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Despers USA Steel Orchestra Launch - Ready for 2010

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New York - It’s on! The New York steelband music summer season is in full effect.  “Come good or don’t come out at all”  - this was clearly evident at Despers USA launch on Sunday evening.  Eleven orchestras participated in the annual trek towards the rites of passage - the New York panorama championship.  Present in addition to the host orchestra Despers USA, were Harmony, Steel Sensation, Sesame Flyers, Utopia Pan Soul: the Next Generation, CASYM, Sonatas, D’Radoes, Pantonic, Dem Stars and Pan Ambassadors.

Onlookers take in the performance of Harmony Music Makers at Despers USA band launch
Onlookers take in the performance of Harmony Music Makers at Despers USA band launch

As is normally the case - beyond the obvious economic importance of the launches, the steelband launch provides the groups a chance to ascertain where they are musically in comparison to each other.  Furthermore, they afford the groups a chance to perform to a steelpan music audience whose allegiance is critical to the survival of any New York orchestra. As is the tradition it is important that each group perform well in order to maintain their fan base and remain relevant musically in the minds of steelpan music aficionados.

On this night the music performances ranged from awesome to ‘hmmmm.’  Similarly, the sound quality of the instruments went from impeccable to ‘yuk.’  Some of the instruments clearly needed the work of a professional tuner after the long Winter layoff, and others clearly needed to be retired permanently. They were not fit to be around human ears and eyes - both sonically and visually.


Steel Sensation open up Despers USA’s 2010 band launch

Stellar performances were dispensed by Steel Sensation which took the audience on a musical journey that delivered pop classics like Peter Frampton’s “Baby I Love Your Way” and Chris de Burgh’s “Lady in Red,” to New York’s own pan arranger Andre White’s “Wild and Free;” Utopia Pan Soul delivered a version of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” with a twist.  Despers USA let it be known - “Not in my house!” and that it was not over until they had their say as they dropped stirring renditions of The Beatles classic “Yesterday” and calypso great Sparrow’s “Mr. Walker.”


Sesame Flyers perform at Despers USA’s 2010 band launch

Almost all the groups came dressed in respective uniform attire.  All the bands had their musical moment.  Sesame Flyers kept the audience in a “New York” frame of mind as they captured their attention with Alicia Keys’ and Jay-Z’s monster hit “Empire Stage of Mind.”  Defending panorama champions Sonatas brought the full package with their performance of David Rudder’s “Ganges Meets the Nile.” And of course CASYM had the crowd rocking with their high energy performance of Colin Lucas’ “Dollar Wine,” Shadow’s “Dingolay” and more.  As When Steel Talks (WST) departed the launch (11:00 p.m.) there were still two more bands who had not yet played - Pantonic and D’Radoes.

WST saw several steelpan notables in the audience on hand to enjoy the evening of pan, including steelpan music composer Miguel Reyes, performing legend Emmanuel “Jack” Riley, Solo Harmonites co-founder, pan ambassador Hue Loy and one of Desperadoes’ former captains Bertram Glasgow, among many other steelpan music stand outs.


Miguel Reyes


Bertram Glasgow


      Emmanuel “Jack” Riley

In spite of the late start to the event which curtailed WST’s ability to see all the bands perform, it was a musical-filled event that was enjoyed by the attendees.

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