AND I’M ENJOYING THE HELL OUT OF THIS...
The Charlotte Street band had such a mammoth mission, one that took a hell of a lot of preparation in the dewy nights, that it may have seemed like a never-ending objective; like a dream in a house of horrors with endless rooms.
What came true, though, was the way the band lit up the stage not only with hellish flames but also a nifty reintroduction of Aaron "Voice" St Louis’ ‘Year For Love.’ Music well structured, it was an honest interpretation of Voice’s song.
Arranger Duvone Stewart with Renegades Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Trinidad & Tobago National Panorama Semi Finals
- photo: Robbie Joseph
I know Duvone. We had spoken about this Panorama night six years ago. And he believed. I’ll wager Duvone is celebrating victory with every one of his players, pan sticks in their pockets or the will of steel in their head.
One of the best Panorama events, period.
The band shuffled around moods with ease, defying Savannah Party norms in their smorgasbord of interesting material and diverse musical styles.
It was like Black Stalin channelling Lord Nelson channelling a hymn book in Voice’s living room with Duvone at the mixing console.
They set a singalong pace.
Fire go bun you.
All ah we is one family.
What yuh fighting for?
Uniformed in brilliant orange and red colors like that of flames of passion—panists and engine room percussionists alike—the band offset these effects with balloons and streamers, enshrining the moment as a golden opportunity to give peace a chance.
Renegades Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Trinidad & Tobago National Panorama Semi Finals
- photo: Robbie Joseph
Congratulations from the heart, Manager Michael Marcano. Big up to those steely musicians who resolved to make it happen. God is great. Voice and Renegades are twinned at the soul. It was fated. One of the best Pan festivals ever.
This awesome San Fernando band played as if they had an axe to grind: to wit, the irony is almost too perfect, considering that this panist/writer was on the verge of seeing 1990 redux all over again.
Pan by Storm’s arranger Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore, the then-Moses of the South, led Fonclaire Steel Orchestra and the Southland people in a great paean of triumph, but couldn’t deliver. He was bludgeoned by a loss of half a point to winner Renegades’ Iron Man, and told the nation on TV that the contest was an arrangerama and the future needed fixing.
The future is now, South. Hello!
Cleaner than the sound of heaven and sharper than a polished axe, Skiffle’s rendition of Kes’ ‘Hello’ woke up the night. They’d tied with Trinidad All Stars for fourth place in the semi-finals, so many a lover must have sat up to see, even in pan music, that if you bend a song into one of heartache to get it off your mind, would it arouse emotion? And, if said band would break an apparent anomaly that those who produced the wealth of Panorama titles, were they likely to achieve again?
Skiffle Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Trinidad & Tobago National Panorama Semi Finals
- photo: Robbie Joseph
Skiffle, numbering well past one hundred players, more so like 120, grabbed at my ear. (I always have an ear for a good song and this one is boss). There’s something enchanting and entrancing about it that appeals to the imagination.
Hello, Sista, you bring a gentle smile as if it’s the lamp of God.
She smiles. I want to dance with you.
Smile. We embrace.
She doesn’t give me the short shrift to the value of my endearment.
The music falls upon us like saccharine, sentimental, like heady foreign wine.
I’m in a hunt and chase mood. Hopefully, it will result in an exhilarating, intoxicating experience.
She whispers endearments and repeatedly smothers me with kisses.
The band’s voluptuous sounds course through our ears. Heartwarming, sensual even. Belly to belly with this steel pan melody. Woi! We mash up the floor. Me and this woman from South. Phone calls aplenty have this song singing like ringtones. We’re only but a whisper away.
Second place behind Renegades is nothing to sniff at, guys. Every other band pined for that spot. And now, Skiffle rates a mention as the second best steel band in the world.
Desperadoes Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Trinidad & Tobago National Semi Finals
- photo: Robbie Joseph
JUSTICE, reads a logo in front of the band. When you peel back to the panists and their instruments, the music is way more than the main artery of its heart.
