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The Ugly, The Uglier and The Ugliest - New York “Panorama” 2017

tag words for 2017 NY Panorama:  Embarrassing, Shameful, Thoughtless, Bandits

Emperor Star Wars

New York, USA - Well if you haven’t heard already, New York’s 2017 “Panorama” Steel Orchestra ‘competition’ was an epic failure for most. Unless you were the show’s promoters - who got away as bandits in the night - except it was a broad daylight-mugging with everyone watching. Calling the promoters “bandits” is really a description ‘upgrade’ as they have been known as the original Evil Empire to the Brooklyn Steelband community for decades.

So in this regard, let’s cut the crap! And the fake news from those who are spreading alternative facts, about how great New York 2017 Panorama was. In reality it was jacked up.

What took place was a complete display of disrespect and contempt for the paying Pan audience and performing Pan artists. What made the matter even uglier was that some of the bands’ respective managements came across as willing co-conspirators in this debacle. Leaving the players - the show’s musicians - made up of primarily young people, out in the cold rain, literally, and victims of a continued pattern and legacy of abuse. It is mainly the young people who invest mightily in this annual competition with months of practice to hone their skills and display their talents.

The loyalty to bands by players was not reciprocated.

Here is what is known about some questionable practices that raise more questions and suspicions:

  1. The bands entered the 2017 Panorama with monies from 2016 still being owed.
  2. The bands and promoters knew well in advance that all weather reports called for a total wash-out on Panorama night - yet no contingency plan was put in place. This left musicians, some on stage, and the audience - out in the soaking rain for hours before the event was cancelled,
  3. The rescheduled event was converted from a competition to a very expensive ‘listening party’ with no mention of a refund to those who had already made a financial commitment to the event. 

Social media has erupted with posts of detailed thoughts and experiences by fans, players and the event attendees. Needless to say, the overwhelming majority are lambasting WIADCA (West Indian American Day Carnival Association) with words like “setup,” “crooks” and “thieves.”

Of course there have always been bands, managers, players who in moments of self-interest and cowardice have gone against the grain and ultimately, their own self interests, and joined ‘the dark side.’ Even in 2001, in what will easily go down as New York Pan’s supreme moment and greatest Panorama, when the majority of orchestras moved away from the Empire and held their own Panorama, there were those few bands who stayed faithful to the Evil Empire. However, what was seen to unfold in 2017 was an elevated level of contempt.

Shirley Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm

This was WIADCA’s 50th anniversary and there were no surprises. WIADCA cannot help who they are and they can’t get any better. They are a flawed organization led by severely flawed individuals.  What is surprising is that WIADCA’s president William Howard once worked closely with the late great congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm was a champion of youth and child welfare. She would be embarrassed and appalled by the behavior of William Howard and his association with this present-day WIADCA.

Howard would drown in a tear drop of Shirley Chisholm such is the level of his decent. He has truly fallen to the dark side.

One has to wonder if, when Howard was making announcements to hastily remove the Pan community and their fans from the performing area, after being so shabbily treated in order that they could start their Dimanche Gras show - that two of the headliners, The Mighty Sparrow (himself a panman) and Calypso Rose (lifetime supporter of youth, Pan and culture) would ever have taken his (WIADCA’s) stage if they were made aware of Howard’s indecent treatment of the Pan community that day. 

Audience sit in chairs turned perpendicular to and away from, the stage - to view performing steel orchestra
Audience sit in chairs turned perpendicular to and away from, the stage - to view performing steel orchestra -  Image: W. Jaffier

Was it also mentioned that most of the pan players turned up at the museum under deception, expecting to compete in a rescheduled Panorama, in a competition format, only to be told there and then, that would be no judging, and therefore no vying for the championship; that there would be simply a musical showcase for the crowd on hand, and the bands would not even be allowed to take the stage, but would play on ‘the grounds’?  And that the audience was also unaware of this, but were simply told to turn their chairs to face the bands, as they performed, away from the stage?

Here is what has been learnt from this debacle. An “indecent exposure” of what everyone already knows...

  1. The Evil Empire as not changed after 50 years. WST (When Steel Talks) saw two communiqués from WIADCA officials that have been posted on Facebook that essentially criminalized the Pan community. This is so sad, given that in the New York steelpan community, reside many of our scholars, intellectuals and most talented, gifted, honest and brightest people of our community. And this was coming from an organization (WIADCA) that can’t pay it bills - moreover 2016 prize monies that it owes to the Pan community. Given the current climate of this country, thanks for nothing, WIADCA. Talk about a betrayal of community. And on the topic of monies owed to the bands, could this be a contributory factor in their still attractive, but scaled-down uniform attire to T-Shirts, in place of customary and usually flamboyant wear?
  2. USSA (United States Steelband Association) cannot or will not defend the interest of the New York steel orchestras against WIADCA.
  3. The bands’ managements’ interests are not in line with those of their musicians or fans. Just watching all those young people in the cold, soaking rain on Saturday night cemented that fact. This was an easy call and showed a dangerous indifference to the efforts and commitment of young artists - especially when in some cases you are charged with protection of other people’s children.

Bad Jokes

When the steelband ‘showcase’ event began on Sunday, WIADCA streamed the performances on Facebook. In an attempt to hype the show WIADCA put two ‘front women’ on to convey that this was a great party that was going on. The only problem was that the audience was not buying it. WIADCA was simultaneously savaged across Facebook and Twitter. Someone should have told them “You are making yourselves look like fools in addition to making a bad situation worse and folks all over the globe are calling you frauds.”  As the show promoter, WIADCA has done irreparable harm to the New York Steelband Panorama brand.

Kathleen Reilly stands outside of Despers USA Steel Orchestra nightly during the band's practice, calling 'authorities'.  Image: W. Jaffier
Kathleen Reilly stands outside of Despers USA Steel Orchestra nightly during the band’s practice, calling ‘authorities’.  Image: W. Jaffier

Pan Terrorist Arrested

The “alien female” - Kathleen Reilly - who moved into Despers USA neighborhood and has been terrorizing them non-stop for some time now was finally arrested by NYPD.  Talk about things that make you go “Hmmm...”  But then - she was released by the Brooklyn District Attorney who “declined to pursue charges?”

On The Flip Tip

Basement Recordings was able capture the Pan Yard performances of CASYM, Despers USA, D’Radoes and Pan Evolution steel orchestras.

The music and performances were outstanding. The genius of New York Pan is its ability to churn out quality music under such hostile conditions. BigUp to all the arrangers, performing pan artists and supporting pan enthusiasts in the New York Pan Diaspora, and its fans around the world.

Promise For the Future - “WIADCA keep your Panorama - I’ll keep my dignity”

Three Witches

There was one prominent young panist, who, after receiving an insulting response from a WIADCA executive to one of his inquires, decided to not participate in the 2017 NY Panorama. While there may have been others, we are aware of only this one panist who refused to dignify the event with his talents because of WIADCA. This lone panist is looking like a genius now.  WST salutes you for knowing your self-worth and remembering, it always starts with One...

  New York Times 360 - A Panorama of Steel Drums (2017)

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