the usually dynamic way a well-known musical phrase of similar theme is woven into the arrangement while sometimes even the selected Panorama piece hums along in the background. Again - Really?
According to WST Forum regular “Merrytonestothebone” -- “Quoting” in music terms is use of an existing melody, even chord progression to enhance an arrangement...As in the case of “Here comes the bride“ etc...“Sampling” on the other hand refers to using an existing melody in the writing a new song. As in the case of Kernal Roberts and “It’s Carnival” where he composed a new song using Cindy Lauper’s melody for “Time After Time”...
Indeed much ado about nothing - except when it comes to knowing the difference between the ‘Wedding March’ vs. ‘Here comes the bride’...
Can’t wait for next year - when Duvone (with Renegades) will attempt to join the elite squad among the giants - the seven men who have won three or more Panorama tittles. Oh and of course, there is the arranger hat trick currently held by only two titan arrangers, the late Clive Bradley and Dr. Jit Samaroo.
And with the understanding that the honeymoon for he who sits on the Panorama throne can indeed be a brief one - Duvone Stewart continues to romance the championship while trekking on to uncommon greatness. The age of Master arranger Duvone Stewart and the mighty Renegades Steel Orchestra is upon us. The grand tales are being written and memories are being forged. And decades from now we will hear “I was there in 2019 when Duvone and Renegades pack up all dem fellas in a garbage-bag [and leave dem on de side of de road] with “Hookin’ Meh.”
And while Duvone creates musical masterpieces that titillate all our sensory palettes to the max, all the while crafting an insatiable appétit for more - the sobering reality is always lurking in the forest of Panoramas past, present and future: as stated earlier - lions, tigers and bears - roaring, growling and snarling - who have also tasted greatness. Clearing their throats, they are waiting for that chance again (a year from now) to musically verbalize their objections - with tenors, seconds, four pans, cellos, 9 basses, etc., - steel, iron, and big drums flexing to ancient rhythms - when that question is asked -
“If anyone sees any reason why these two should not be wed, let them speak now or forever hold their peace!”
as Duvone and Renegades eye their potential third-in-a-row triumph. Oh what a time - just living the experience.
Congratulations again to all the 2019 Panorama
participants. You made
the season a fantastic one.