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New York Panorama Panists Get Plenty Licks - Punked Again!

New York Steel Orchestras have nothing concrete to show after the Panorama season...

Teacher: “Your first assignment for the year is to write a ten-page paper on the most significant thing you did this Summer. Please include supporting media like photographs, videos and audio - and articles.”
Student:  “I studied and performed with an elite Brooklyn steel orchestra this past Summer.  We participated in the prestigious New York Panorama music competition featuring the major steel orchestras in North America. Unfortunately, there is no support media available other than a few “selfies.””
Teacher:  “Sorry, a “selfie” does not count. Unfortunately this means that your paper will be graded unsubstantiated, uncorroborated, unproven and undocumented.

New York SteelbandsThe 2015 New York Panorama season will go down as one of the most challenging and difficult ever experienced by the New York steel orchestra franchises. The devil was working overtime on every aspect of this season's Panorama check list and essentials. They, the steel orchestras, suffered through and caught much hell. All the bands were a little punch drunk from all the blows they received both externally and internally in the last few weeks leading up to the competition. In fact the season was so difficult it is amazing so many orchestras made it to the stage Panorama night. An incredible achievement by both players and management. A testament to their fortitude and love of culture. And in the final analysis some outstanding music was created.

Look - if you're going to catch hell, at least have something to show for it. And no, a bad video from your smartphone and a "selfie" do not count. As musicians who have practiced for competition night after night, these belittle and insult your efforts in the most disrespectful manner.

New York is simply a hostile environment for the steel orchestras to exist in. Moreover, it is indifferent to  the goodwill and beauty of steel orchestras, and their overall positive effect on the human condition - the power of MUSIC.

Your Reality - Your Pain
So you have made it through one of the most difficult seasons for New York pan people in memory. And you've suffered the indignity and frustration of full-out harassment by NYPD (New York Police Department) - in part because the newly-arrived aliens who have gentrified the neighborhoods are oblivious to - at best - or hostile to your culture - even though some of the New York steel orchestras have been in existence in Brooklyn for over forty years in pretty much the same locations.

You've somehow found one of those disappearing panyards for a few weeks' run for panorama practice. And you've paid an abhorrent amount of money to rent the space. You've spent tens of thousands of dollars on racks, tuning of the instruments, uniforms for the players, and - you've lost years off your life -- aggravation, frustration, depression and worry all taking physical tolls on you. In less than four weeks you've aged more than President Obama in the White House. All this for one night, one moment, one performance - one-and-done - one band, one sound, your sound. The most important thing between the performing artist and his/her audience. Who have you entrusted in delivering your precious sound to the audience, the universe, the judges and the Gods? You have absolutely no idea.

Adding Insult to Injury
Robbie Joseph of Pan Podium, one of the best photojournalists in the world dedicated to covering pan, traveled to New York from the UK with intentions of fully covering the New York Panorama. One of the very, very few photojournalists that have guaranteed a positive return for the Panorama musicians, was completely frustrated by the process to secure a press pass for the Panorama. Unlike many of the so-called journalists and photographers seen every year at the Panorama and whose "work" no panist ever sees, the stories and hundreds of professional Panorama photos can almost be immediately seen by the world on the internet. Anyway, even without getting the press pass, Mr. Joseph paid for his own ticket and attempted to enter the Panorama where he was refused entry with his camera. He returned home without attending the Panorama.


By way of background, it should be noted that Mr. Joseph is the editor and pioneer of Pan Podium - the media arm of BAS, the British Association of Steelbands.  For many steelband lovers around the world Joseph's seasonal, full color magazine represented the glory of and knowledge repository for steel orchestras in the UK, and even documented further a field Panorama competitions such as in Trinidad and Tobago.

There is something obscene and almost criminal to have the likes of a Robbie Joseph present in New York, and Brooklyn Panorama players are denied access to his skill set and professionalism. One would think that Mr. Joseph would have been reached out to by the Steelband association or the Panorama event organizers way in advance, as a means of professional courtesy and to cover their incompetence in this department. Again it is the Brooklyn panists' loss for not taking care of their business.

Now as we said before in a previous article When Steel Talks (WST) would not be present at the 2015 Panorama by choice. WST believes the New York deserves much better than they have been dealt over the years by the producers of the event. The lack of professionalism and compromise at the expense of the players and orchestras, not to mention bias on the part of Panorama organizers WIADCA (West Indian American Day Carnival Association) - is simply not worth it to us.

But curiously and ironically WIADCA continues to use WST photographs without our permission in the promotion of their shows. This year WST photographs of all the NY steel orchestras were used in the promotion of their Pay-per-view option to see the Panorama. Does anyone know how much money was made through the online viewing of the New York Panorama? And will there be a partial refund for the feed cutting off before the completion of the event?

Cure for the Madness
Madness is often described as doing something the same way each time and expecting different results. And in this regard the New York steelpan community has definitely been locked in a death grip of terminal madness. Except for one year, 2001, when the steelband fraternities produced their own show and great things happened. The first New York Panorama quality CD, DVD, lots of photos and articles - an awesome stage that held the largest bands comfortably - a spectacular sound system with people who knew what they were doing - a large staging track that fielded all the bands comfortably while they warmed up and headed for the stage - (not to mention judges who did not fall asleep while bands were performing, or write on score sheets that they "could not judge an orchestra", because they "did not know the song")...

New York Steel Orchestras at panyard recordings

Then the madness came back and the steel orchestras all returned to marginality and an abusive relationship.

There are signs however, that there are those in the present young generation of the steelband community who are not infected with this lunacy.  Furthermore, they are realizing that there is much more in New York-the entertainment capital of the world-than the parking lot of the Brooklyn Museum, the venue for the New York Panorama for more than forty years... 

Soca standout Machel Montano took the stage with CASYM Steel Orchestra as their tune of choice was his 2015 monster hit "Like Ah Boss." In fact, a total of four NY steel orchestras performed that tune.  Maybe Mr. Montano and other soca stars might consider standing in solidarity with the NY steelpan fraternity by not performing at the museum until the abusive conditions for steel orchestras have changed.

Has the prize money in the New York Panorama competition increased in over a decade? Just asking. Are you worth more than a reverse selfie?  SMH

Pantonic preparing for 2015 New York Panorama

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