Commancheros Steel Orchestra Takes Sixth Title at Grenada 2018 National Panorama

Champion Arranger Andre Greenidge again leads band to victory

(Click for results)

St. George’s, Grenada, W.I. - Grenada’s 2018 National Panorama began promptly at 8:00 p.m., at the National Stadium in St. George’s, the country’s capital. The Master of Ceremonies actually opened the event and welcomed everyone a few minutes before that time. And lovers of the annual Panorama music festival were happy that there was indeed a show this year, unlike in 2017 when the orchestras turned up ready for showtime, a few early would-be attendees too, but there was no stage completed for the orchestras’ performances, triggering an on-site boycott of the event; meaning, incredibly, no Panorama 2017.

Florida All Stars Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama
Florida All Stars Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama

This time around, naturally, there was a stage constructed in time for the event, and the show unfolded in due course. First on stage was Florida All Stars (apparently using some of the instruments of fellow competitors Pan Wizards) putting their musical efforts into an oldie but ‘goldie’ - Grenada’s 1990 Road March - Ajamu’s Open Up The Door. With fifty-five players spiffily attired in dark red jackets over white shirts and pants, topped off with white caps, the band together with arranger Joel Joseph kicked off the night of steelband music. Incidentally, Florida All Stars also drew position one in the last Panorama back in 2016.

Pan Wizards Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama
Pan Wizards Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama

Pan Wizards Steel Orchestra was the second of the nine bands in the competition, taking on the musical challenge with sixty players. They were also the first of the two bands who went with the 2018 hit soca Top Striker popularized by Lil Natty & Thunda. Panists were clad entirely in red, almost mirroring the shade of their bass pans; there were a couple youngsters in the foreground in front of the stage emulating soccer players complete with soccer ball as part of the overall presentation.  Former New Dimension arranger David ‘Peck’ Edwards switched musical focus to Pan Wizards and arranged the song for the band, which got going at 8:30 p.m.

Pan Ossia Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama
Pan Ossia Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama

It was then the turn of the third set of participants for the evening - Pan Ossia - their seventh Panorama since first competing in 2011.  Resident arranger Robert K. Cadet brought them into the music fray with Music Man, again by hometown calypso icon Ajamu. White pants contrasting with long-sleeved violet Tees and the band’s name proudly emblazoned in white, was the uniform of choice as musicians got into their steelband groove. 

New Dimension Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama
New Dimension Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama

Band number four, New Dimension, eventually placed as they played - fourth.  They were also the second of four bands that came to Panorama 2018 with tunes from the 1990s.  Their song, Bumsy aka “I En’t Leaving This Bumpsie Behind” as per the band’s banner, was a favorite from 1995, sung by Val Adams. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018 as a music organization, New Dimension who were last champions in 2014, had sixty-four players performing the arrangement of Devon LaCette.

Commancheros Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama
Commancheros Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama

The defending champs Commancheros Steel Orchestra took center stage next with a much-anticipated rendition of 2018’s Pum Pum performed and co-written by Finley “Scholar” Jeffrey, and lauded by the event’s MC as “one of the most popular songs for the entire Carnival [2018] season in Grenada.” The song artfully documents the afore-mentioned fiasco of no Panorama in 2017.

By this time the crowd at the stadium had swelled, and a lot more people were directly in front the stage.  With the second-largest band (seventy-five members) competing, champion arranger Andre Greenidge ‘started the count’ at around 10:02 p.m. It could be said that the Panorama ‘officially’ got underway with this band’s performance in terms of energy, tempo, and enthusiasm. People—musicians and spectators alike—lustily sang the chorus lines, with particular emphasis on the word “Seetahal” - and here the arranger turned around briefly to conduct the singing crowd. With the message in the music, panists dressed in sunny yellow outfits accented by black bars and caps, played away to their hearts’ content on instruments with decals reading “This is the way we groove.”  At the end of the night, in the eyes and ears of the judges, they were the best in the Panorama. Incidentally, calypsonian “Scholar” went on to become the Dimanche Gras King (the equivalent of Calypso Monarch) the next night, when he performed Pum Pum as one of his two songs in that competition.