A performance powerful enough that you had to rock back and listen to Zanda Alexander’s workmanlike assessment and orchestration of the song’s irresistible possibilities. Not like “Do Something for Pan,” but do something for the sake of the Republic.
Zanda built up the song in a way that he dazzled the crowd with his superb musicianship. Once again, he's proven to be a genuine heir to a throne that in the past felt the weight of Beverly Griffith, Robert Greenidge and Clive Bradley.
It may be a year of love, yet there’s so much to do, so many happenings that Zanda prods us to understand the music as it foretells a country’s lengthy courtship of law enforcement and acute national interest.
Arddin Herbert, I bet you wonder sometimes why I ride you hard. It’s because I interviewed you on TV when you were nine, and some viewers still remember the ace you dropped on me on that same Savannah stage. “I want to be all things pan, including arranger.” That was you then.
Now, you’re basking in the glow of success with a rousing performance of “Inside the Festival”, having placed your band fourth in this Rama of most all Ramas.
Invaders Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Trinidad & Tobago National Semi Finals
- photo: Robbie Joseph
I’ve never doubted you. On a Panorama night sometime, watch, you’d be on the pedestal, for sure. Oh, how we’ll celebrate, Arddin. Meanwhile, what an interesting look into the music box of festivals in the nation. Treats across the breadth of the country. You put on a fine show and were well rewarded. Best to you, sir.
TRINIDAD ALL STARS & SILVER STARS
Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Trinidad & Tobago National Semi Finals
- photo: Robbie Joseph
I remember Don Corleone mouthing off in The Godfather. “Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.”
Well, attitude is everything, even in Pan and Panorama.
Being Trinidad All Stars’ arranger, Cool Hand Smooth, aka Leon Edwards, will get you noticed in a more positive way than, say, your insecurities.
Since the band’s fourth-place tie with Skiffle in the semi-finals, it would’ve been a good bet that Smooth conducted his grueling fine-tuning exam in front of the players and a crowded pan yard. Well past midnight, the process still takes time to figure out the perfect tempo. The fastest.
“I’m looking for loopholes,” he would say in a throwback to longtime band leader Neville Jules’ hard-nosed reputation up in the garret on Charlotte Street.
As long as the band stays hooked on such biting demand of the players, the drill will never be defanged, leaving the Stars to remain true to their status as quote unquote a final night band.
As his longtime buddy Clive Bradley would shrug over a disparity of scores in a semi-final, saying, “I don’t look at it as eight points behind, they are eight points ahead.” And Brados would top that line off with a cackle.
To Confident Smooth, it was a matter of power. The music boomed beyond the Savannah stage. And he had TAS smoothly negotiating all those runs up and down, and back and forth. Lightning flashing all over the place.
The rhythm grabbing you by the throat and daring you to dance with those sugary frontline pans.
Obviously, you had the sense that Smooth was hellbent on pulling it off.
So, power matters when the music is well executed.
Like Smooth, Teague don’t play. I followed a few of his Panorama arrangements, gleaned his innovative style and learned of his affinity to composers such as Hungarian Béla Bartók (1881—1945) and other 20th Century composers.
Teague didn’t surprise Saturday night when he pulled me into his stylish performance of Lightning Flash. I’m a fan of Bartók and Esa-Pekka Salonen, a Finnish contemporary composer and conductor.
Liam Teague (at right), with Silver Stars Steel Orchestra at the 2018 Trinidad & Tobago National Semi Finals
- photo: Robbie Joseph
So, while Smooth flashed a song to, well, test your dexterity and overall trendsetting ability to not whiff on any note in an accumulation of myriad notes, Teague’s off-beat arrangement flew over the moon.
It was the most complete tie (for fifth) of any Panorama finals that I can remember. Two bands juking it out over what turned out to be a redemption song.
A word about the Medium bands: Zanda’s Siparia Deltones’ Leave Me Alone still ricochets in the mind. I keep playing it in my head, and on the computer at a high decibel level. Fus’ it sweet.
