It's All In The
New York - These two New York steel orchestras have a thing or two in common in the pan community. Not only have they shared an arranger - Clive Bradley - for three years in a row, but they both share the same history.
Pantonic Steel Orchestra and D'Radoes Steel Orchestra are essentially off-shoots of the mighty Metro Steel Orchestra in New York (or Old Metro as it is fondly known), and it's incarnation as Metropolitan Steel. For those not involved with the pan movement, this gets confusing. That in itself is a history lesson. For the purposes of this brief article, and to bring those not in the know up to date - here goes.
Some musicians who were members of the legendary Desperadoes Steel Orchestra in Laventille, Trinidad and Tobago settled in New York after a couple of tours, and formed their band under the name Despers USA. But it was eventually decided that only the original Desperadoes should carry the name, at least at that time. So after just a short period as Despers USA, the re-settled Desperadoes members in New York changed their name to "Metro." It is this incarnation of Metro, that many players in D'Radoes hail from originally, when they split from Despers USA.
In 1991, Metro (known as the New Metro), led by Anthony Joseph, split into two bands, and for this year only the other contingent took the name "Metropolitan." The following year, 1992, Metropolitan once again became Despers USA, led by Clement Franklin, and has remained in existence ever since. Anthony Joseph remained head of Metro, and it is that incarnation that the majority of Pantonic hails from.
If you follow the trend carefully, you can understand that the Pantonic pan players of today are the small toddlers who chased around the panyard of Metro in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and whose parents and uncles are mainly the same legendary Desperadoes who re-settled in New York. Having grown up under the same Desperado regimen, their talents should be of no surprise.
So to bring everything up to date: in 1997 some of the youngest members of Metro seceded to become "Mystery Band" and in 1998 changed their name to Pantonic Steel Orchestra, and surprised many by coming third in the Panorama competition that year.
Those "kids," (many who are known affectionately as Bradley's Kids), the majority who are now in their twenties, have grown into some of the most superbly talented steelpan players in North America. Incidentally, from 1999, they secured the arranging services of Clive Bradley, whose musical influence they had grown up under while running around the Metro/Despers USA panyards as youngsters. The rest is history - and the band has been giving an excellent account of themselves ever since, placing third in their second venture into panorama in 1998, taking one second place in 2000, and pausing to pick up five New York Panorama championships (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005) along the way.
It should be stated here just for the record, that there are additional bands which are off-shoots, and started by the original members of Metro.
In addition to Anthony Joseph starting New Metro, Michael Joseph started Harmony Steel Orchestra, Lyndon Spencer and Collins Jackman started Nutones, Panther started Umoja, Franklyn Gerald started Caribbean Youth Panoramics, etc.
The secession band from Despers USA in 2002 became D'Radoes Steel Orchestra (it would be interesting to chat with Rudolph "The Hammer" Charles beyond the grave at this point...), and entered the panorama in their first year. Since 2003 their track record has been extremely noteworthy, with their highest ranking to date in 2005 with second place honors.
Additionally, in 2004, and to a lesser extent in 2005, a few Pantonic members supported D'Radoes and played in both orchestras for the competition. This is no surprise, but it was more than just 'support.' Literally, there are blood relatives in both bands. So uncles, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, and cousins, are members, not only of Despers USA, but of both Pantonic and D'Radoes steel orchestras. Quite literally - it's all in the family.
The rise of Pantonic Steel Orchestra has been phenomenal by any standard. D'Radoes Steel Orchestra has been a consistent performer at panoramas in their four years of existence, letting it be known that regardless of external factors, they are to be taken seriously on panorama nights. Since the coming out of the latter, they have utilized the same arranger resource as Pantonic- Clive Bradley.
And the steel orchestras' lineage is set in stone, first through Trinidad's powerhouse Desperadoes Steel Orchestra, and then via the original re-settled New York Desperadoes members, who were essentially "Old Metro," and today are Despers USA.
It's all in the lineage, and the family.
C. Phillips, Basement
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