This year, 2004, New York’s Steel band panorama was a
joint effort by promoter W.I.A.D.C.A. (West
Indian-American Day Carnival Association) and USSA (United States
Steelband Association), the representative for the New York bands. The
following is the
When Steel Talks
review of the show held at the Brooklyn Museum grounds on Saturday
Thousands of steelpan fans packed the Brooklyn Museum grounds. The show began on time without any noticeable hitches. A dedication to the late Rudy King (New York steelpan pioneer) was presented at the beginning of the show with his mother on hand. At the end of the show, the results were announced within 30 minutes of the last band's performance.
When Steel Talks give the joint effort of this year’s Panorama promoters - WIADCA/USSA - a grade of "C". The bands get a "B" for being ready for prime time. However if one is objective about the overall show, the grade of "C" .should be lowered to a "D", but solely and only - because of the extremely bad sound system.
Every effort was made to keep the show rolling once the first band got on stage. Indeed, the show moved with much more cohesiveness than in past years.
Mr. Michael Graves of W.I.A.D.C.A. performed yeoman work in keeping the lid on things. Much of the success of this show has to be attributed to his ability to problem solve and stay calm under fire. Moreover, Mr. Graves displayed none of the historical combative, nasty condescending attitude normally attributed to and displayed by W.I.A.D.C.A officials at past panoramas. His efforts should be applauded.
The sound system was belligerent as it turned the beautiful music of the steelbands into a loud garbled offensive mess. Until the bad sound issue is properly addressed and solved, the steelband panorama will lack the proper professionalism, due to the bands and keeping with their own star quality performances. The bad sound remains the single most damaging obstacle to having the event achieving professional broadcast quality and attracting the respect of a wider international audience. As a result of this both the promoter and performers are losing money by not having a product ready for mainstream broadcast in a time when there is so much demand for quality multicultural programming. It is time for someone to get arrested and do hard time on this matter. Directly to jail! No bail! No parole!
Moreover, does the sound system effect the adjudication process?
Each band had to overcome tremendous obstacles to be at this year's panorama. More than half the bands had a different address this year for their pan yard. And the other half faced serious practice restrictions or threat of homelessness. The constant struggle for a permanent practice space for bands will continue to have adverse effects on the quality of the bands' musical products.
This panorama was more competitive from the perspective that more bands put themselves in a position to win this year. As always the bands looked good. More than one band made some serious fashion statements. A lot of the bands are now using choreographed movements with their playing. While this does add another level of entertainment to the visual aspect of the show, the question is - how does it impact on the judges? And should it?
Same as last year. The WIADCA official web site has taken a turn for the better. They have now begun to upgrade the site. Not much more can be said at this time as it still under major construction. Hopefully some good steelband content in a timely manner on their website will not be a hope in vain.
The stage section was finally increased. The larger depth of the stage helped facilitate bands' movements on to, and setting up on the performance area. Pan people still struggled to get pans and floats up a steep ramp to access the stage. A solid backdrop or heavy tarp would help project more of the bands' sounds forward, toward to the audience. This would allow for more of the natural sounds of the instruments to come forward with less dependence on the sound system.
Horrible. At one point in the show the hostess thanked the sound people for the great job they were doing. That was not funny. And we were not drunk. Upon close observation of the sound engineers, it became obvious that these audio engineers are ignorant of the fact that something is even wrong with the sound. As matter of fact they are oblivious to the pain the audience was feeling. In their ignorance, can these "sound engineers" be blamed for that?
Last year for some reason there seemed to be a lack of pictures of the winning band. As a matter of fact the booklet given out at the prize giving ceremony lacked any pictures of any New York steelbands. Last year there was a follow-up DVD of the panorama. There is no public awareness as to how it was marketed and how well it did sales wide. Hopefully there will be another [DVD] to at least document this event from an historical standpoint.
It is the bands' responsibility to know who the judges are before the event. It is the responsibility of the bands to file for corrective steps if they have an issue with a perspective judge or sense any potential for conflict of interest - before taking stage. Their complaining now - after the results are "official" - is silly.
The New York Panorama has long outgrown its current venue. And that's a good thing because it shows progress. It is ironic that this panorama was dedicated to the late Rudy King. In a 2002 interview with When Steel Talks Mr. King lamented over the fact that he had performed in the first-ever held New York panorama more than thirty years ago, and that event was held in the back of the Brooklyn Museum; and that 30-something years later - it was still being held in the back of the museum. To him it meant that pan had not moved forward. The New York pan man's intelligence, ability, dreams, spirit, and talent are much too big for "behind the museum." Time to get this show on the road.
USSA/WIADCA should offer a public apology to the panorama attendees for the bad sound system. Indeed any music event with bad sound is unacceptable. Furthermore, USSA/WIADCA should be prepared to offer the show attendees a full refund should their be a repeat of this sound system debacle next year. It is time for this callous disregard to end and some sort of respect be afforded the paying panorama fans and performing artists.
