Hands, winners of the 2007 Five Alive contest
Antigua & Barbuda -
Five Alive is indisputably an Antiguan original
invention, however Trinidad- based Golden Hands has shown that,
for the present, this challenging performing arts title centered
around creative and imaginative portrayals, the steelpan instrument
and featuring an intimate, skilled nucleus of musicians, is safely secured in their hands.
Golden Hands won the Five Alive competition for the second
consecutive year while successfully defending their title
against a field of nine other contenders.
Five Alive Contestants
So Call Mass Troupe
Crackle, Pop Barney & Big Bird
Donkeys + 2 Baboons = 'Donkaboons'
This eccentric contest was, for all intents
over after the first two minutes of the required 5-minute limit
stipulation. Golden Hands were not taking any prisoners on
this night. The Five Alive rules limit groups to a
maximum of 5 players, but the group's orchestration permitted them
to sound much larger. Their approach brought back memories of the
great "Musical Youth", the Antiguan Five Alive record champion holder - who are now retired.
Golden Hands' tune of choice was "Sweet Dung Dey" by Antigua's
El-A-Kru. The song is
essentially about a woman from India who travels to Antigua and
experiences carnival for the first time. Their arranger is
Dane Hinds and their tuner, Birch Kellman. Their Five Alive
side consisted of Vanessa Hedley (2nd), Richardé Bereaux (tenor), Keon Marcano
(4 pan), Chisara Bailey (bass) and Devon
Golden Hands far out-distanced the
other competitors with a stage production that included drama,
theater and high caliber musicianship mixed with a deft musical
arrangement. Their special attention to story telling through
both visual choreographed embellishments and musical movements
served them well. In addition to mastering these
critical components of the performing arts, Golden Hands explored
new boundaries in 2007's competition. This year the
theatrical component of Golden Hands' routine continued throughout
their showing, and never waned as their musical performance
and arrangement continued to build throughout the presentation.
The Five Alive competition at the Moods of
Pan Festival has always called
for a delicate blend between musicianship and showmanship.
Golden Hands has indeed found that balance that has allowed them
the ability to simultaneously entertain and capture the
attention and imagination of the audience. This was done
via a commanding visual presence through their costumes, that
allowed the group subconsciously to keep the audience engaged and entertained
with their stage presence on one level, while serving up a serious
musical cocktail that meets and exceeds the substantive musical
judging criteria on another level.
The comedic and humorous characteristics of the show
continue to be a staple for the event, as the other groups with
imaginative names tried in vain this year to incorporate aspects
of acrobatics, comedy, dance, magic, music and theater in their
presentations. However, audience
involvement, as always, was extremely sought-after, as a
considerable number of points of the total
score, was predicated on audience participation.
The Five Alive competition has always been a
crowd favorite among the audience of the three-day steelpan festival.
Gemonites Steel Orchestra, the producers of Moods of Pan,
designed the show as a means of keeping the steelpan art form
and culture alive and in the consciousness of the
Antiguan & Barbudan populace outside of the carnival/panorama season.
Furthermore, it is expected to promote friendly competition
among the local steelpan groups, while keeping them at all
times, at the top of their musical game. The competition has
indeed done that and more, as it now attracts international
This year the first prize was USD $2007.00 and the last, USD $207.00.
As has been the case since Gemonites Steel Orchestra's inception
of the competition, there are absolutely no
middle prizes. Next
year Moods of Pan Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
As part of that commemorative observance, it was announced that
the first prize will be USD $10,000 dollars! In the past, groups
from as far the USA and the UK have participated.
This year, 3
Donkeys + 2 Baboons = Donkaboon, had the dubious
distinction of coming in last place. But for their efforts
they were given the $207 USD prize. As one judge put it
"they worked hard for their money." They provided
much humor and laughter - particularly one member, whose pants
provided absolutely no resistance to the air because of the
large, gaping holes. 3
Donkeys + 2 Baboons = Donkaboon may not have made a
musical impact this night, but they sure had the crowd laughing
and entertained - which is a major part of this not-so-serious
but still skilled competition.
The Antiguan Five Alive competition at the
Moods of Pan Festival continues to be unconventional, peculiar,
unpredictable, fun and extremely entertaining. Moreover,
this Antigua & Barbuda original music performance concept, is the most imitated steelpan music event
around, since the introduction
of "panorama". We cannot wait for next year when we are sure
the most diverse and largest number of contenders will be
hitting the shores of Antigua & Barbuda for the 2008 Five Alive contest.
The only question left is: will the Antiguan giants of the Five Alive
contest "Musical Youth" come out of retirement as
maybe "Musical Men," to attempt to return
the title back to Antigua, and to walk away with USD $10,000 at
the same time?