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Sonatas turns Yard into Pan Village for Grand Finalé

Sonatas launch completes the great steelband music weekend as bands come out to play


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New York, USA - This was the final leg of the great pan weekend - Sonatas’ launch at D’Radoes Panyard.  With two other highly successful legs (Despers USA and Pantonic) to the three-day band launch-fest already in the bag, Sonatas was left to write the final chapter on this weekend.  And Sonatas - now cast into the role of closer, stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam.  Outstanding!

A perfect event it was not - but it was very good and successful.  Moreover, it was by the pan people for pan people.

Pan Ambassadors

There were very high level musical performances with great extended arrangements.  The bands, as we say in the yard, “came out to play.”  They were for the most part, well-rehearsed and tight.  If your band was not ready to perform at this engagement, you were going to, or should we say, got your musical feelings hurt.  Indeed, all the bands made their statement in a manner as to challenge the audience with every song and musical nuance, like,

“can you hear me now?”  All the while, as arrangers and managers alike surveyed the audience landscape with mischievous grins on their faces that silently yelled at the top of their lungs - “did you hear that?” - “how yuh like meh ban’ now?”

Steel Sensation

This was truly a great listening party for pan.  ADLIB, Harmony, Steel Sensation, D’Radoes, Ambassadors, Sesame Flyers, Pantonic, Despers USA and the host Sonatas all in the house; folks came in a high volume.

It was simply a musical summit for pan.  Pan, Business and Music were the ‘special’ on the evening menu. There were pan sides, steelband combos and steel orchestras in every part of the large D’Radoes yard.  D’Radoes yard is massive, yet as the orchestras rolled one after the other, it looked like they were actually going to run out of room.  Moreover by the time the large crowd filled the spaces in between the orchestras, the gigantic D’Radoes facility seemed in need of temporary expansion.


Now transformed into a steelband music village - the members of the assorted steelband tribes, fans, family and management (grey breads) - intermingled and greeted each other with nothing but respect.  Members of the different musical factions freely ventured from their band’s camps and took in a song or two of their fellow compadres/rivals - depending on their personal vantage point.  More often than not, the end results were an outcry of public support and applause.

As with the other two previous launches, there was a lot of music education going on.  Young people were contrasting and observing the musical styles, techniques and executions of the different orchestras.  The veterans took it all in, nodding in approval.


Sonatas got the launch started with their customary lead position, playing Len “Boogsie” Sharpe’s “Magic Drum.”  Today it was their turn to simultaneously juggle the roles of host and performer.  Over the past days of launches, Sonatas again established itself as one of the best in the business.

Pan Ambassadors had no trouble engaging the crowd - easily showing why they are, according to their director, one of the most busy groups in the area.

D’Radoes is the New York band with the biggest hearts.  If you can’t get along with D’Radoes - you can’t get along with anyone.  Their “Village” facility provided an à propos touch to the weekend’s finalé.  Thanks, “Man”!!

Harmony was out with a whole new crew of young people.  They held themselves well on their maiden voyage in a big launch.

Despers USA

Despers USA made a special connection, or reconnection, with the steelpan community that has been missing in recent years.  Playing in all three launches this weekend confirmed their commitment to and re-established their bond with the New York steelpan fraternity.  Musically Desper’s USA performed real well.  Their whistling tenors and even rolls from their front line was characteristic of another glory time of their past.  They had already successfully anchored the first leg of this “great pan weekend” two days earlier. 

Steel Sensation was their usual picture of excellence.  These musicians are operating on another level.  Great arrangements.  Great performance.

Sesame Flyers made a serious musical statement at this event letting everyone know they are ready to join the big boys.  Nice execution of a varied repertoire.


Pantonic put on a veteran performance.  One tends to forget just how young the Pantonic players are because of how long and how well they have been doing it.  Anyone who can drop the Beatles “Long and Winding Road” to a slow crawl and have the ’09 generation cheering, has got it musically going on. Pantonic also successfully anchored the middle of this “great pan weekend” the night before.

ADLIB came out to play.  The Long-Island based orchestras has firmly and confidently secured its spot as one of the New York steelband elite.  School is out; the young kids of yesterday are now the seasoned young adults of ADLIB with tremendous skills to match their discipline and dedication to musical excellence.

Either the old men are too old for frivolous fights, or the young people are taking over and they have a totally different agenda - but this three-day, three-event “great pan weekend” showed that pan people do have the ability to walk a path that showcases their talent, intelligence and more over produce a natural product and business arrangement that work in their benefit - all the while providing the pan fans/consumers joy and a highly valued musical entertaining product.

Sesame Flyers

It is safe to assume that the tribal steelband chiefs will continue to harbor distrust and somewhat dislike each other.  However valuable lessons were learned from this weekend - they do not have to like each other to work together in a productive and highly beneficial manner.

Despers USA, Pantonic and Sonatas skillfully staged three events on successive days with limited resources; that was in addition to being well coordinated, and overlapping each other’s spheres of operations.  And still they were all able to deliver a high-value product - each with its own distinct taste and flavor - that met the high expectation of participants, onlookers and critics from both a music and business perspective.  When Steel Talks (WST) was pleased to see the organizers incorporating WST’s network of Facebooking, Tweeting, Ninging, texting and email - in addition to their flyer handouts - to mobilize people into action and attending.

And just a side note: we saw Pantonic, Sonatas, Despers, Crossfire, ADLIB, Harmony, D’Radoes, CASYM, Ambassadors,  Sesame Flyers, Steel Sensation and Utopia - to name a few - “fist bumping” each other in pleasant greeting all weekend long.  Indeed they have been doing this long before Obama and Michelle.

Okay enough of this nice stuff - let the 100-man panorama wars begin.

Next up: New York Panorama 2009 ...

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