MY Space - Dalton Narine
Dalton Narine

Dalton Narine


 This doctor of Pan goes around dispensing his science of orchestration to PANORAMA LOVERS the world over

An Interview with Dalton Narine

© 2019 -  All Rights Reserved.
A When Steel Talks Exclusive

Carlton “Zanda” Alexander - Steelpan Arranger
Carlton “Zanda” Alexander

Zanda’s knowledge of rhythm, melody and harmony adds to the complexity of a band on the move as it primes itself for yet another Panorama victory

When you meet him, you’re drawn into his world of harmonization.

Suffice to say, he’s from the old school, leading you through the maze of his ideas and intimate knowledge of his craft.

Here he is, falling in love with a readymade song that effectively conveys thought and feeling — his adventures in music stamped as if in concrete.

Music in which inspiration and the expressive will know no bounds and in which, not least, his experience of the Western world reverberates.

A long time ago, Siparia Deltones arranger Carlton “Zanda” Alexander interpreted Shadow’s Naked Riddum not as jazz but extempo improvisation.

Zanda remained a darling to a raft of patrons following the band’s skillfully orchestrated performance in the 2012 Panorama Semifinals.

In this corner, his expression of jazz contributed to his articulation of all strains of unrefined folk. It signified that what he had subsisted on (his own cultural texture) was essential and influential, too.

That he carried the confidence to communicate his experience of the Siparia community was also fascinating as well as absorbing.

Despeadoes in the hill
Desperadoes’ panyard on Laventille Hill

Harking back to the 50th Panorama, I recall in my writings that it doesn’t matter that Laventille Hill is Desperadoes and the band is The Hill self. Even as the band trumpets a blowback repertoire that the average steel band would crave. And with Prophet of Pan metaphorically riding roughshod down the steep descent - no brakes whatsoever - to the Savannah party, Despers would have been hard-pressed to win an eleventh title for old time’s sake. Not that you couldn’t count supporters on one hand, and sigh long and deep.

Not forgetting, too, that once upon a time hundreds upon hundreds of Laventille folk, so it seemed, had been privileged to celebrate at will, not only on the Drag but also on the mega stage; half-bright lights beaming down on the orgy of music, the soul of the band partying like it was 2099; the band itself broomed in cocoyea. Yep, swaddled in an old world that protected it to the max.

In a word, swagger.

Wait till next year is no throwaway line when your feelings are hurt, when you have axe to grind, point to prove (to the adjudicators).

Zanda’s aim would be to explore a more expressive, fine art interpretation of his music

Well, the 2019 Panorama semi-final is upon us, and hopefully the road to Final night would bring a deep well of talent at Desperadoes’ disposal; when maybe, just maybe, the authorities will have made it happen for ordinary folk to drive up tortuous Laventille Road, to settle into the Despers “stands” and take in the makings of great artistry, the buzz of the city’s lights traveling viral around the Savannah from the panoramic view of your seat in the house.

Nowadays, on Tragarete, far from that madding crowd on The Hill, somewhere in the vicinity of Lapeyrouse and the new panyard, stick around any evening and see for yourself, long after the sun dies.

Catch the late show. Watch a parade of spooky characters storm the gate. It’s the carnival of the dread drifting in, a ratty play on Danse Macabre.

Whether Despers reaches “happily never after” will be predicated on reconnection as family on The Hill, in the short-run as well as the long-run.

Emptiness is as full as fullness, and Zanda’s band has been a remarkably steadfast and persevering branch of the old block.

Sometimes the effect can be so passionate you can’t believe chance played a role in the outcome.

Zanda & Nailah
Carlton “Zanda” Alexander & Nailah Blackman - image: (The Desperadoes Steel Orchestra Official Page)

Take Nailah Blackman’s Iron Love, for instance.

“The significance of the Iron,” Zanda says, “jump-started the song. “It’s a thing of beauty, because you’ve made it so right.”

“I always bring a fresh perspective at this time of year. Nailah is talking about a love for the iron. Ha, somebody go lose dey man, get it?”

Sure, hold on to your man during the Carnival. Any psychiatrist will drop that in a woman’s lap.

Zanda says Nailah spared no expense in getting her song to a top tier of the Panorama jammer, for the music is really jamming.

Is what’s happening this season heavy stuff, or what? “That’s right. The entire song is about iron. Lick de pan.”

“Women, too, have stories about pan. After all, you can find them pushing pan on the side. It’s like, come to me to get our story, the picture, our music.”

Zanda’s aim has always been to explore a more expressive, fine art interpretation of his music.

It’s as though the instrument culturally went back to the Kitchener era.

Nailah Blackman
Nailah Blackman playing Iron

Lord Kitchener:
Hold on to your man if you love him
Don’t ask me why
Watch him in de band when he jumping
For you could cry

Nailah Blackman:
(Iron man oh he sweeter than
When he lick de pan, Jam iron
Woman does leave they man) x 2

(Ah bring it, ah bring it, ah bring it
Ah bring it, ah bring it, ah bring it,
Bring de iron love) x 2

  Zanda and Nailah dance to Desperadoes peforming her song - ‘Iron Man’

“Pat Bishop used to say that the pan also must tell the story.” Zanda recalls.

“Ah bring, ah bring it.”

“As for the state of affairs of the instrument in terms of the bands,” Zanda acknowledges that “we beat ourselves.

“We must not be afraid of ourselves. The minor is where we speak. A Minor is the song, from minor to major.

“Oppression, the Blues, Reggae. Ninety-five percent of “No Woman No Cry” is in minors.”

Zanda says he schooled himself in the art of orchestration, finding great support from Thelonious Monk, Andre Tanker, Happy Williams, American jazz pianist Chick Corea and Michelle Rodriguez of the Dominican Republic.

Desperadoes Steel Orchestra performs  “Iron Love” for the judges in their Panyard, for the Trinidad and Tobago National Large Bands 2019 Panorama Preliminaries

Small wonder Zanda’s bold display of emotions rubs off on the Radoes’ players, the community, the band’s string band of hangers-on and, of course, it’s grappe of female supporters.

Play one for Charlo and the late Bradshaw, Bro., Despers’ much vaunted and true, true Iron men.

Iron is good for you, doctors admit.

In a few weeks, time will tell.

‘Iron Boy’ - image courtesy Maria Nunes
‘Iron Boy’ - image courtesy Maria Nunes

Both BP Renegades and Massy Trinidad All Stars, bands in Desperadoes’ vicinity, are on the prowl and ready to pounce.

God guides me, Zanda says, fearlessly.

Dalton Narine


Dalton Narine
About the author, Dalton Narine

Dalton Narine is a Belmont-born Trinidadian who dabbled in the arts and wrote about Trinidad & Tobago culture. He spent the other half of his career as a filmmaker and TV broadcaster during T&T’s annual Carnival. Narine is an avid collector of calypsos by The Mighty Shadow, a singer, he says, who had a knack for telling stories on himself and his own country that, at last, has embraced him.

contact Dalton Narine at:

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