The Youths Step Up
Brooklyn, New York, USA - It’s one week away from the 2016 New York Panorama, and the steel orchestras are in the home stretch of preparations as they hone their musical chops in efforts to become the champion band. But just one week ago, Despers USA Steel Orchestra held one of the couple launches in the area, at their panyard currently situated directly on the corner of Classon Avenue and Pacific Street in Brooklyn.
Pan fans took the opportunity to “come through” in anticipation of the good time (inclusive of great food) to be had. And reflecting the increasingly changing demographics of the area, even a few of the ‘new residents’ stepped through the door for a taste of what was ongoing inside the pan yard, now within their living and socializing environs.
CASYM Steel Orchestra at the 2016 Despers USA band launch, performing for attendees
Steel-X-Plosion USA led by Freddie Harris, III and CASYM Steel Orchestra were two of the guest bands on hand who had the crowd dancing during the period that When Steel Talks was there. CASYM took advantage of the location of their own panyard just a couple blocks away, rolling two of their basses through the street and right into the Despers USA venue. The previous weekend had seen them at the New York Pan Stars Launch.
One of the outstanding things about this launch—so aptly pointed out by veteran panist and pan supporter Hueloy Lila Yip Young, when he drew reference to the fact—was that, many of the Despers ‘officers’ charged with the critical duties of making this event a success, and the Despers organization run successfully -- were indeed many of the Despers youths we intermingled with years ago. And what we were witnessing and experiencing, was the full circle of a positive investment in youth, community and oneself.
Even as the gentrification of Bedford-Stuyvesant (and wider Brooklyn) is at an incredible level that few areas may have ever seen or undergone - since there were tee-pees and people of the First Nations in the area - it is gratifying to be able to see and experience one of the original Brooklyn Steel Orchestras in that area for more than 30 years - still alive and kicking.
Good old-fashioned iron and steel ringing out on a Summer night was in full effect in the Despers USA camp, only this time with an ever-growing backdrop of luxury condos, complete with supporting warehouses-turned-social/entertainment hubs and open-door SoHo-styled cafés. What will next year bring? And will any steel orchestras still be there?
Steel-X-Plosion USA after their performance at Despers USA’s 2016 band launch