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The Mighty Jamma and Family Visit Trinidad for Carnival 2008

edited by When Steel Talks

For champion steelpan soloist Mighty Jamma from the United Kingdom, Trinidad & Tobago's Steelband and Carnival†2008 season was simply fantastic.  He described it overall as "a good experience for my wife Angela, and daughter and son Rochella and Jamani to see the level of dedication and pride†that goes into preparing the†bands and artists, to create such†levels of excellence, in all the shows we attended."†

From when the Stewart family arrived and were met by steelband arranger Yohan†Popwell, who brought them straight to CLICO Sforzata's Pan Theatre,†the band Popwell†arranged for - it was non-stop action.  Sforzata Steel Orchestra sounded great, with Jamma and his family staying in the pan theater until the wee hours of the morning. †

The next couple of days found the family at the Calypso Revue Tent, catching various acts  such as the likes of Baron, Sugar Aloes, Crazy and many other artists.  Next, time was spent catching up with some old friends at the Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars Pan theatre around 1:30 AM. where practice was in full swing.  The size and splendor of the children's Carnival on Saturday†had the Stewarts amazed, along with the tender ages of some participants.  And then it was time for PAN!  The family took in the single Pan semi finals; there was a great vibe, of bands upon bands.  Later more pan was in store, with another All Stars rehearsal.  It was up to Yohan Popwell to remind the enthusiastic family that they would have a long day ahead of them with†Panorama semi finals, so they had 'best get some rest.'

When Jamma and family arrived at the Savannah for Panorama semi finals about 10:30 AM, the place was just buzzing with people.  Some bands were setting up while others were already practicing.  The Stewarts were rooting for Yohan's band CLICO Sforzata Steel Orchestra in the medium category, where they played very well.  As the day proceeded Jamma was bumping into old friends that he had not†seen for some time: Robert Greenidge, Len 'Boogsie' Sharpe, Jit Samaroo, Earl Brooks and many more.  Jamma's son Jamani received solid advice on pan from everyone they met.  Ray Holman was quite surprised to see how much Jamani had grown; the last time he saw the youngster was when he visited Jamma's house when Jamma and Holman played together in Birmingham - and when Jamani had only been three. At that point Jamani had been playing his drums for Uncle Ray, who had at the time commented 'how Jamani had a real good sense of rhythm†for his age.'

As the evening unfolded, the 'Big Guns' - large steel orchestras - were really intense.  Exodus' presentation†looked and sounded really good.  Jamma's brother Norman kept sending him text messages from England telling him to watch out for Phase II, but Jamma's heart was with All Stars and Desperadoes.  Hearing Robert Greenidge's arrangement of The Ten Commandments of Pan, Jamma felt his soul resonate with an 'Oh Gosh' - Despers' music from the Hills!  But†All Stars was the band of the night for semi finals, full of vibes and energy.  After their performance you just knew without a doubt they had to come first, according to Jamma.

The next day, Monday brought more great Pan, in the form of the finals of the Schools' Junior Panorama, held at the Queen's Park Savannah, as had been the semi finals of the conventional panorama the day and night before. It was excellent to see the young musicians, playing to such a high standard.  Jamma's children Rochella and Jamani really enjoyed this particular event.

In the days and nights of the remainder of the Stewart family's stay in Trinidad, there were many fun and music-filled events such as the Clash of Calypso Tents at the National Stadium, popular fetes about town such as Customs Fete, featuring the likes of Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin, Shurwayne Winchester and more.  The visit would not be complete if the Stewarts did not seize the opportunity to take in the re-enactment of the Canboulay Riots at the corner of Duke Street in Port-of-Spain, with a brilliant presentation of† Bois Battalions/stick fights.  The event ended in a type of mini-J'Ouvert, with Freelanders Steelband playing.  By then it was Friday morning where later on during the day carnival festivities continued, including Tamboo Bamboo bands - the traditional forerunners of steelband as it is known today.

Saturday dawned and after enjoying Kiddies Carnival in Port-of-Spain, everyone headed down to San Fernando.  It was nice to watch the steelband Panorama Finals from the stands at Skinner Park, but Jamma says he really missed the 'Drag' [panorama surroundings' atmosphere at Queen's Park Savannah].  Back to the bands, All Stars was the family's favorite, but the judges saw it differently; "what can you say, thatís life."  It was Phase II Pan Groove who were crowned 2008 Panorama champions.

Dimanche Gras on Carnival Sunday was another magnificent show with the Kings and Queens of Carnival competing for 2008 titles, and calypsonians vying for the title of Calypso Monarch.  Very little time was left after that event to get any rest, and to be ready in time for the 4:00 AM start of J'Ouvert.  Yohan Popwell took the family down to the All Stars' pan yard.  Later during the day and by about 3:00 PM, still happily enjoying the carnival celebrations, tiredness set in, but the Stewarts steadfastly hung in there; even though they were on their last legs, they knew they still had one more day to go!  Carnival Tuesday was 'like being in heaven.'  Mighty Jamma and family started the day with All Stars and played Sailor Mas with plenty of white power, then enjoyed the costumes and all the revelry there was to offer.  By late evening they had found Desperadoes, and took in more sweet pan until they reached the corner of Duke Street, and headed back to All Stars' pan yard.

The visit of Jamma and his family to Trinidad for carnival 2008 was still not over, as on the following day, Ash Wednesday, the renowned UK steelpan soloist and son Jamani, along with Dane Gulston were guests on one of the country's most watched television shows, Community Dateline, hosted by veteran hostess Allison Hennessey.  In addition to bringing Trinbagonians up to date with the work they were doing for steelpan in the United Kingdom, Jamani and his father also performed for viewers.  Before the Stewarts departed the shores of Trinidad, they did find time to take in some fun and sun at the beach.  And they want it known that they are publicly thanking their gracious hosts Yohan Popwell and his family for their fantastic hospitality during their stay in the land of Pan and Calypso.

Contact The Mighty Jamma at:
Hearts Aglow Records, PO BOX 115/15, Birmingham B42 2YH.
Tel: 0121 3584525 / Mobile: 077994 42277 /
www.jammasteelpan.net

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