Babonneau Steel Orchestra at the 2022 St. Lucia Panorama
Castries, Saint Lucia, W.I. - After two years of no official Panorama activity in St. Lucia due to COVID-19, the competition stage at the SAB in Castries came alive with four bands taking on defending champions Babonneau Steel Orchestra. The band, led musically by resident arranger Allison Marquis retained their crown scoring 271 playing “Carnal Knowledge” by De Invader, and coming in one point ahead of their nearest challenger, Pantime Steel Orchestra. Past champions themselves, Pantime performed Amrit Samaroo’s arrangement of Teddyson John’s “Sweet Soca Music.”
The evening officially got underway around 8:15 p.m. with the national anthem. Laborie Steel Pan was first on stage, starting up with their ‘warm-up tune’ - a standard feature at St. Lucia Panorama competitions where orchestras perform a piece of about three minutes - getting their musical juices flowing before diving into the official Panorama selection or ‘test tune.’ Under the bright lights of the venue, the lively, mainly teenaged players wearing white pants and colorful tie-dyed T-Shirts (a few even managed matching socks!) served up “Cyah Wait” by Alpha arranged by Andrius Edwide. Two moko-jumbies and dancers added to the band’s presentation, which ended with exuberant shouts around 8:51 p.m. after an energy-filled performance.
Laborie Steel Pan at the 2022 St. Lucia Panorama
Equipped with her interpretation of TC Brown’s “I Like (Wuh Wrong with Dat?),” arranger Krystal Nestor led her sixty-five-player-strong band to third place in the competition. Performing in the second spot, Pantastic Muzik Steel Orchestra players were canopied for the most part (Laborie before them appeared with none). Attired mainly in all white, with the band’s artwork emblazoned on the front, the ladies sported additional red, yellow and orange layered bell-style pull-on sleeves. In existence for ten years, this is Pantastic Muzik’s fourth appearance at Panorama, and for 2022 competition the members ranged in ages from nine through sixty-five, with many being veteran panists.
Pantastic Muzik Steel Orchestra at the 2022 St. Lucia Panorama
Speaking with event presenter Stanley Lucien after her band’s performance, Nestor touched on a few aspects that affected the group overall for the Panorama season including band membership and preparation. “….Had we had more time, we would have gotten a lot more players to come on board….But with the national events [including Panorama] being a week ahead…before Carnival – we didn’t get enough time to practice what we wanted to really do. But I am still happy with the execution of the song, and how we played and how we performed on the stage tonight.” Nestor also had thoughts on Pan in her country overall. “….St. Lucia as a lot of work to do when it comes to the art form of Pan. We have a lot of work to do. At this point I’m not even sure what we need to do. But we need to come together to get the ball rolling in Pan in St. Lucia. Back in the day it was a big thing; and to see that it is only five bands in Panorama this year it’s - it’s heartbreaking. Because we could have been on a different level in 2022, when it comes to [the] number of bands in Panorama.”
Regarding the ‘national events being a week ahead,’ Nestor was referring to the decision taken to change the customary calendar flow. National competitions such as Panorama, King and Queen of the Bands, Groovy Soca, Power Soca and Calypso Monarchs for 2022 are instead unfolding a full week before what is considered the ‘Carnival weekend.’ For Nestor and Pantastic Muzik, this lessened the Panorama practice/preparation time in an already shortened season linked with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
As Claude Paul, chairperson of the Carnival Music Management Committee (CMMC) put it shortly before the competition began: “…it’s an interesting experiment, to put all the national events in the week before Carnival – our national…so to speak. Of course, there’s been some controversy about it. My take is that - it is a trial period. Let’s see how it works; we’ll review it, we’ll have a conversation, and we’ll see what we like, and what we don’t like, and make adjustments again for next year and beyond.”
Next up was band number three, past champions Pantime Steel Orchestra showing up on this night in blue tops and black pants. A full size band with canopies, by the time they struck their first notes it was exactly 10:00 p.m. It had been the task of drillers Karla Martyr and Ben Jackson to ensure that the band was as precise as possible in their delivery of Amrit Samaroo’s arrangement of “Sweet Soca Music” – and the time was finally here – Panorama night. And execute they did; the crowd roared at the end of Pantime’s powerful performance.