And the wait goes on - for the program with a detailed listing of the order of appearance of the bands and other relevant information - i.e. bands' and arrangers' biographies, tunes of choice, number of players per orchestra, etc. Even free concerts give out programs! At the $30 US a head entry tag, a program is the least of the courtesies the paying patron should expect.
The 2004 New York Panorama was the place to be if you were a pan lover. It was the place to be if you had never seen or experienced this great musical spectacle called panorama. It was the place to be if you just needed to experience something spiritually uplifting and special. It was a great show (sound system excepted). However, the best acoustics were to be heard when the bands warmed up off stage as they repeatedly practiced their selections in their entirety. A salute to all the musicians who took part in this year's panorama. You were marvelous.
- When Steel Talks -
|The Bands - Up Close and Personal|
SONATAS (471 points)
Congratulations... They got the job done. Sonatas put together a package and plan designed to put themselves in a position to win. Rookie arranger - as far as New York is concerned - Yohan Popwell stepped up to the plate and delivered big time. It's been a while since the mighty Sonatas has been back on the championship circle. Sonatas overcame the severe restrictions placed on their practice schedule through the commitment of management and players. The players trust and enjoy Popwell's guidance and music. This could be a winning combination for awhile.
CASYM (453 points)
They were one of the favorites going into this panorama. The band performed extremely well - as CASYM always does. Interestingly enough this was of their arranger's best works. Band and arranger worked seamlessly... Playing in the last spot - most felt they would slam the door shut on this competition. Obviously the judges felt differently. The point spread of 18 points between them and Sonatas is questionable. Regardless, CASYM put together another great season. Second place in the New York panorama is nothing to sneeze at.
MARSICANS (435 points)
Another band that came out smoking this year. Their management and players should be commended for their commitment and dedication to putting themselves in a position to win. Marsicans is officially one of the New York powerhouses. Look for Pelham and Marsicans to retool and come out with a vengeance next year.
RADOES (432 points)
Radoes again showed why they are one of the most dangerous (musically speaking) groups around, and never to be taken for granted. They have the ability to win a panorama on any given day going away. However, as this year's performance showed, they can apparently run away with the title, - and then give it right back... As far as most people are concerned, they had the panorama won; except had it not been for that snafu at the end - they would be the 2004 New York panorama champions.
The band continues to improve steadily each year. Everyone had nothing but good things to say about the band. Look for Crossfire to establish itself as a major force.
DEM STARS (427 points)
It was good to see Anthony "Pra" Trebuse back on the scene as an arranger. Similar to most of the medium-sized bands, Dem Stars seems to be trying to establish an identity and musical presence through its arranger and/or players... Overall the band put on a good performance.
SESAME FLYERS (415 points)
Rookie arrangers Andy Akiho and Freddie Harris, III bring a fresh look and new enthusiasm to the table. Management and players have rekindled the interest and enthusiasm that once characterized this steelband. The group performed well and enjoyed themselves. Their future looks very bright.
DESPERS USA (407 points)
Still going through an adjustment period. The group is still led by crafty veterans who know how to win. They have made an investment in youth that will pay off eventually.
Easily the most improved steelband in New York since the 2003 panorama. These young people continue to impress with their enthusiasm. Their management is to be applauded.
ADLIB (393 points)
They are still looking for a breakthrough year. The management's investment in and constant nurturing and musical education of young people, continues to pay off handsomely. ADLIB has some of the best young steelband talent anywhere. They were one of five bands that played "War" as their tune of choice.
Arranger Patrick Davis continues to mold the sound of the band. They too have invested in their future by developing youth players.
PANTONIC (389 points)
As noted above - the sound system was horrible! Subsequently - being the first band on stage possibly impacted them severely. Having said this, a sound system in a competitive arena should not have had any impact on the judges. If it did, then a whole new can of worms is about to be opened. If their score is a reflection of the sound system then the judges gave Pantonic too high a score, because the sound was that bad!! Some reasonable explanation for their twelfth placing out of thirteen competing bands, should be provided forthwith.
Last year the band delivered one of the all-time great Panorama performances. This year's early start (and bad sound system, took the normal audience participation out of the mix. But the 100-strong steel orchestra gave an exceptional performance.
Pantonic is a veteran crew with an arranger with a proven
track record. In any regard, there is a saying about sleeping dogs.
And a big dog named 'Pantonic' may have just been awakened. It should
be very interesting to see how Pantonic comes back next year.
CARIBBEAN YOUTH PANORAMICS (CYP) (358 points)
A group of dedicated young people blessed with an equally dedicated and selfless arranger/manager - which despite panorama results, continues to persevere and move forward always.
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