Angel Harps Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama
Angel Harps Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama

Eighty musicians-strong, band number six Angel Harps Steel Orchestra was the largest of the night and were last winners in 2015.  Champion in his own right, resident arranger James Clarkson was with his band. Another national music treasure, the crowd cheered as they were introduced. The music racks were fully canopied, and Angel Harps dressed in red tops and white pants, sounded their musical battle cry with clean and clear music lines of the 2017 soca smash aptly entitled Hit After Hit. With music lovers in the foreground, especially the youngsters from the junior band dancing up a storm, some players were literally lost in the music as it resonated with them, laying down a masterful performance of Clarkson’s daring and engaging arrangement. Finishing off at 10:46 p.m., Angel Harps elicited the largest crowd response of the night, but had to settle for a four-point difference in scores and second place in the judges’ view.

Grand Roy Pan Angels at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama
Grand Roy Pan Angels at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama

Founded in 2005, appearing in seventh position and hailing from the area of the same name, were Grand Roy Pan Angels.  The popular soca tune Top Striker was also the musical choice which the fifty-one youthful players presented. Their rendition was considerably more mellow than the original tune, but that did not stop the players sporting orange Tees and white pants from enjoying and completing their time on stage by 11:15 p.m. One of the bands coming to Panorama without canopies, the measured performance featured the arrangement of Denver Mendes, also reportedly the band’s manager.

Rainbow City All Stars Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama
Rainbow City All Stars at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama

The first and last time band number eight, Rainbow City All Stars, won Grenada’s National Panorama was back in 2000 with David “Peck” Edwards as arranger. That was eighteen years ago, and they’ve been chasing the trophy ever since. Tonight was not their night, but beginning at 11:31 p.m. their no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners performance was them throwing down the musical gauntlet from the get-go, that they were not at all to be counted out, and in fact went on to snag third place when the results were announced. Even with one of the smaller contingents in this year’s competition—fifty panists in red Tees and black pants in their ranks—the compact steel orchestra dropped a spirited session of arranger Othniel St. Clair’s version of On The Road Again also by Ajamu. This was the third song from Ajamu featured in the 2018 Panorama.

Of note, Rainbow City All Stars and Angel Harps before them made sure to deliver their own musical “zings” with single liners of the music bars containing the word “Seetahal” from the Pum Pum chorus woven into their arrangements. Obviously the no-Panorama 2017 was on their combined musical minds.

Melody Warriors Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama
Melody Warriors Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Grenada National Panorama

For a while Pan Ossia has been Grenada’s youngest steel orchestra participating in the national Panorama competition. That changed this year with the entrance of Melody Warriors. Definitely the smallest band with around twenty-two players, they came through and ensured that the collective fruits of their musical labors were heard in the same national setting of Panorama alongside their bigger-band brothers/sisters. The band has its beginnings within the last five years, and first saw competition in the Junior Panorama category back in 2016. It is headquartered in Northern Grenada from the village of Morne Fendue in St. Patrick. Kudos to the youngsters and the community support behind them. Dressed in black Tees and white and black pants, they performed 1990’s Jennifer sung by Inspector and arranged by Dashiki Phillip; Melody Warriors was the final band for the evening and the crowd applauded in appreciation of the young band’s efforts.

The penchant for ‘Back in Times’ tunes played at Panorama needs to be abolished from all Panorama competitions. What may have started out as a good idea or even a necessary evil has become a threat and burden to the growth of the steelband art form. Furthermore, this practice has robbed, and is robbing the youth of experiences and memories which can only be generated by engaging the music of the day (meaning current day) and their own time. This practice has continually retarded the growth of Pan in the Caribbean in general - Trinidad & Tobago—especially in the small and medium categories—and Antigua, for example, and in this case, in 2018 in Grenada, where five orchestras out of nine went with tunes made popular years before some of their players were even born; four from the 1990s and one from 2001. The recruitment opportunity for the steelband artform, for so many more fans and potential pan musicians is continually being lost. No steel orchestra received the massive crowd response and participation like Commancheros and Angel Harps on Panorama night, who both used current smash soca hits - meaning today’s tunes - playing Pum Pum and Top Striker, respectively. In past years and for decades of the steelband movement, it was then-music-of-the-day tunes which were played with passion for Panorama. What happened?

