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New York Steelbands - 2006 Panorama and Beyond
- Grades A-Z
An in depth analysis of one the greatest annual performances of tuned  percussionists in North America

New York is a very competitive town.  It is not a place for the weak of  heart.  Like the saying goes "if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.  The survival of a steel orchestra in New York depends on its members possessing resiliency, stubbornness, being extremely resourceful and having undying, illogical love for the artform.  In reality any orchestra that makes it out of the gates in New York is a success story.  The Big Apple remains a hostile environment for steelband. Weather, space, local government policies and conflicts of culture and art continue to bedevil the movement.  Yet, like Jazz, America's only original music artform, it thrives, lives and inspires.  There are more young people playing the steelpan instrument than ever before.  Ironically in spite of its hardships, pan remains the urban instrument of choice.

New York remains the Mecca for the steelpan instrument in North America.  No place outside of Trinidad can match the numbers of steelpan enthusiasts and fans.  There are over 8 million people in New York and we dare say that the majority of them have or will at sometime in the near future, come across the steelpan instrument, largely due to the efforts of the NY panman and panwoman.

However, a crack in the egg is becoming visible as incompetent and selfish leadership is beginning to take its toll on the efforts towards steelpan unity in the community.  The frustration index among veteran players has increased and is higher than it has been in years.

Panorama 2006 and more...

Panorama continues to be one of the major driving forces in New York pan.

Sound: Z-
You continue to be the devil that you are.  You single-handedly destroyed another panorama.  Unfortunately there are no grades lower than Z.  Check last year for more details click here

Adjudication:  -Pass-

This year's judges had a very challenging task to perform, in a difficult setting and arena.  All the judges were alert and apparently handled their responsibilities as designated, as far as we could see.

Judges, alternate judge & related personnel

As we said last year - the judges' decisions are final and thus are not subject to question.  USSA-appointed monitor Mr. Lett, viewed the process.


Robertson, Popwell, White, Roberts and Elcock

Arranging: Changing of the Guard... NY in a State of Transition

This was a very special year in New York as it relates to arranging.  This was the first year without the presence of the great Clive Bradley.  Not only was Clive Bradley absent from the scene - so was Pelham Goddard, Jit Samaroo, Ken "Professor" Philmore and Len "Boogsie" Sharpe - all of whom are assured their place in the steelband music Hall of Fame for arrangers.

Emerging out of the shadows of the great ones are names like Arddin Herbert, Yohan Popwell, Keith Roberts, Raf Robertson, Freddy Harris, III, Andre White and Amrit Samaroo to name a few, to lead us into a new era of great New York pan music.  There will never be another Bradley but seeds he planted have already taken root.  The next great one is already here.


New York Steelband Governing Bodies - Fail
This is clearly a pass/fail situation.  New York steelbands need an entity that can champion their causes in an ever-increasing difficult operating environment.  The current steelband bodies haven't shown anything even remotely to let us believe that they are up to the task.  However, things can change but moreover, who steelband managements choose to represent them - is their business. 

The Bands - B (overall) {Pan in New York is like no other place in the world...}



ADLIB Caribbean Youth Panoramics CASYMCrossfireDespers USA D'Radoes Harmony NY MarsicansPantonic Sesame Flyers Sonatas
Utopia Pan Soul; the Next GenerationSteel Sensation  Women In Steel Pan Ambassadors Higher LevinBlack Love Steel

ADLIB Long Island's Finest.  speaker.gif (351 bytes)
When Steel Talks said last year that the youths of ADLIB are no longer satisfied with making a good appearance at the panorama.  This year the organization moved from their Freeport Long Island pan house to a new location in Uniondale, Long Island.  This was a good move for the organization, as it allowed them to bring the group outside for panorama practice for the first time.  ADLIB had great aspirations for this year's panorama.  However their efforts were bedeviled by the sound man.  In spite of this ADLIB made great strides forward.  André White emerged as their main arranger for the future.  There is nothing but upward mobility in the future for this sixteen year-old music phenomenon.  Unfortunately the pan community did not get to hear André properly at his panorama debut.  André is part of that new, young group of talented New York arrangers. In spite of this year's panorama disappointment, ADLIB will make their mark on New York's pan music scene.  It was good to see ADLIB appear on the band launch scene in 2006.

Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 10th | 10th | 10th | 7th |

For more on ADLIB click here

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Caribbean Youth Panoramics (CYP) speaker.gif (351 bytes)
CYP put on a passionate performance at the panorama.  CYP's arranger and leader Franklyn Gerald (an original member of the legendary Desperadoes) showed his respect and admiration for master arranger Clive Bradley as he guided CYP through their rendition of "Tribute to Bradley".

CYP is much more than a panorama band.  They are a committed organization with very dedicated members.  CYP was again one of the steelpan instrument's biggest ambassadors as they again set a new world record for attendance for a performance by a steel orchestra this year, when they performed at the prestigious Mann Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 11th | 11th | 13th | 11th

For more on Caribbean Youth Panoramics click here

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CASYM speaker.gif (351 bytes)
CASYM is one of the best steelband organizations in America.  CASYM,  led by arranger Arddin Herbert and captain Travis Roberts came into the season focused and driven.  The end results of their hard work was their capturing of the coveted New York 2006 Steelband panorama title.  CASYM put on a great performance at this year's panorama competition. Arddin Herbert has not only found his voice but is now one of the top young steelband music arrangers.  The group took the stage with the competition limit of  100 players this year.  This bodes well for CASYM's commitment to an investment in player development and music education.

CASYM continues to present a working model of how steelband organizations can be successful in an urban setting.  This year the organization continued to perform at some of the most prestigious events and places in America.

Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 1st | 4th | 2nd | 2nd

For more on CASYM  click here
Web: |

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CrossFire  speaker.gif (351 bytes)
CrossFire began the year slow but closed the gap with a late surge.  In spite of a difficult season CrossFire still finds itself positioned in a place to make a move into the upper New York steelband domain, with a credible performance in this year's panorama arena.  Brian 'Bean' Griffith returned as arranger.  You've got to love Crossfire.  In spite of their obvious panorama disappointments they were back out for J'Ouvert all smiles and jamming down the road.  There is life after panorama.




Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 8th | 7th | 5th | 13th

For more on CrossFire  click here

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Dem Stars
Dem Stars returned to the panorama competition this year, as one of the bands who joined the competition arena in 2001.  For 2006, Jit Samaroo was initially publicized as the arranger, but the task was handed over to his son Amrit Samaroo, a capable and proven arranger in his own right, with at least one championship title under his belt in the Junior National Panorama arena in Trinidad and Tobago.

Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 9th | 6th | 6th | 8th

Despers USA speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Despers USA solidified their relationship with their arranger Eddie Quarless,  now in his second year on the job. One of New York's veteran steel orchestras with six championships to their credit, Despers USA continues its evolution with an influx of younger players, bolstering the ranks of their experienced musicians.  Their 2006 choice of selection appeared to go down well with their members and supporters alike.  Despers USA's participation in the 2006 round of band launches showcased new material in their repertoire, delivered with their customary on-point execution.




Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 5th | 5th | 8th | 6th

For more on Despers USA click here

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D'Radoes speaker.gif (351 bytes)
D'Radoes aka Radoes is the other of the two bands Master arranger Clive Bradley arranged for in New York.  Like it's younger sibling Pantonic, there was concern about how the orchestra would respond to the absence of Mr. Bradley.  D'Radoes, primarily made up of veteran players chose noted Caribbean composer/musician Raf Robertson as their arranger.  Mr. Robertson brought a much-needed sophisticated musical voice to the New York pan scene.

The Robertson/D'Radoes maiden voyage took fourth place in this year's panorama.  The sound system also presented unwanted challenges to their on-stage performance.  D'Radoes remains an unpredictable but delightful band that has the potential to win any panorama it enters.


Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 4th | 2nd | 4th | 3rd

For more on D'Radoes click here

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Harmony speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Harmony continues to steadily improve both in terms of its players and as an organization.  This was indeed a breakout year for the young organization.  Their performances at the Summer launches were strong and impressive. Harmony's players have now started to develop their musicianship and performance skills as their players exude growing confidence.  That confidence clearly transferred into their panorama performance.  For 2006, their leader Mike Joseph and co-arranger Kirk Jardine must take much of the credit for the  musical growth displayed by the band's young people.  The future is very bright for Harmony as the management remain extremely committed to their players' development.



Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 8th | 12th | 9th | 12th

For more on Harmony  click here

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New York Marsicans speaker.gif (351 bytes)
A very different year for New York Marsicans, known in 2005 panorama circles simply as 'Marsicans'.  Once considered one of the New York power houses who knocked at the door for the championship, the organization went through major management changes since then.  The upheaval left the organization with a much smaller unit for this year's panorama.  The organization decided to go with in-house arrangers, with band captain Anthony Simpson sharing the reins with co-arranger Simon Romeo.  Look for Marsicans to regroup and move forward.



Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 12th | 8th | 3rd | 4th

For more on NY Marsicans  click here

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Pantonic speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Pantonic was master arranger Clive Bradley's flagship orchestra.  Pantonic is the organization that he held most dear and close to his heart.  This symbiotic relationship produced an era of classic steelband music and five championships in seven years.  However, for the first time in eight steelband seasons the New York musical juggernaut entered without Mr. Bradley - who passed away last November - at the helm.  The arranging baton was passed to Mr. Keith Roberts, the talented and capable year-round stage side arranger.  The sound system essentially obliterated any chance of the audience hearing the group's performance.  All eyes were on the organization to see how it would react to the loss of the 'great one' coming into this season.  The questions have been answered. Keith Roberts is up to the task. Pantonic remains the envy of the New York pan world - taking third place in this year's panorama with 100 players on stage.  Moreover, in spite of what had to be an extremely emotional and trying season, Pantonic performed at a high level.  The story continues.

Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 3rd | 1st | 12th | 1st

For more on Pantonic   click here
Web: |

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Sesame Flyers speaker.gif (351 bytes)
A work in progress that just continues to get better: moreover, Sesame is quietly closing the gap between them and the big guns.  Arranger Freddy Harris, III has brought a youthful approach to the arrangers' circle that has the pulse of Sesame's troops.  Sesame's management is dedicated to the forward progress of the steelband.  The organization has produced it's own DVD of it's annual Steelband Extravaganza concert.  Sesame Flyers will again be featured on the Basement Recordings-produced 2006 New York Panyard recordings. 



Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 6th | 9th | 7th | 15th

For more on Sesame Flyers  click here
Web: |

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Sonatas speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Sonatas remains one of the top steel orchestras in America.  Unfortunately, the panorama audience was again not allowed to hear the full brilliance and superb tonal quality of the orchestra.  Sonatas touts the best steelpan musical instruments around, and boasts some of the best players in North America; but their performance efforts were again stymied by shortcomings of the sound system.  Sonatas took this year's panorama stage with 85 players and placed 2nd in this year's competition.

The group remains well-rounded musically, as arranger Yohan Powell and management have provided stability and direction that have allowed the stage side to grow with a varied and entertaining repertoire. Sonatas will again be featured on the Basement Recordings-produced 2006 New York Panyard recordings.


Last 4 Panorama Placings >> 2nd | 3rd | 1st | 4th

For more on Sonatas  click here

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Utopia Pan Soul: the Next Generation speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Utopia Pan Soul: The Next Generation continues to evolve and raise the musical bar.  Their approach and sound are unlike any other steelpan group around.  Utopia has matured much.  They clearly understand how to hold an audience.  Utopia has added new players that have meshed seamlessly with its veteran crew.  Utopia's music continues to stretch steelband music boundaries as they put surprising and thought-provoking spins on classic tunes.  Their commitment to the policy that there is pan life beyond panorama, has served them well.




For more on Utopia Pan Soul  click here

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Steel Sensation speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Steel Sensation is led by Ian Japsi.  Their music is arranged by the talented and accomplished arranger Amrit Samaroo.  Every time one hears Steel Sensation, one is pleasantly surprised.  Steel Sensation is one of the most versatile groups in the city.  The band made some key changes in personnel without skipping a beat.  They put on an impressive performance at Sonatas' band launch which left the audience in awe.  The musicians of Steel Sensation are comfortable in any genre, performing with passion, skill, confidence and professionalism.




For more on Steel Sensation  click here

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Women In Steel speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Women In Steel (WIS) remains a New York staple.  The popular and well-liked group continues to be a major ambassador of the steelpan instrument - introducing new faces to the New York steelpan music scene.  This year,  while the group did not enter the panorama competition, many of WIS' players performed with major New York steelbands competing in the event.

The all-women orchestra continues to be a source of inspiration for women who have their eyes on entering New York's' pan community.



