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New York Steelpan Youth Have Spoken

Inaugural USSA steelband “Bomb” competition showcases New York steelpan talent and resolve

Another When Steel Talks Concert Review

Poster for Champions of Pan Expo 2012 - A Bomb Tune Competion produced by USSA
A USSA Production

Brooklyn, New York - On a periodically picture-perfect Saturday afternoon twelve New York steel orchestras participated in the USSA (United States Steelband Association) –sponsored inaugural event called “Pan Expo 2012” at the beautiful Old Boys High Field.

The participating steel orchestras were Pan Sonatas, Ujamaa Pan Sound, Higher Levin, Crossfire Steel Orchestra, New York Pan Stars, ADLIB Steel Orchestra, Utopia Pan Soul, CASYM, Harmony Music Makers, Metro Steel Orchestra, Steel Sensation and Despers USA.  The event was fashioned after the traditional steelband “Bomb” music competition originating from Trinidad and Tobago.

ADLIB Steel Orchestra
ADLIB Steel Orchestra

Each band performed a five–minute arrangement of a tune of their choice.  Marc Brooks (New York Pan Stars), Andre White (ADLIB), Kareem Thompson (Metro), Leon “Foster” Thomas (Crossfire), Keith Marcelle Jr. (Ujamaa Pan Sound), Tristan Japsi (Steel Sensation), Sheldon Elcock (Utopia Pan Soul), Pedro Alexander (Despers USA), Tichard Chapman (Higher Levin), Jahlani Roberts (CASYM), Michael Joseph (Harmony) and Joshua McPherson (Sonatas) were among the arrangers whose music works were featured in this event.

CrossFire Steel Orchestra
CrossFire Steel Orchestra

The orchestras took full advantage of the event to showcase the musical capacity of a special group of young, talented and developing steelpan music musicians. The event generated some special and magical moments. Sonically, the groups with great instruments sounded vastly superior to the others - the quality of instruments mattered. Musicianship was at a premium at this event. With the maximum number of players per band limited to only seventeen - performance skills and attention to detail and tightness was one the major focal points. There was simply no place to hide.

CASYM Steel Orchestra
CASYM Steel Orchestra

While all the groups performed well, there were some groups that suffered from the out-of-control rhythm section and the occasional drummer who was louder than all the other sections of instruments combined!  This is a great opportunity for musical directors to explain to the young musicians what it takes to execute a command musical performance.

Tristan Japsi & Ryan Joseph of Steel Sensation
Tristan Japsi & Ryan Joseph of Steel Sensation

Having said all at that, as we said earlier there were some outstanding musical moments. Crossfire’s rhythmic and Latin-tinged percussive counter-play was spot on. Arranger Leon “Foster” Thomas has the orchestra moving forward.  New York Pan Stars has picked up where it left off last season. Marc Brooks continues to challenge the expected norms. Andre White-led ADLIB brought the complete package.  Tasteful, harmonic content spreads for the steelpan family of instruments, great musicianship, sonically-pleasing sounding instruments and a musical storyline that was facilitated by the clear understanding of art of silence, and that less can be more - Andre gets it. And there was Steel Sensation whose warm-up rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” brought the “wow” factor to lips of the audience.  Nothing more needs to be said as that is the ultimate performers’ compliment.

Of note is the return to the performance circuit by Metro Steel Orchestra – one of the veteran names on the New York pan scene, with multiple Panorama championships under its belt in the orchestra’s heyday.  Metro musicians again under the leadership of Anthony Joseph, were present to show off their musical chops under the sunny Saturday sky.  Arranger Kareem Thompson led the thirteen-member aggregation, which sported several known faces on the steelpan circuit - including that of Alicia “Panama” Dixon, a Metro original and one-time captain for the band.  Leader Tony Joseph was quite happy, vowing that the band would be a force to be reckoned with for the upcoming New York Panorama season.

Metro Steel Orchestra
Metro Steel Orchestra

Clearly the organizers did not plan for success. Had there been a larger turn out the judging and movement of the judging stations would have been problematic. Clearly an opportunity was missed to educate and expand the knowledge base of the attendees, by explaining the basis and the musical criteria for the competition.

Despers USA compete in the “Bomb” competition; they would eventually place second
Despers USA compete in the “Bomb” competition; they would eventually place second

An announcer armed with timely, correct and pertinent information about the performers, arrangers, the history of the steelband franchise, and about the premier attraction itself - the “Bomb competition” would have spoken volumes about preparedness and professionalism of the event organizers.

USSA is however to be commended for hosting the event and providing the New York steelpan community with an opportunity to perform. Organizing open-air events in New York is not one of the easiest things to accomplish. However, USSA must also shoulder full responsibility for the very weak turnout. And on that matter USSA has earned a strong grade of “F.”  Many New York steelpan enthusiasts communicated to WST (When Steel Talks) that they were unaware of the event; one well-known, veteran steelpan notable was even walking in when the show was over, saying he thought it began at 7:00 p.m., which was actually the end time of the event.

Harmony Music Makers
Harmony Music Makers

USSA’s means of marketing, promotion and advertising of the event was poor.  There was a complete failure to take advantage of available and accessible technology to engage and expand the existing fan base.  In addition there was no apparent attempt to directly contact potential attendees. And there was a complete failure to take advantage of New York, the entertainment capital of the world, and the millions of people who routinely attend music events throughout the city at this time of the year. Moreover, people are looking for events to attend.

If USSA intends to be successful in the future the organization should consider partnering with and/or physically promoting its events at the thousands of other musical and arts events that are occurring throughout the city.

