- The New York leg of the “great weekend of pan” took off with a bang. Despers USA’s Bedford Stuyvesant’s
panyard aka ‘the Pan Loft’ lit up the night under the overhead projection of a full moon that
illuminated their facilities as the organization’s launch for the steelband
music panorama season commenced.
The warm Summer night
weather with an intermittent cool breeze, the jam-packed panyard in the
later hours -
with throngs of die-hard steelpan music aficionados - and of course the
stellar pan music - were all there. The only thing missing was
that classic vista from the hills of Laventille looking out over the capital
of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and the Caribbean waters (the Gulf of Paria).
On this night, directly through the decades of sacrifice, steadfast and
unwavering efforts of Despers USA, we find ourselves in another
distinguished community treasured for great steelpan music, talent,
tradition and high culture - Bedford
Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York.
Never could the
passengers of the constant stream of air planes overhead coming in for their
final approach to New York’s La Guardia airport, know or imagine in their
wildest dreams what was ongoing directly beneath them. Despers USA’s
panyard, bordered by two famous throughways - Atlantic and Classon Avenues - is
in direct line with the Summer landing pattern used by aircrafts coming into La Guardia airport.
For over thirty years Despers USA has maintained its
presence in the Bedford Stuyvesant community, with over twenty
consecutive years in its current location.
Despers USA represents a treasured and significant cultural portion of the
diverse education, music and culture tapestry of the New York City
landscape. The “Despers” experience is a unique one.
One could scarcely walk a
few feet before being greeted by some pan man, or the
phrase: “look we family” - a term of the greatest form of endearment uttered by a Desperado. Indeed, while
current, recent and past members of the Desperadoes fraternity fill the
panyard, also in attendance were many pan people from the other steelband
music organizations. And the presence of living legends like
Emmanuel “Jack” Riley only added to and confirmed the compelling journey
undertaken by the steelpan instrument and people, and its customs.
Like many of the steel orchestras of New York - with
only its own resourcefulness and community support, the organization has
incessantly stimulated the imagination of its members and students, and nurtured
Fellow steelband fraternity member Pan Ambassadors set the
pace with their warm up set which featured a number of musical entrées that
were crowd pleasers and covered a wide genre of music. From Militant’s
enchanting “Passion,” to the Bee Gees
disco hit “Stayin’ Alive” (played in their second set) - Pan Ambassadors
“sweet pan” approach showcased Kiera Scanterbury’s clever arrangements
while simultaneously highlighting her rhythmic and harmonic voicing
appreciation. This all led to unabashed musical massaging of the
astute crowd’s ego resulting in swaying, dancing, applauding and nodding in
approval. Under the directive of Magnus Scanterbury, Pan Ambassadors
has successfully continued their educational and intellectual development
of youth while achieving music excellence.
Next up was the veteran
group D’Radoes. D’Radoes interestingly enough is an off-shoot of
Despers USA. They performed a steady diet of well-known standards
which included Earth Wind and Fire’s “Fantasy.”
Despers USA continues to
evolve. Its steady positive investment in the development - under the
watchful eyes of its veteran musicians - of its youth, has paid off handsomely.
Indeed, another generation of Despers USA has emerged ready to take on the
challenges, and maintaining the traditions and successes of this treasured
Bedford Stuyvesant franchise. As Despers USA performed
at their launch, one could sense the continuity of history and pride the
management and senior members of the organization experienced, as they watched
their young people perform.
The steelband launch is
part-support for the institution; but it is primarily a show with the
discerning ears of numerous “Broadway-style” critics - all culminating with the interactive
presence of the audience.
The host band - Despers USA - took full control of the audience tonight. Needless to say -
Despers brought the house down, and their spirited version of the Len
“Boogsie” Sharpe composition of “Magic Drum” was a showstopper! That
classic ‘Despers’ sound and touch were on full display.
Steelpan in Bedford Stuyvesant... never
will it have the romance and classic beauty of the Hills of Laventille - but
history and music it does, and Despers USA is one of the cornerstones of that
Literally within a few weeks from now, the best steel orchestras of New York will be engaged in a fierce and
heated musical combat for the prized title of “Panorama champion.”
But on this Summer night, thousands of miles from its birthplace, it was all
about the steelpan, music and people.
As many New Yorkers throughout the city
were looking to find, support and participate in activities at other great
cultural institutions such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center - to name but
experiences and performances like “The Panyard” remain of the highest quality
and truest representation of art and culture - community entertainment.
The great steelband music weekend
continues... Next up: Pantonic's Launch
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