For more on Women In Steel  click here

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Pan Ambassadors speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Pan Ambassadors, aka Ambassadors is another one of the New York groups which refuses to be defined by panorama, and has chosen to remain outside of the competition fray for the last few years.  However one can usually find the band performing at summer launches and other social and community events.  Ambassadors did not disappoint its fans and supporters as the group delivered a wide variety of musical genres from pop to soca.





For more on Ambassadors  click here

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Higher Levin speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Higher Levin Steel Orchestra are the new kids on the block.  They are led by Tichard Chapman, their arranger and founder.  There is endless potential here.  The young people are focused, driven and talented.  Those fortunate enough to have caught them during the renaming of part of Brooklyn's Church Avenue to 'Bob Marley Boulevard', and more recently, at the 2006 Pan In The Park event, were treated to great steelpan performances.





For more on Higher Levin  click here

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Black Love Steel speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Black Love Steel has also injected some new blood into the New York pan scene but they are not exactly 'new kids on the block.'  Boasting some of New York's veteran steel pan musicians, the group is the brainchild of, and led by, Brian Nicholas.  Among the members are Nicholas' brother, Knolly better known as 'Nikki' (one of Bradley's 'kids') and full time member of Pantonic; Alvin Alexander of Despers USA, and Wayne 'Papits' Baptiste, currently a member of D'Radoes.  Together with at least two other Pantonic regulars, Black Love Steel continues to gain new fans when they perform.  Their appearance earlier this year at Utopia Pan Soul's fundraiser was very well received.  The combined experience of these seasoned pan players give them an edge out of the starting block, even though they are technically termed a 'new' group.


For more on Black Love Steel  click here

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The Show:  C {it was a mediocre production; pan folks' efforts and talents are not being realized to the max...}

Traditionally the major contributing factor of this grade comes from the efforts or shortcomings of the promoter.  This year, all parties involved have to take responsibility.  Yes, while ideally one would expect the show's promoters to deliver a first class event, it is incumbent upon the performing artist to respect his own art, his own culture, his own investment and supporting audience enough, to insure that no stone is left unturned to protect, maximize and deliver his performance. There are no rookies here.  Ultimately it is the pan people's responsibility to protect the artform and broadcast the steelband panorama music experience in the best light always, to the world.

Coming into this panorama season there were no unknowns or uncertainties.  It was the "same old, same old".  And that's exactly what we got - "same old, same old".  It is no longer okay for the artist (steelpan performers and supporting crew) to sit back and point fingers at the association and promoters and accuse them of incompetence, lacking talent, or being brain dead - be that as it may.  You are responsible for the investment that you have made in the art form, and yourself.

The original Saturday, September 2 show slated to begin at 7:00 PM with doors opening at 6:00 PM, was a total washout as a result of heavy downpour compliments of the remnants of hurricane ErnestoThe show's promoter, WIADCA, instituted an unprecedented All Day Caribbean Festival with the Children's Carnival starting at 11:00 AM, the Steel Band Panorama Competition starting at 4:00 PM and culminating with the Dimanche Gras show at 10:00 PM.   This meant that there would be three consecutive shows - in addition to an added bonus for the show attendee who could now attend the latter two shows for the price of one.

Both the pan community and WIADCA showed resilience and flexibility as the steelpan community was prodded out of its normal Saturday evening routine.  The earlier Sunday start time forced the pan community to move up their timetable in terms of the regular 'night time' competition and mindset.  In spite of the change in program and reduced downtime, the show began almost on schedule.

The showtime was promoted as 4:00 PM with doors opening at 3:00 PM.  This year we noticed that the bands were not wearing their customary wristbands for entry into the panorama.  Instead, they were given color-coded tickets specific to their respective bands.  This created some confusion as it was impossible for security to tell who were players and who were not after they turned in their tickets on first entry, and had cause to go back through the gates to assist in bringing in more racks, instruments, etc.

The 4:00 PM timeslot was unusual but both performers and audience adjusted well.  By the time band number three took the stage, the grounds were filled - there was standing room only.  ADLIB - the first band - was set up on stage at about 4:15 and the last band, D'Radoes, exited a little after 9:00 PM.  The results were announced at 9:47 PM.

Again there was no program for the audience in 2006.  This continues to be a mind-boggling omission.  The price of tickets alone, should guarantee patrons the common courtesy of printed information on who they are coming to see, order of appearance, etc.   Fortunately for a very small few, the people from J'Ouvert City were thoughtful enough to hand out a sheet with the listing of the performing bands, and their order of appearance.  These were gobbled up in a couple of minutes by info-hungry panorama attendees.

