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New York Champs of Steel - Steelpan music at its finest

New York Pan... much more than entertainment - it’s an experience, it’s culture, it’s community, it’s affirmation of life... the tradition continues...

Another When Steel Talks Concert Review

Poster for Champions of Steel produced by Despers USA Steel Orchestra
A Despers USA Inc. Production

Brooklyn, New York - The big guns in the New York steelpan music fraternity came out to play.  The elite of the New York steelband franchises were all present - names like Sonatas, CASYM, Despers USA, Pantonic and most recently, ADLIB from Long Island.  These are names with lineage and reputations that go back many years in the annals of New York steelpan music history. In addition, they have and continue to produce generations of musicians and legions fans of the steelpan music genre.

On a Saturday evening and sharply “Dressed to the nines,” each band dropped a musical barrage that aptly demonstrated to everyone why these select few orchestras carry the ‘Champion’ title next to their names.  Almost every aspect of New York life is highly competitive, and it is no different in the NY Pan community which prides itself as having the best steel orchestras in North America.

In time when the New York cultural barons and historians speak of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson or NY Yankees and Derek Jeter or Babe Ruth - there will be a chapter for the likes of CASYM, Despers USA, Sonatas, Pantonic and those known by a single name:  Brads, “Colors,” Mack, Edgar, Big Tony, “Mann,” “Jack,” Mr. Frank, Clydie, “Jonesie,” and Mikey, among many others - whose colorful stories, deeds and sacrifices must be documented.   Ah - but that’s a story for another time, as such is the vibrant history of New York steelbands. It is embedded deep into the cultural history of mas, calypso and Pan in New York.

Despers USA perform at Champions of Steel
Despers USA perform at Champions of Steel

Indeed, this was one of the most intriguing concerts in a while.  Billed as “Champions of Steel” by its host and producer Despers USA Inc., the event went off without a hitch and was very entertaining with hosting duties hilariously and enjoyably handled by the well-known character “Madea,” brought to life by Marvin George.  The show had a strong Caribbean influence though it was a distinctly North American event in nature, as the music performed embraced the popular and younger music taste of many of the performers, while by no means alienating the more mature steelpan music enthusiasts in the audience.  Pan in New York has always been a youth movement.  From Machel Montano’s “Mr. Fete” to Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger,” it was all there.

Despers USA on stage at Champions of Steel
Despers USA on stage at Champions of Steel

Each band was given twenty-five minutes to illustrate and remind the audience exactly why they have been champion steel orchestras throughout the years.  Pantonic had the younger audience crew grooving with recent chart-topper “Moves Like Jagger” then brought back memories as they dropped verses from two of their winning Clive Bradley arrangements “Trini to The Bone” and “Action.”  Sonatas had the crowd singing along with their memorable “Bandoleros.” Show openers CASYM delivered some of their standards including the classic “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and also had the crowd moving with “Mr. Fete.”  ADLIB wooed the audience with their comprehensive repertoire which included Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” ending with their 2011 New York Panorama championship selection “Do Something For Pan.’  Event organizers Despers USA who lay proud claim to six consecutive Panorama championships,  threw down a fitting curtain-closing sequence which included “Dus’ In Their Face.”

ADLIB on stage at Champions of Steel
ADLIB on stage at Champions of Steel

One sour note to the event was the far less than stellar acoustics of the Wingate Auditorium. This 1950’s public school auditorium was never meant for the steel orchestras. The good news is that less than three miles away the finishing touches on the new Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Brooklyn, are being put in place for its August debut.  Hopefully this time next year or the very near future, Champions in Steel would be held in that arena.

Increasingly, the New York steelband franchises have begun to take stock in themselves by addressing some of the issues of the music and entertainment business in New York, by organizing and producing their own events. Despers USA took the lead in producing this show as the NY franchises realize they no longer have the luxury of awaiting musical performance opportunities, that they must now create their own - after all they are in the Mecca of entertainment. Last Fall we experienced Pantonic Steel Orchestra’s production with Jonathan Scales.  Clearly this is the way to go forward from a business and survival perspective.

