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Date:  8.01.05

New York

Countdown to New York Steel Band Panorama 2005

A Reaffirmation of the Power of Pan
Unique Sound - Pan Launch

Utopia Pan Soul: The Next Generation, Dem Stars, and Sesame Flyers

Brooklyn, New York - Warning, if you're a grouch, prude or not into steelband music, Unique Sound's steelband launch was not the place for you.  As a matter of fact no steelband launch will be good for you.  Don't come to a New York steelband launch.  You're going to be tortured.  There is nothing else there but pan instruments, steelpan music and lots of steelpan people from toddlers to retirees enjoying themselves and the moment.

On the other hand, if you wish to see from the very young, to the elders in the community identify with each other, interact positively, have fun, display their talents and grow in front your very eyes, a steelband launch is just the place for you.   Indeed the steelpan phenomenon is one of the few social movements that has, from its inception, been an un-litigated success at improving the human condition in addition to being at the forefront at increasing the appreciation and quality of life of humans who partake in and cross the path of, the steelpan and its music.  Furthermore this truth is not region-specific.  Across the globe from Australia to Brooklyn this truth is in effect and displayed daily.

Members of Unique Sound

At this launch one had to ask "why do toddlers sing and smile when they hear steelband music? And elders who come with a limp and all sorts of similar physical aliments, have their pains disappear as they chip and sway to the music?"

Every New York steelband launch is different and presents its own characteristics and personality.  This Saturday night's event was organized by Unique Sound Steel Orchestra.  The launch was special as it was this incarnation of Unique Sound's maiden voyage in the world of the performing steel orchestra.  They stepped up to the plate and performed well with the encouragement of a very supportive crowd.  Iman Pascall, already a noted New York steel pannist was at the helm of this group as arranger, director, and teacher.   She introduced the group members as this was their inaugural performance as pan players.

Also present were Sesame Flyers, Dem Stars and Utopia Pan Soul:   The Next Generation.  There was storytelling through their musical selections and arrangements, and the individual group's respective interpretations of each piece.  When you listen to each group, their lineages and tribal customs unique to each, come through loud and clear.  Let's just call it an ethnomusicologist's dream.  Information, history and style are all passed on and communicated to the audience who are the "villagers."

Cases in point:  Utopia Pan Soul and their take on Nora Jones' I Don't Know Why, with a traditional Afro-Caribbean approach; Sesame Flyers with the complete and true reggae form of Bob Marley's classic "Pimper's Paradise,"  and Dem Stars' aptly wooing "Lady In Red" - accomplished all this and more.

Gone are many of the tribal taboos that kept bands from interacting with each other.  Young pannists from different steel orchestras all know each other and greet each other, in some cases quite warmly.  While they are still vehemently loyal to their respective organizations,  they can and do interact positively and support each other in the name of the steelpan art form.

Yohan Popwell, arranger for Sonatas is an example of the cooperative support that can and does in some cases, operate in the pan world.  He is present on his own personal initiative even when Sonatas is not performing.  He has been clearly visible at almost every launch.  Michael Joseph of Harmony is yet another illustration of support within the pan community.   He is just one of the leaders who shows support with his presence at events even when his band is not performing.  And finally, and just as importantly, the pan players themselves frequent each other's events whether they are slated to play or not.

Sesame Flyers Steel Orchestra

If you can't support your own [art form] - who will?   Folks are beginning to  acknowledge the importance of the bigger picture and the necessity of lending support to each other by their mere presence.   This surpasses some of the inherent differences that have kept bands distant from each other in the past.

The Unique Sound launch experience was special in two ways.  The young people brought a fresh perspective and excitement, that is apparent at each performing opportunity.  And we also saw new torches being lit and other torches passed on to up-and-coming groups who will continue, pass on and reaffirm a time-honored system whose legacy is steeped in the cultures and traditions of a great people.  It is the ultimate celebration of a community at work.


Saturday July 30, 2005



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