Have you ever tried to watch a video with bad sound?  It can't be done.  The key to any great visual experience is great audio.  The New York panorama is no exception.  Panorama is a musical experience totally dependent upon what you hear.

In spite of all the issues, short comings and problems, the performance of the bands would have made up for all of this, had the sound been just bad.  Instead we got the worst in recent memory.  This made the show unbearable at times.  Here's a joke to remember.  When asked by a miserable and tortured panorama attendee at Sunday's show - "why is the sound so bad"?  - the sound engineer in the nearby booth responded. "that [the bad sound] is a matter of opinion".  The sad and scary thing about this is - the sound engineer was right.  He was the one who was hired to do the job.  His was the only opinion that mattered - or counted.

If you stayed in the back and watched and listened as the bands warmed up and drilled, you got the pan show of your life.  This is pan at its best.  If you only heard the bands from the stage you were bamboozled, whipped and tortured.

The ingredients were there for a monster show.  The bands were ready to deliver as always.  Well - there is always next year.  Maybe?

Big Ups!!!

Special mention must be made of WIADCA officials Michael Greaves and Michael Young-Lau who we observed working non-stop from beginning to end, trying to 'out one fire after the next'.  A reality-TV video about their experiences at panorama would be very interesting.  A special thank you to Mr. Thomas Bailey for facilitating the media coverage of the event, and bringing calm and common sense to the table.  And thank you to Mr. Randy Babb for clearing the way.

Panorama Running Time Clock:  A {The bands completed their performances in five and half hours}  Not as good as last year but good enough...
  • 4:15 PM Sound Check for ADLIB
  • 4:27 PM National Anthem performed
  • 4:31 PM ADLIB begins
  • -:--   PM Dem Stars begins
  • 5:32 PM Sonatas begins
  • 5:59 PM CrossFire begins
  • 6:23 PM Sesame Flyers begins
  • 6:58 PM Pantonic begins
  • 7:28 PM Despers USA begins
  • 7:59 PM Harmony begins
  • 8:20 PM Caribbean Youth Panoramic begins
  • 8:40 PM New York Marsicans begins
  • 9:13 PM CASYM begins
  • 9:43 PM Radoes begins
  • 10:29 PM  Results announced
    6.25 hours total

Media Facilities

Same as Last Year

Stage Size

Same as Last Year

Prizes / Appearance Fees 

Same as Last Year but a non-issue -- bands do have choice --

Appearance Fees

Post-Production and Follow Up

Same as Last Year

Access (bands, players, management, arrangers, fans) B+ [The NY steelpan community is very media savvy and has a keen understanding of the importance of documenting, promoting and telling their own story...  Indeed it is often said "if it wasn't documented - did it really happen?"]

Compared to last year, this year was a piece of cake for When Steel Talks (WST).  Security allowed WST Steelpan Photographers to get the job done, once WIADCA officials cleared the way.  There was no video taping of the actual panorama allowed.  Of course you could find people violating this rule.

Curiously enough we understand that the steelband association had issues with WST taking photographs at the panorama.  The reason was never made clear to us.  This is particularly strange since all bands of New York except one had granted WST written permission allowing customary unprecedented access, specifically to take photos and gather footage of them, months in advance of the panorama.  WST usually catches heat from the WST family of steelbands for not capturing enough of their performances, especially photographs.  So you have to wonder who was the association representing this time?

New York Panorama - 2006 In Pictures click >> New York Panorama 2006 In Pictures.

J'Ouvert: B
The rescheduling of the panorama to Sunday took its toll on J'Ouvert as steelbands got out of the gates later than usual.  Nevertheless, the bands have to be commended for being able to leave panorama emotionally and physically spent, and turn around and hit the road a few hours later for the J'Ouvert celebrations.  What happened to all the out-of-town bands this year?

J'Ouvert - 2006 In Pictures click >> J'Ouvert 2006 Pictures In Review


Audience: A

Stage Sides: B

PR Departments  B
90% of the bands are moving on point.  We experienced a marked improvement in steelbands' PR departments getting promotional and performance information to WST in a timely manner.

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Related Links

2005 Pan In New York CD

An educational, historical, cultural and artistic masterpiece that showcases one of the most vibrant live music performance movements in the United States today...

The yard recordings are available at
click to hear samples