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           Date: 3.06.05


Pantonic Plays for the Tsunami Benefit
at the United Nations

One of New York's finest steelbands, Pantonic Steel Orchestra, performed at the Tsunami Benefit Concert on March 4th hosted by the United Nations at the Secretariat, UN Headquarters in New York.  Setting the tone for a weekend after a full week's work, the concert allowed the audience almost three hours of musical enjoyment with a well-organized flow.

Pantonic Steel Orchestra was part of a star-studded cast of performers.  These included critically-acclaimed Broadway soprano and recording artiste, Gloria Crampton, and Josh Tower starring in the role of "Simba" in Disney's current Broadway musical The Lion King.  In fact, Tower's performance of songs from the hit musical was moved up just before Pantonic, to allow him to make it back to Broadway for his stage performance later on that evening.  Calypso King of the world the Mighty Sparrow also delighted the crowd in attendance.

The show was international in flavor as artists representing countries from around the world graced the stage.   Starting the show off shortly after 6:00 PM was U.N.S.R.C. Latin Workshop Society Big Band, led by director Rolando Briceno who was featured during their selections.   Sri Lankan vocalist Petronella Fernando, and Chinese pop star Neko Zhang were also just two of the more than sixteen acts that performed at the benefit concert.  One of the latter's songs that went over extremely well with the audience was "The Yao Song" (in recognition of Chinese NBA basketball star Yao Ming) performed and dramatized complete with basketball, by the pop star and her two accompanying dancers. 

Pantonic Steel Orchestra's three selections were well received, but it was the every-popular "Trini To The Bone" which struck just the right chords with members of the audience who knew the 2003 classic vocalized by David Rudder and Carl Jacobs.  Perhaps the only sour note for the evening was sounded by event host Donald Bobb, of UN Radio and formerly of WLIB, the now-defunct New York radio station which catered to the West Indian community.  In introducing Pantonic Steel Orchestra, Mr. Bobb took pains to inform his audience that "the players could not read music, but kept the music in their head." 

Perhaps Mr. Bobb meant to compliment the band on their ability to play music from memory,  but he may have instead conveyed an "island music" stereotype when it comes to the pan instrument.  The stage side of Pantonic and many other steel orchestras include dynamic young people, some of whom do indeed read music.  The fact that they do not need to prop music sheets up on stands in front of them while they play, does not mean that they all cannot.  It is ironic that one of Pantonic's players on stage at the time of his comment, was a music teacher.  Mr. Bobb definitely needs to become current and familiarize himself with the acquired skills of some of today's younger pan musicians.

United Nations staff, family and friends all came out in support of the Tsunami Benefit Concert.  Nane Annan was just one of the many patrons present. She was later joined briefly by her husband, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who appeared to have been encouraged to take a little time out to come downstairs and enjoy the fabulous musical fare, if only for a little while.  The show was about three hours long, and the organizers are to be commended for the apparently smooth flow of the evening's proceedings. 

C. Phillips, Basement Press Corp.
2005 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved

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