Bandoleros invade Brooklyn and Capture
New York Championship - Sonatas Steel Orchestra style
Congrats to the 2009 New York Steelband Music Panorama Champions Sonatas Steel
New York, USA
- This one will be talked about for ages. Years from now children will
ask their grandparents with great intrigue - “Were you there when dem
Bandoleros called Sonatas Steel Orchestra from Brooklyn, Crown Heights,
descended on the Brooklyn Museum grounds and captured New York?” And thousands will respond
“yes, I was there, I saw and heard it all, it is a night I will never
Sonatas as captured
by Basement Recordings for Pan in New York
as they prepare for panorama
With a blinding flurry of 32 second-notes (demisemiquavers), perfectly synced
musical jabs that would make Muhammad Ali blush, mixed in with an overhand
crushing right cross, followed by a wicked volley of musical chromatic triplets to the
head - plus the dynamic delivery of a visual and choreographed set of body
dips, twists and turns, finished off with solid blows to the midsection --
1-2-3- it was over! Down and out for the count. ’Dem
“Bandoleros” took over the town. A well-balanced attack indeed.
The Big Apple once again belongs to Sonatas Steel Orchestra. And as
the “Borgs” do in “Star Trek” - Sonatas’ Bandoleros broadcast well in
advance that “resistance is futile.” With strategy laid down by their arranger/music
director Yohan Popwell, field officer duties handled by band captain Sherwin
“Pin” Edwards, legendary tuner Birch Kelman in charge of supplying and
maintaining the musical arsenal (steelpans), providing the best sounding
sonic instruments (ammunition) in the country and their highly-respected, unflappable general Mack Scott
leading the charge - Sonatas let
it be known that they are back in the driver’s seat - and they are planning to stick
around town for a while!
But there was much resistance, although all through the season Sonatas had
been dropping hints that all foes should leave town by the appointed
of 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 5 if you did not want to
get your feelings hurt, or worse - have to be rolled out after the dust had
settled at the Brooklyn Museum.
The other groups in response let it be known that they were not going down peacefully,
and definitely not without a fight. They
came to the showdown to meet the challenge
armed in total with four cases of Magic Drum, two cases of Pan
Redemption, and another even dared to come, too, as heavily armed
Bandoleros themselves - from Bed-Stuy (Bedford
Stuyvesant). One even employed Rocket Man (a song about
world-record sprinter Usain Bolt), with
which they believed they could outrun any type of attack. And one felt that simply doing it the Trini Way would be enough to take
In the end, not even the defending champions,
ADLIB Steel Orchestra, could stave off the inevitable. One hundred
Sonatas’ bandoleros rode up or, should we say, rolled in. They were dressed to the nines, and wielding pan
sticks in place of pistols. With them were their deceptively beautiful
women in Spanish style skirts, alluring flowers in their hair, but who were
just as committed to the cause - clinching the Panorama title - as their
male counterparts. They had no problem exhibiting their deft musical
skills on this night.
But for the crowd there to urge on the
musicians as they dueled for the championship and ownership of the Big Apple
- the city that never sleeps - it was nothing but pan and
more pan. From Boston Metro, who opened the show just before 8:30 p.m.
- returning to the New York panorama after many years - to Harmony who
brought the curtains down on what has been termed by many as one of the more
competitive panoramas in some time, this showdown was one for the ages.
With Sonatas’ final score of 464 points (after
the dropping of the highest and lowest scores, retaining those of three of
the judges), the next closest competitor - ADLIB - came in ten points behind with a score
The score would indicate that no one after Sonatas - who played in third
position - impressed the judges enough to mount a serious challenge to the
musical onslaught presented by the Sterling Place-based orchestra. Of course, depending on
who you spoke to, there were wide and varying opinions from the steelpan
enthusiasts, fans and players about the results.
Boston Metro came in with
thoughts of filling a very, very tall order as they were
literally coming from another state to capture New York.
They paired ‘magic players’ to the Magic Drum.
Despers USA, young and
revamped, were definitely up for the challenge and they
themselves came as Bandoleros - but from Bedford Stuyvesant.
They raised the bar, and pores, with their performance, with
many in the audience rising to their feet in homage.
Sonatas rolled in with their
signature black and gold basses; as usual those instruments
went well with their attire - fitted black vests, black
sombreros and all. When the lights hit them, these
called on Pan Redemption - in an effort to pull off a
September surprise for all time. Arranger Khuent Rose
employed thought-provoking and, at times, complex harmonic
themes and structures in his interpretation of the song.
With their version of Pan Redemption,
past champions Pantonic steel orchestra hoped to
present a performance that would
stave off any challenges or talk from Bandoleros or Magic Drums taking home
the coveted first prize. Musical director and arranger Keith
Roberts laid down a competent musical war plan. This
was not to be their day, or year.
CASYM, clearly, was confident
and ready for a fight. There was no doubt in their body language that in their
minds, at the end of the night, this was going to be another CASYM victory.
The orchestra delivered Magic Drum, a tune that seemed
ideally suited to CASYM’s musical temperament.
Musically led by the distinguished and
capable Pelham Goddard, Sesame Flyers also performed
Magic Drum. This year the orchestra also returned with
the traditional canopy covering, a reversal from the last
year when they ventured on stage with without them.
ADLIB came in as the defending champions, one-hundred
players strong and a favorite of many present. If
anybody could send Sonatas packing, everyone expected it would have
been them. André White provided more than ample evidence
that his 2008 triumph with ADLIB was no ‘flash-in-the-pan.’
If D’Radoes had been capable of
following in the footsteps of world-record holder Usain
Bolt, they would have been able to out-run their competition
with their chosen panorama tune penned in his honor,
Rocket Man. But this was not the case. What
musical ammunition they were armed with, came with the
assistance of veteran arranger Earl Rodney.
Harmony performed in the always
highly desirable ‘last playing position’ for the evening,
and therefore had the opportunity to both steal the show,
and leave the judges with a lasting musical impression.
Arranger Anthony “Pra” Trebuse, assisted by Duvone
Stewart decided to go the Trini Way, but ultimately
at the end of the night the orchestra was not on the road to
It was a very entertaining panorama, because
there were a lot of high expectations for all the groups. Very few were
simply counted out. From that perspective, they delivered. The
crowd remained literally to the end. They took it all in with keen and
critical interest. For the most part, people appeared at ease with the
Perhaps perched atop the roof of the Brooklyn Museum and looking down on the
panorama, the late New York panorama titan Clive Bradley had to be watching
and be happy with Sonatas and all the participating bands. On this
night, also in Bradley’s company would have definitely been Winston “Mouthabee”
Phillips and Kenneth Moore, both who were posthumously honored at this
year’s Panorama. In addition, it is safe to assume that Scipio “Sarge” Sargeant who passed away earlier this year, and who, like the others, had a
tremendous impact on New York pan - was also looking down with approval.
Brads himself very clearly understood
panorama and all that it brought: the joy, the fun, the drama, the passion,
the story lines, and of course the music. Brads had a
special connection with the young people who played for him. One can
see a comparable phenomenon unfold with Yohan Popwell and his troops in Sonatas.
Panorama 2009 has come and gone but dem
Bandoleros from Crown Heights known as Sonatas Steel Orchestras own New
York for one full year. To all Panorama towns: be afraid... be very
afraid - dem Bandoleros comin’ to a town near you!