- The New York middle leg or ‘day two’ of the “great weekend of pan” was
matched, held and sustained at the Pantonic launch. Ironically or
coincidentally, while it was not originally planned that way - this launch
could easily have been named the “launch of champions.” All four
of this event’s participants are past New York panorama champions.
Moreover, among active bands, these distinguished steelband music franchises
cover every single panorama win to date except one.
They share twenty-one panorama wins among themselves.
The lone exception would be
ADLIB Steel Orchestra,
last year’s (2008) panorama winner, which is now also a member of this elite group
- and who interestingly also had their band launch on the same day as
well, but in Long Island!
In spite of the late start, steelpan fans
were treated to a classic show. Anytime you bring the likes of CASYM, Sonatas, Despers USA and Pantonic together, one is in for a memorable
musical experience. These four organizations represent the big
guns of North American pan. They all have outstanding musical and
community accomplishments, a very large loyal fan base locally and
internationally, and each can easily top the 100-man limit at the panorama
Beyond the lofty status,
these organizations each bring a history of delivering big time musical
performances. Their stage sides all have a recognizable and distinct sound
and style that is engraved in their musical DNA. The players may
change but their high musical standards, sound and approach remain
consistent. Clearly the fans came with high expectations and the bands all
CASYM Steel Orchestra opened the show
- their high energy act dropping such classics like Shadow’s “Dingolay” that
had the crowd immediately dancing and singing. Under the direction of
their captain Mr. Travis Roberts, the audience was treated to the full range
of the CASYM repertoire and playing styles. CASYM showed that it was
equally adept, comfortable and competent in nailing a populace piece
- “Dollar Wine” - as it was at executing a full, world test piece arrangement of
“Pan in A Minor.” CASYM maintains their standards while constantly
bringing new players in their line-up to gain experience.
Sonatas as always came with a world-class
approach - tight executions, colorful arrangements, awesome instruments and
full complement of players. Simply put: Sonatas pulled out all stops.
On display was why Sonatas is one of finest orchestras in North America.
Under the musical direction of
arranger Yohan Popwell - beyond their crowd pleasers
- Sonatas brought some new ‘wrinkles’ to their program. Their back-in-time
medley of old calypsos such as Lord Kitcheners “My Pussin’” and Lord Blakie’s
“Steelband Clash,” was much appreciated by many of the attendees. In
addition, Sonatas served early notice that the 2009 panorama championship
title belongs in their house again, as they gave the folks a well-seasoned
taste of their 2009 panorama selection “Bandoleros.”
Despers USA - fresh off their own
successful launch of the previous night - showed that they are just as good
outside the friendly confines of home court advantages of their
panyard. Despers held the crowd in the palm of their hands from their
opening note. The look on the faces of the audience told the full
story, as the entire range of expressions and emotions - from utter joy to
abject melancholy - was displayed unfiltered and in public. From their classic
“Dancing Queen” to “Tell Me Why” - Despers’ musical poise and lineage shine
through. They remain a New York musical original.
The host Pantonic Steel Orchestra closed
the musical affair by providing the audience with - as per one of their
aptly-named CDs - Tonic for the Soul. From their classic renditions of songs like
“Tiny Winey” to “Earth Ah Run Red,” their fans and attendees soaked in the vibes
of their performance despite the drizzle and wee hour of the morning. Although
Pantonic is the youngest music organization of the performing champions for
the evening - they are no less
formidable and established in their musical abilities. Under the
musical directive of Mr. Keith Roberts, Pantonic has established itself beyond
its recognized panorama excellence. Pantonic continues to be a group
that connects with youth as they will drop a Ne-Yo or Rhianna hit as easily they
will deliver on a Kitchener classic.
Pantonic’s panyard is located in a section
of Flatbush, Brooklyn which is populated by a community that is primarily from
the Caribbean, and who are no strangers to great steelpan music. And last
night’s launch was special in the performances and musical characters it
brought together, whether you were a member of the Caribbean community, or a
visitor from out of town. You could feel it in the air.
Steelbands in New York are very
competitive by nature and history. Yet that competitive situation does
not preclude the organizations working together to achieve a common goal
and for the good of community. Indeed the pan organizations showed the maturity to
putting aside petty pan politics for the greater good of the steelband
fraternity. These launches displayed a high level of
corporation that bodes well for the future of Pan in New York.
Look for Pantonic’s Yard
to be noted among the other well-known institutions within Flatbush area
which include the formerly-named Erasmus Hall High School, Parade Grounds, the Flatbush Dutch
Reformed Church, Brooklyn College, and Ebbets Field, to name a few. The
Steelband launches, as they expand, attract a wider audience; leading to
their becoming a
fixture in the New York entertainment and music culture arena.
The great steelband music weekend
continues... Next up: Sonatas launch.
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