Sonatas Steel Orchestra on display
Sonatas Steel Orchestra on display

Indeed as WST listened to the complaints of one USSA official as it related to the turn out - those complaints were clearly not rooted in reality.

In an age when one can stream a show live from anywhere in the world with an iPad and an internet connection, we expected much more. In New York any performance-oriented event that is not ready for prime-time is simply that - not ready. The time management of the show was poor. There was absolutely no need for the show to be promoted for a time-frame of beyond three hours.

Bomb Tune Competition winner ADLIB Steel Orchestra’s representative receives prize trophy from USSA president Keith Marcelle
Bomb Tune Competition winner ADLIB Steel Orchestra’s representative receives prize trophy from USSA president Keith Marcelle

The Bomb competition saw ADLIB Steel Orchestra performing arranger Andre White’s arrangement of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved,” and besting their fellow competitors with first place.  Despers USA’s execution of their Pedro Alexander-arrangement of “When Somebody Loves You Back”—an oldie by Teddy Pendergrass—secured them bragging rights as first runner-up.  Continuing on the theme of ‘love’ - Leon “Foster” Thomas’s work with crowd-pleaser CrossFire Steel Orchestra on the Debarge classic hit “All This Love,” ensured them third place honors out of all twelve bands competing in the inaugural USSA Bomb  Tune competition.  Trophies presented by USSA president Keith Marcelle were happily received by band representatives from the three top-performing bands at the end of the evening.

In spite of some of the shortcomings by the organizers - the potential for an awesome musical event with global implications was obvious.  USSA is sitting on a goldmine. And anyone who wasn’t there missed some great performances.

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Despers USA Steel Orchestra Performers
Drums:  Kendall Williams; Six-Bass:  Kern Simon & Sharon Samuels; Double Second:  Odie Franklin & Natasha Rebeiro; Tenor - Gavin Thorne, Jr., Alyssa Cain, Daryl Gamory, Lester; Guitar - Justyne Simon & Devon Holder; Cello - Wilfred “Wiz” Kieal, Jr., Seymone Simon; Rhythm section - Jerry Charles, Anthony, Edgar Gamory, Pedro Alexander
 
Despers USA before their performance
Despers USA before their performance


Sonatas Steel Orchestra Performers
Joshua McPherson, Natasha Isaac, Edward Clarke, Sapphire Borneo, Tristan Samuel, Markus Garceran, Jerome Cummings, AJ Forteau, Tori Borneo, Kitaka Hypolite et al
 
Sonatas Steel Orchestra
Sonatas Steel Orchestra


ADLIB Steel Orchestra Performers
Andre White, Heidi Paul, Kerneil Wells et al
 
ADLIB Steel Orchestra
ADLIB Steel Orchestra


CASYM Steel Orchestra Performers
Tenor:  Travis Roberts, Lance Maximin, Brittney Horsford, Tiffany Danglade, Double Second:  Amanda Maximin, Londyn Leslie, Sophronia Williams, Cello - Johnathan Williams, Guitar - Matthew Best, Sheianne Danglade, Bass -  Lakeisha Danglade, Kurel Mattis, Drums - Jahlani Roberts, Engine Room - Curtis Lynch, Michelle Williams, Khuent Rose
 
CASYM Steel Orchestra
CASYM Steel Orchestra


Harmony Music Makers Performers
Michael Joseph, Junior Cadet, Reginald “Snagga” Alexander, Tanisha Adolphe, Jahi Sharpe, Hugh Norton, Tiffany Augustine, Jabari Sharpe et al

Harmony Music Makers
Harmony Music Makers


New York Pan Stars Performers
Tenor: Antonio John, Navarre Mason, Duane Dowden, Sage Harrison, Joel Edouard, Alexia Isaac; Double Tenor:  Sparkle Demming (captain) Double Second:  Andrew Semple, Malcolm Anokye; Double Guitar:  Shakiyla Scott, Tamika Small; Triple Cello:  Andrea Wilson; Tenor Bass:  Kianna Carrington; Six-Bass:  Missy Rose, Jalisa Nance; Percussion:  Marc Brooks, arranger, and on drums, Jesse Demming on congas

New York Pan Stars
New York Pan Stars


Metro Steel Orchestra Performers
Kareem Thompson, Gold King, Alicia Dixon, Keith Marcelle, Jr., Khuent Rose et al

Metro Steel Orchestra
Metro Steel Orchestra


CrossFire Steel Orchestra Performers
Drums: Leon “Foster” Thomas, Keith et al

CrossFire Steel Orchestra
CrossFire Steel Orchestra


Steel Sensation Performers
Ian Japsi, Tristan Japsi, Ryan Joseph, Edward Clarke, Marc Brooks

Steel Sensation
Steel Sensation


Utopia Pan Soul Performers
Omari, Ian, Sheldon Elcock, Curt Rogers, Iman Pascall et al

Utopia Pan Soul
Utopia Pan Soul


Ujamaa Pan Sound Performers
Tenor: Roshumba Marcelle, Shanice Dewsbury, Sheldon Rattan, Akil Ashby; Double Tenor:  Natarah Simpson, Kevin Liverpool; Double Second: Kadeem Alleyne; Double Guitar:  Keifer Dover; Triple Cello:  Kaydeem Francis; Tenor Bass:  Kianna Carrington; Six-Bass:  Tyrelle Adams, Ryan Osbourne; Percussion:  Hamid Ali, Rosanna Toney, Gene Toney, Keith Marcelle Jr.

Ujamaa Pan Sound
Ujamaa Pan Sound


Higher Levin Steel Orchestra Performers
Tichard Chapman et al

Higher Levin Steel Orchestra
Higher Levin Steel Orchestra

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  USSA Pan Expo 2012 in Pictures

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