PHASE II PAN GROOVE and THE JUDGES
No need for The Phase to be in a hurry to pick up the pace, The band had “Hello” in their pocket from the get. They unpacked the song in Boogsie’s inimitable style — Music in B Sharpe.
You need to always listen to the four pans and quads, so it’s not necessary to cock your ear to get the ole talk between them and the tenors, double tenors and second pans.
My grandmother would say in patois, “Do what you always does, get what you always got.” But Len “Boogsie” Sharpe veered from that course and took a song, not his usual voice, and got, well, an experience.
Pan’s iconic I Music. Definitely, one of my faves.
Recall the 1986 Panorama.
Good thing I had shoved the mic in my pocket. Boogsie was remonstrating to me about the insignificance of a half-point, which he had lost to Smooth just a minute earlier — when the judges bellowed out the scores as daybreak inched over the hills.
“What is a half-point?” It was as if they’d ripped open Boogsie's heart and snatched his livelihood.
Just moments ago, Smooth was crowing in the mic that it was the trills and the dissonant chords that reflected a different side of Rudolph Charles in “The Hammer.”
Judge Marjorie Wooding on B Sharpe (1986): “He’s full of imagination, and I feel he has led the steel band into a new era. I said years ago that one of these days, we, as judges, would have to deal with this man, because I was able to appreciate his style. I was seeing an emerging jazz style coming through, which I admired. It was different—the chording, the rhythm, everything; and I don’t like stagnancy.
BB Sharpe won in 1987. “This Feeling Nice.” The song of the band.
B Sharpe, if you do not feel good about yourself over your 7th place finish, it will affect how you come off to those around you. They will see you as unsure and vulnerable. Hello! Growing a thick skin will allow you to stand up against Renegades, Desperadoes and Trinidad All Stars. The world, too.
Wait till next year when you bury lost treasures and polish your very own fine music into perfection. The judge was right. No need to blow off any judge. We get it. I Music is YOUR music. I Music should be displayed among CD trophies on a wall in the museum of modern music. It should sleep with the all-time greats of Pan.
Andy Narell & The Judges
“When I first arranged for Panorama in 1999 I asked to see the rules, which I read carefully. It said that you had to wait for the green light to start, and that we would be penalized for playing longer than ten minutes. That was it. There weren’t any rules about the music itself. Throughout the Panorama season I got an earful about the ‘unwritten rules.’ I felt it was my responsibility to break as many of those as possible, as long as it served the music. To whatever degree Panorama has become rigid and formulaic, I feel that those of us who are capable of composing original sounding music have to do our part to challenge the ‘system.’ This might be a good time to mention Ray Holman, who year after year has steadfastly refused to compromise his beautiful music to those so-called rules.”
Boogsie & Phase II: “Sometimes when I’m making a lot of changes the players accuse me of experimenting on humans.”
Carlton Zanda Alexander & The Judges
“What is the use of having all these criteria for reharmonization and motif development and then throw away, because you are not using that to judge anything. Forget that! It became a lot more clear to me that it is not necessary to do those things. Pan is a people’s thing and people don't care about all this motif and thing. We have been doing it before they call it motif development and melodic development and all that stuff like that. The judges are not using the criterion. I know what is reharmonization.”
“As far as I know, reharmonization has been a criteria for quite some time. if I recall correctly, it was on the score sheets when I arranged in 1999 and 2000. There isn’t much point to it if the judges don’t understand it. The same goes for all the other criteria - arrangement, rhythm, tone, etc. Nothing will change because the steel bands and Pan Trinbago are content with the status quo. They know damn well that a jury full of serious musicians would turn the whole thing on its head and they don’t want that. It’s holding the music back, but panorama isn’t about the music, as (the late) Pat Bishop reminded me during a radio interview. She said, “It’s about winning.” I think if we had the conversation now she would say it’s about the money.”