Pantime Steel Orchestra at the 2022 St. Lucia Panorama
For then-title defenders Babonneau Steel Orchestra following in the wake of Pantime, it was pure confidence and simply ‘cool finesse’ from the warm-up. ‘We got this’ was the attitude that flowed from the musicians as they made clear that there would be no relinquishing of their title on this night. Allison Marquis conducted them through his definitive arrangement of veteran calypsonian De Invader’s classic “Carnal Knowledge” from 1990. In the opinion of judges Gregory Piper, Richard Payne, Ezra Joseph and Joanna Ragbir via the judging criteria - with their final points spreads - Marquis’ musical imagery of the original piece and Babonneau’s delivery were the combination that would eventually give the orchestra that one-point edge at the end of the night. And yes, as the band finished at 10:48 p.m. the crowd of pan music lovers on hand rejoiced.
Babonneau Steel Orchestra at the 2022 St. Lucia Panorama
When presenter Stanley Lucien said afterwards, “A lot was expected of you, was a lot delivered?” in the jubilant words of Marquis himself the response was, “Yeah, we delivered what we were supposed to deliver – to a ‘T’! He was thrilled with his team’s performance, “Excellent performance.” On how difficult it was to get Babonneau ready for Panorama, “The guys were hungry after that hiatus from 2019. It was easy to get them once we formed our WhatsApp group, and we told them what was going on, [that] we were going to go back on board this year - so everybody was kind of anxious to get into the yard.”
The fifth and final band, Canaries-based SM Steel – featuring members from both Canaries and Soufriere – closed out the competition by 11:18 p.m. The black-clad membership of the band drilled by Akram Best delivered a spirited performance of Alpha’s “Cyah Wait” arranged by Jesse Nurse. Dancers and even a fire-eater were part of the band’s presentation. On both their banner and some of the instruments, the name of their late manager Simone Mondesir, who passed away in March 2020, was a visible tribute in her memory.
SM Steel at the 2022 St. Lucia Panorama
As has been the case in the past, the organizers named only the top three bands. Tamara Gibson, Chairperson of St. Lucia’s Carnival Planning & Management Committee (CPMC) presented the third-place trophy to Krystal Nestor for Pantastic Muzik Steel Orchestra.
Krystal Nestor (left foreground) arranger for Pantastic Muzik Steel Orchestra, receives the third-place trophy from Tamara Gibson (right)
Pan Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore (left) and St. Lucia National Steelbands Association president Perline Mathurin (right), present the Pantime Steel Orchestra representative (center) with the trophy for second place
Xenia Douglas, Saint Lucia’s 2022 National Carnival Queen, joined by Dr. Ernest Hilaire, Minister for Tourism, Investment, Creative Industries, Culture and Information, had the honor of presenting the championship trophy to Babonneau Steel Orchestra’s two representatives, including champion arranger Allison Marquis. Band members triumphantly ran on stage just before, gleefully hugging and then hoisting Marquis aloft for a few seconds, before setting him down and allowing him to join in accepting the trophy.
Left to right: Dr. Ernest Hilaire, Minister for Tourism, Investment, Creative Industries, Culture and Information; Babonneau Steel Orchestra arranger Allison Marquis, band member, and National Carnival Queen Xenia Douglas
Left to right: Representatives from Babonneau, Pantime, and Pantastic Muzik steel orchestras with their prize trophies
Stanley Lucien with co-presenter and former steelband official and himself a panman, Julian “Bull” Calderon, co-hosted the event throughout Events Saint Lucia’s YouTube live stream.
2022 St. Lucia Panorama presenter Stanley Lucien, right - with co-presenter Julian “Bull” Calderon
Images: Events Saint Lucia YouTube screen grabs
** See Live Stream HERE
Following are the results for the 2022 Panorama:
# of Players
Babonneau Steel Orchestra
Mario Joseph & Ivan Smith
Jamil Mc Donald
Marylin Mc Donald
Pantime Steel Orchestra
Sweet Soca Music
Pantastic Muzik Steel Orchestra
I Like (Wuh wrong with Dat?)
(TC Brown Ft. Solange)
Laborie Steel Pan
( #5 )
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