All nine steel orchestras had their ‘youth arms’ perform earlier in the day at the 2018 Junior Panorama, where Angel Harps, New Dimension and Commancheros juniors clinched the top three spots respectively. No doubt some of those youngsters happily did double-duty, playing with the senior contingents later in the evening. There had been flyer adverts for each band, promoting both the junior and senior orchestras, with tunes of choice and naming arrangers in most instances. However it appeared that previously, the Junior competition had been slated for August 4. And so it was that the results for both categories were delivered together at the end of the main Panorama event in the early hours of August 12.  Judges for the Senior Panorama reportedly also officiated earlier in the Junior competition; they included Grenadians Nigel Gibbs, Kenrick Harper, and Lambert Phillip and Damion Phillip both from Trinidad & Tobago. Ethan Francis was the alternate.

Commancheros representative (at left) is presented with the 2018 Grenada National Panorama championship trophy
Commancheros representative (at left) is presented with the 2018 Grenada National Panorama championship trophy

On the topic of the results for both Junior and Senior Panoramas, vocal antics - in the space of less than five minutes - by the Master of Ceremonies robbed not one, but both second place winners in both categories—Junior and Senior—of their own time to at least psychologically ‘take a bow.’ The MC did NOT announce the second-placed participants - New Dimension in the Junior Panorama, and Angel Harps in the Senior Panorama, instead going straight to the champions, leaving the second-placed competitors as ‘understood’ by default through his omission. Incredible.

Anyway - it was a night of great Pan for steelband music lovers et al. Congratulations are in order for the Panorama champions in both categories, and special mention once more to Melody Warriors for taking that next step. Click here for the Junior Panorama results. And full results for the Senior Panorama are below.

Grenada’s past Panorama winners


Grenada 2018 Panorama RESULTS

Placing/
Points /
Play position
Band /
 # of Players
Selection/
Performer
Arranger /
Tuner
1st

285

( #5 )
Commancheros Steel Orchestra

75 players

Pum Pum
(“Scholar”)
Andre Greenidge 
2nd

281

( #6 )
Angel Harps Steel Orchestra

80 players

Hit After Hit
(“Dash”)
Arranger
James Clark, arranger for Grenada's Angel Harps Steel Orchestra
James Clarkson

 
3rd

278.5

( #8 )
Rainbow City All Stars Steel Orchestra

50 players

On The Road Again
(“Ajamu”)
Othniel St. Clair
4th

278

( #4 )
New Dimension Steel Orchestra

64 players

Bumsy
(Val Adams)
Arranger
Devon LaCette
 
Tuner
Bertram “Birch” Kelman
Bertram “Birch” Kelman
5th

275

( #2 )
Pan Wizards Steel Orchestra

60 players

Top Striker
(“Lil Natty” & “Thunda”)
David “Peck” Edwards, arranger for New Dimension Steel Orchestra of Grenada
David “Peck” Edwards
6th

266

( #3 )
Pan Ossia Steel Orchestra

--- players

Music Man
(“Ajamu”)
Arranger
Robert K. Cadet, Sr., arranger for Grenada's Pan Ossia Steel Orchestra
Robert K. Cadet

 
7th

258

( #1 )
Florida All Stars Steel Orchestra

55 players

Open Up The Door
(“Ajamu”)
Joel Joseph
8th

257

( #7 )
Grand Roy Pan Angels

51 players

Top Striker
(“Lil Natty” & “Thunda”)
Denver Mendes 
9th

236.6

( #9 )
Melody Warriors Steel Orchestra

circa 22 players

Jennifer
(“Inspector”)
Dashiki Phillip 

   Performances - Grenada National Panorama 2018
 

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