Pantonic on stage at Champions of Steel
Pantonic on stage at Champions of Steel

Champions of Steel was a great success in that it was reaffirmation of greatness of self... our youth, our traditions, our history, our culture and ultimately our community and existence. Simply priceless.

From what we saw of the over-zealous outsiders who were documenting the event in HD the word is out and only time will tell what that is about.  They were simply discourteous, rude and incongruent with the event.  They should have been removed from the event and shown the exit.  There was absolutely no reason for them to be on stage in full view of the audience while the artists were performing.  They were unprofessional!! Again, they should have been given the traditional heave-ho.

Much compliments to Despers USA for a fine production. But then again the high standards for greatness in New York steelpan music were set a long time ago.  Big-up to the management of all the orchestras - Mr. & Mrs. Mayers, Ms. Moses, Mr. Scott, Ms. Gamory and the Despers Committee for  staying the course and plowing forward, when there was no light at the end of the tunnel and generating their own ‘power source.’

___________

P.S. Pantonic Steel Orchestra did retain Basement Recordings to capture their performance for an upcoming CD.  Definitely something to look forward to.

Despers USA Steel Orchestra Performers
Drums - Kendall Williams & Jerry Charles; Bass - Kern Simon & Sharon Samuels; Double Second - Odie Franklin & Natasha Rebeiro; Tenor Bass - Niyatta Tyson;  Tenor - Sterling “Sugars” Sample, Sr., Anasa Blugh, Garvin Thorne, Jr., Alyssa Cain, Wilfred “Wiz” Kieal & Daryl Gamory; Guitar - Justyne Simon, Devon Holder & Samuel Andrew; Cello - Seymone Simon; Rhythm section - Mike, Anthony, Edgar, Pedro, Garvin Thorne, Sr.
 
Despers USA on stage at Champions of Steel
Despers USA on stage at Champions of Steel
 


Sonatas Steel Orchestra Performers
Joshua McPherson, Natasha Isaac, Diane Raphael, Edward Clarke, Sapphire Borneo, Andrea Parks, Tristan Samuel, Trevonne Samuel, Markus Garceran, Jerome Cummings, Imari Bactowal, Raimi Kadi Bactowal, Darrel Spence, Kadeem McShine, AJ Forteau, Tori Borneo
 
Sonatas on stage at Champions of Steel
Sonatas on stage at Champions of Steel
 


Pantonic Steel Orchestra Performers
Amira Beache, Bryce Beache, Brittany Burton, Wayne Bernard, Matthew Bascombe Jr., Shania Chance Baker, Ayana Carter, Patrick Davis, Adrian Edwards, Frank, Danielle Gamory, Darren Gamory, Gwynn Glasgow, Zakiya Howe, Kitaka Hypolite, Melina, Meyosha Isaac, Gold King, Tyrone McShine, Keith Roberts, Sterling Crevelle, Marrlier Wilson, Joseph Wilson, Brandon Waldrop, John James, Kayode Wiltshire
Pantonic performs at Champions of Steel in New York
Pantonic on stage at Champions of Steel
 


ADLIB Steel Orchestra Performers
Double Second - Andre White; Drums - Sheldon Thwaites; Percussion - KJ Marcelle, Heidi Paul, Lydia James, Kadeem Alleyne, Brandon Longchamps, Zues-Clarence Criag Bryan, Genea Harewood, Shantia Monae,  Zion Piper, Christian Melhado et al
 
ADLIB on stage at Champions of Steel
ADLIB on stage at Champions of Steel
 


CASYM Steel Orchestra Performers
Tenor - Travis Roberts, Lance Maximin, Rico Hunt, Brittney Horsford, Kiara Quashie, Double Second - Amanda Maximin, Londyn Leslie, Michelle Williams, Cello - Johnathan Williams, Guitar - Matthew Best, Sheianne Danglade, Bass -  Lakeisha Danglade, Curtis Lynch, Drums & Bass - Jahlani Roberts, Akia Extavour, Kyle Frederick, Daneisha Frederick
 
CASYM on stage at Champions of Steel
CASYM on stage at Champions of Steel
 

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