New York Pan Can’t Blame WIADCA for this...

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New York Panorama-bound Steel Orchestras struggle to consistently have their once-in-a-lifetime Performances captured, annually

Brooklyn, New York, USA - As the reality sets in that Basement, the recording wing for WST (When Steel Talks) is only capturing at best, three steel orchestras in their panyards for this year’s New York Panorama season - the grumbling, the shaking of the heads, the vexation, and "how yuh cud do us dat - oh gawd...?" come out. Bands have no one to blame but themselves. The number of recordable days in the week has not changed in a while, and the number of Panorama-bound steel orchestras has pretty much remained constant averaging ten bands or so. NOT to mention, that said bands ALL want to be recorded preferably on the Thursday night, Wednesday for the earliest.

Issue - more orchestras than days to record. 

Issue - less days than bands are ready/willing to record.

Solution - we have multiple solutions, but it would require the cooperation of the orchestras and the seeking of self-interest as a unit, meaning a steelband community. Cooperation is a bad word in NY Pan.

Here is the explanation we gave to the inquiring management of just one NY orchestra.

"This year capturing the bands in their yards has proved to be far more challenging than previous years. Simply put, not enough days to record the majority of the bands, when they themselves ‘happen’ to be ready. Recording two or more bands per night as we’ve done in the past is near impossible in this current environment. We are traveling with both an audio and video crew.

“To even attempt this in the future, would take maximum cooperation among bands themselves and planning, to achieve this again. So for this year we only committed ourselves to one band per night (excluding Friday night because of crowd control issues). In regards as to how the three bands came to be on the schedule this year, we simply went with the three first bands who contacted us and said they definitely wanted to be recorded - and none chose Monday. So it was Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday."

CrossFire Steel Orchestra in their panyard after being captured by Basement Recordings for the 2016 Panorama season
CrossFire Steel Orchestra in their panyard after being captured by Basement Recordings for the 2016 Panorama season

Oh, and NY Pan franchises - are you listening? An unusual number of media outlets—international and otherwise—has been contacting, and talking to WST about their frustrations in getting press credentials to cover the Panorama, this, even as we were in the Panyards recording. You should check into this pronto - you are missing out on marketing and investment opportunities. In other words: money... These media personnel have been investing their time and energy coming to your yards without most of you even knowing it. They are fascinated with what you, the pan community, do. But that interest will only last but so long. Take care of you business. The damage may have already been done, as they may have been frustrated into not even trying for 2017.

WST has done this ‘WIADCA Press pass’ routine in the past - that is just a means of subjecting oneself to whims of people whose life battery is dead 364 days a year (certainly with regards to New York Pan), and for one day they behave like they can power the engine that could. Furthermore, having a Press pass means nothing and one will meet with—as WST has, in the past—unscrupulous behavior, thuggery decorum, and racist attitudes. And that is all good, if that is the way these folks normally operate -- but WST will not deal with nonsense. WST is only concerned with Pan.

Despers USA in their panyard after being captured by Basement Recordings for the 2016 Panorama season
Despers USA in their panyard after being captured by Basement Recordings for the 2016 Panorama season

Every year it is asked "Why couldn’t or hasn’t the NY Pan community simply made WST photographers and field engineers the official multimedia collectors at NY Panorama and tell everyone to leave them alone and get out of their way?" The answer lies in the hands of the NY Steelband management. At least the pan musicians would have some real photos of themselves on stage and listenable recordings of themselves to reminisce over the coming months, as the bands wait for that return on the free no-interest loan they give out annually while they wait for their prize monies many months after the competition. Okay, bad writer, bad writer, we shouldn’t have said that and hurt some people’s feelings (He He He). Back to the matter at hand:  for the record, WST has done this (provided wall-to-wall multimedia coverage) with great success and ease in other events and countries. They fly us in, pick us up at the airport and give us complete access and freedom to do what we do. Their only other question is - "What do you need from us"?

Panorama has its place but the yard is the bands’ domain. It really shouldn’t be that hard or painful in the decisions they make. This year it was dust and gravel in the panyards. Dust in our shoes, dust in our eyes, dust in our drinks, dust in the equipment!  Each panyard where we recorded had lots of dust. It’s a sign of the times and the disappearing NY panyards, but that’s a discussion for another time and article. But when we listen to the music we have captured, or look at the pictures and videos, and the joy in movement, and on the musicians’ faces - it is all worth the pain, aggravation and frustration.

This year we saw real pain and disappointment in the eyes of some serious pan folk, like Ian from ADLIB and "Mann" from D’Radoes (the latter is the defending champion steel orchestra), when we informed them that Basement would not be able capture their panyard performances this year. Our organization is a staunch believer in capturing and documenting our Pan music and history, as it reaffirms our existence. However, not even WST can beat the math without the cooperation of the orchestras to change the equation to one that works in the NY Pan community’s favor.

Regardless, WST will be back out next year to attempt to capture who we can, even if it is a different threesome. The warmth and love we received from CrossFire’s shout-out "We love you, WST" or Sharon of Despers USA greeting us every year with a hug, "thank you" and kiss - make all worthwhile. And we never take for granted "Mann" of D’Radoes every year - champion or not - personally delivering our Radoes jerseys.

Good luck to all the orchestras at New York Panorama 2016. You are already a winner and champion of the artform by your sheer existence in a difficult Brooklyn environment. And WST firmly believes that your artistic and cultural endeavors and skill set, are worth more than reverse selfies, and cellphone audio recordings. What you bring to the concrete jungle of New York is simply magical.

Related Article - Not Going to New York Panorama 2015 but... Are Steelpan Musicians Worth More Than A Selfie?

Read more on WIADCA (West Indian American Day Carnival Association) here

Performances from New York Panyards


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