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CASYM caps off 2010 New York Steelband Launches

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Higher Levin Steel Orchestra at CASYM's launch
Higher Levin Steel Orchestra at CASYM’s band launch

New York, USA - Today all roads lead to the 2010 New York Panorama behind the Brooklyn museum, as the lights come up on some of the premier steel orchestras in North America in the annual competition known as Panorama.  But one week ago, many steelband music lovers made their way to the band launch of CASYM Steel Orchestra, one of those eleven bands taking the stage later this evening in competition.

Held just one week before panorama, CASYM’s event had been rescheduled from the previous weekend because of inclement weather.  But the evening - which got off to a lazy start - heated up both in terms of performances and patrons pouring in.  Indeed, the word had gotten around - especially to visiting out-of-towners, some arriving early for a week of pre-panorama and pre-Labor Day activities - that this was the place to be for the unexpectedly late, but most welcome, opportunity to perhaps catch as many as three steel orchestras in action.

Sonatas Steel Orchestra at CASYM's launch
Sonatas Steel Orchestra at CASYM’s band launch

Before all was said and done, Higher Levin led by Tichard Chapman would open up, followed by the stage side of the reigning panorama champions, Sonatas Steel Orchestra.  A familiar face on the New York calypso scene, Tunapuna Scanty, also performed.  Then came the turn of the Natural Expression Rhythm Section.  With pounding drums reverberating as much as a block away, this very large group of rhythmic masters touched off some chords that made even some of the most reserved in the audience start to dance.  The group used several well-known pieces of music as the base for their repertoire of rhythms.

Natural Expression Rhythm Section at CASYM's launch
Natural Expression Rhythm Section at CASYM’s band launch

At steelband launches, It is the norm to see the faces of several of the pan players from other bands attending in support, and this time was no different.  Well-known steelpan personalities also made it a must-attend affair - such as world-renowned pan soloist and steelband arranger Robert Greenidge, in town for only a couple of days, and who will  miss this evening’s panorama because of a professional engagement.

Pamberi's Brian Villafana
Pamberi’s Brian Villafana

Panist Ricardo Greenaway
Panist Ricardo Greenaway

Pamberi’s Brian Villafana who travels up to New York from Trinidad to be at steelband affairs, was also spotted.  And the versatile pan player Ricardo Greenaway in the company of his lovely wife was on hand taking in the music.  Arranger Brian “Bean” Griffith was on the scene, and so was staunch steelpan ‘diplomat’ Hueloy Lila Yip Young.  He has supported the season’s band launches and ensured that CASYM’s was on his calendar.

(l-r) Robert Greenidge, Hueloy Lila Yip Young, Brian 'Bean' Griffith
(l-r) Robert Greenidge, Hueloy Lila Yip Young, Brian “Bean” Griffith

CASYM Steel Orchestra has not held band launches in previous years, probably because their practice space was located within the confines of a New York public school.  But the change in status of that educational institution to that of a “charter school” meant that they had to find a new practice space for the 2010 panorama season.  With a spot that has hosted entertainment activities in the past now serving as their temporary pan yard, CASYM was well-positioned to make the best of this well-traveled and easily accessible location.  Later on this evening, seeking a title they last held in 2006,  the steel orchestra - which will be one-hundred players strong - once again moves along another well-traveled path - the road to the New York Panorama championship.

In Pictures

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