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Sonatas performing at
The CrossFire steel orchestra annual
barbeque/launch is traditionally New York's opening salvo into the
Steelband season. A who's who in pan - as almost everyone of
steelpan note is there, critiquing and comparing notes on any and
every aspect of Steelband music-related to the participating bands'
performances. It is the place where bands send early messages
to each other, as they jockey to shape favorable public opinion, and
gain a psychological edge, that they expect to carry over into the
panorama championship competition. Each band is expected to
produce a new and varied musical repertoire that touches multiple
genres of popular music - usually rap, R&B, reggae, jazz in addition
to soca and calypso offerings.
New York's reigning panorama champions Sonatas
Steel Orchestra let it be known loud and clear, that all roads to
the 2005 NY steelband panorama championship will go through them.
Moreover they are more than just a panorama steelband.
Sonatas - At this annual
CrossFire Steel orchestra barbecue/launch Sonatas
reminded the world why they are the champions with a spirited
and deft performance of a varied repertoire that highlighted the
arranging talents of their arranger their Yohan Popwell.
As one senior Sonatas official put it "we have great
instruments, very good players, an arranger that eats, sleeps
and breathes music, and the kids love him. We are good to go."
The enthusiastic and fiery performance was clearly appreciated
by the steelpan enthusiasts and Sonatas' fans present.
Dem Stars -
public got a first real glimpse of the revamped Dem Stars fueled
with an infusion of players from Pan Phoniks Steel Orchestra.
Steelband mergers are always tricky and potentially volatile.
However, based on what we saw and heard from Dem Stars, it works
for them. The band's repertoire included fresh new tunes
that were different in musical colors and arrangements than
those we have previously become accustomed to hearing from this
young people continue to grow musically. They have a good
crowd following who showed them much support at this show.
In addition to their youth and enthusiasm their repertoire now
includes more complex arrangements. Kudos to Harmony for
the strides they are making with arranger Brian Nicholas at
their helm. A particular crowd-pleaser from this band, was
their rendition of John Legend's recent hit Ordinary People.
Utopia Pan Soul
In lots of ways they stole the show. Innovative and
daring, Utopia kept the audience captivated with their
off-colored harmonies. Their performance clearly moved the
audience. While the group is small, they are
efficient and adept with the musicians they have.
This band went through varied and enjoyable musical movements,
much to the appreciation of the crowd. Bob Marley's
Pimper's Paradise was especially well-handled by Sesame
Flyers' small contingent. Arranger Andy Akiho was present,
and alternated on the tenor pan and percussion. Of special
note is the band's young but extremely talented drummer - Keith
Marcelle, Jr. Already and accomplished pan player, Keith
has moved on to now anchoring the band firmly as they move
when you thought it was over. The old champions reminded
us why they are one of the most respected steelband operations
in the country. Following Sonatas' heated performance -
rather than match fire with fire, Pantonic took the audience on
a journey with a measured but deliberate pace. Musical
stops included classics from the past to this year's soca hits.
Arranger Keith Roberts has placed his stamp on the group as the
band sound is now well established. In
spite of their young age, Pantonic is indeed made up of seasoned
musicians who know how to apply their craft. For anyone
concerned as to how they would rebound from last year's
dethroning, that's the key - that was last year.
CASYM - Unfortunately
Talks did not get to hear them because of our deadline.
However the group was present and waiting to play even though it
was already into the wee hours of the morning.
congratulations to CrossFire for hosting another great season
opener. The members of CrossFire worked hard as always to
pull this off. A performance invitation to this launch is
one of the hottest tickets for steelbands in North America.
The organizers can soon expect to be approached by bands
nationally, if not, additionally, internationally, who wish to
vie for the chance to make their musical statements.
Event organizer and CrossFire's president, Martin
with band arranger Brian "Bean" Griffith (left)
The wisdom of CrossFire in allowing free
entry into the launch, was a move of genius, as they ensure a
mammoth crowd who willingly patronize their event. It
allows young pan players and others who cannot necessarily
afford entry fees, the opportunity to still socialize and
support the pan fraternity. At the same time, many patrons
generously support CrossFire's fundraising goals by purchasing
barbecues and other items.
However, management will now have to take full control of the
performance order and guidelines in the future, as there were
many disappointed and annoyed pan fans who did not get to see
all the bands perform. A pre-arranged schedule with
specific time slots and time allotments for each band is now
mandatory. This is the responsibility of CrossFire because
of consecutive successes, in what is widely regarded as the
premier band launch of any panorama season.
Despite logistical challenges, ruffled feathers and what has
been interpreted by some as insensitive behavior on the part of
some participants, it was the place to be. Nobody
ever said that the New York pan scene was a piece of cake, but
it rallies on.
WHEN STEEL TALKS
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