In a commentary published in The Caribbean Review, “Fine-tuning Pan Excellence For The World,” the late Trinidadian-born Orville Wright expounded on, and eloquently discussed, the judging of Panorama. His authority carried such great weight with Pan Trinbago that he is credited with changing the methodology of judging Panorama competitions.
Wright was a renowned panist and pianist who studied composition and arranging at Berklee. He was a Berklee faculty member for 13 years and then served as chair of the Ensemble Department for 15 years.
Wright: The whole story of Pan has been one of trial and error, including the judging criteria. I was shocked that there were discrepancies with the scoring process because of the use of the good old pencil/pen and paper in tallying the points. Somebody messed up and there was a bit of brouhaha.
Wright: Here are the criteria used prior to 1993:
Arrangement – 40 points
Tone – 15 points (broken down into quality of sound, quantity control, color, blend and balance)
Rhythm – 10 points broken down into life, freedom, steadiness and continuity
Phrasing – 15 points, broken down into shape, flow and melodic line. Interpretation – 20 points.
A CHANGE of JUDGEMENT:
WRIGHT: When I eventually saw the criteria (Exhibit 1) used in assessing the competition, I was immediately moved to write Owen Serrette, then President of Pan Trinbago. I pointed out the deficiencies with the tool used to assess the competition, and Owen made a bold move by inviting me down to conduct workshops. The result was a drastic change in criteria.
In analyzing the criteria, I argued that words like life, freedom, steadiness and continuity, quantity control, shape and flow were difficult to put in the context of a musical competition.
There was no definition of these so-called terms, so I wondered how the adjudicators applied them to the performances.
I also recommended the use of computers and a spreadsheet to tally the scores.
The following criteria were a result of the meetings and workshops I conducted in 1992:
ARRANGEMENT 40 points
INTRODUCTION: The ability of the arranger to compose an appropriate introduction for the calypso chosen as the prepared piece.
RE-HARMONIZATION: The ability of judging Panorama — FINE-TUNING PAN EXCELLENCE FOR THE WORLD
WRIGHT: Panorama 2011 is going to be a significant season for a number of reasons. It is the first time since 2006 that the Executive of Pan Trinbago, has taken a significant step towards addressing the process of adjudicating Panorama by reviewing and changing the criteria used in judging the competition.
PHASE II FAN:
“This is where I have my problem and as I have repeated on countless times, winning Panorama is more about excitement than quality of music which is my criteria when I want to revisit a piece in say June, July or August.
“The other concern for me is the speed at which you have to play, which, in my mind, makes a lot of beautiful music “suffer,” not to mention the resultant pounding of the instruments resulting in loss of their beautiful tone . As an arranger said to me, “You expect me to win a panorama at this tempo,” which I obviously understood, it being the nature of the beast. In recent memory, only Clive Bradley pulled it off with Nutones, re tempo.”
Phase II Pan Groove at the 2018 Trinidad & Tobago National Semi Finals
- photo: Robbie Joseph
See complete Panorama Finals Results
Dalton Narine joined Trinidad All Stars as a teenage tenor panist in 1959. His father threatened to beat him up if he caught him playing the instrument, but Narine soldiered on and his dad gave in.
Dalton Narine joins Trinidad All Stars as a teenager, rehearses the Band’s 1959 Bomb, Intermezzo, in the garret of the Maple Leaf Club on Charlotte Street.
Dalton Narine watched a movie among friends and was harassed for watching the credits roll. He was 12. They laughed at his quip that someday his name would be scrolling like that on a movie screen somewhere. Little did they know it was a prescient warning.
A similar scene played when Narine stopped learning the piano and walked into a panyard. Nobody believed him until they saw him playing classical music on pan on J’Ouvert. Eventually Narine co-founded the iconic PAN magazine and became senior editor.
Narine, an award-winning writer for two newspapers and a magazine, started working on a novel. But the chair of Columbia University film school steered him toward a screenplay instead. Your story is a movie, the professor said. Today Narine is working on his final draft, with two more screenplays in his head.
contact Dalton Narine at: firstname.lastname@example.org