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New York Steelbands - 2008 Panorama and Beyond
- Grades A–Z
An in-depth analysis of one of the greatest annual performances of tuned percussionists in North America

2008 Panorama Champions ADLIB Steel Orchestra

New York continues to be the largest and most vibrant steelband music community outside of Trinidad and Tobago. It is unique in that it is the only place in the United States where there is a huge musical and cultural  phenomenon built solidly around a single community.  However, this was indeed a very challenging season for the steelband franchises of New York.  These are extremely perilous times for the steel orchestras of the area.  Re-gentrification has hit the normal neighborhoods of the steel orchestras like the second coming of Christopher Columbus  -with disastrous and lethal consequences and effects, on what have been the cultural norms for about the last forty years, of these neighborhoods and their people.  The wrecking ball and greed of the unscrupulous developers, treacherous and weak-hearted New York Caribbean politicians, and the carnival event promoters - coupled with visionless and inadequate steelband leadership and representation, may have already driven the stake through the heart of the New York steelband community.  Is this a classic case of “dead men walking”?  Time will tell.  For the moment, there is still a strong heartbeat.

However, the poisonous brew that allows this situation to degrade further annually is the apathy, pettiness, incompetence, delusions that “things will always work out,” delusions of “grandeur” and more, and the “crabs in a barrel” syndrome - that continue to choke the steelband community, alongside the mas bands, who are both integral components of the New York performing arts community.  And while this continues, everybody from the local politicians, right up to the office of the governor, are working for the benefit of land developers with their future “visions” under the guise of re-gentrification to the detriment of the community and its customs, and laughing all the way to the bank.



The Good

Lisa Mayers, André White and family celebrate historic feat

As we’ve said in the past there is nothing in North America that comes remotely close to New York’s steelband panorama display of percussion instruments in action.  The youth involvement and development are strong and successful.  Indeed history was made when eighteen-year old André White became the youngest arranger ever to win a major steelband music panorama competition.  And just in case you are unaware, André, arranging for his band ADLIB Steel Orchestra, won from a field consisting of some legendary and guaranteed ‘hall of fame’ arrangers.   No surprise here - we did tell you it was just a matter of time in André’s case (check out our comments on ADLIB in our 2007, 2006, 2005, 20042003 and 2002 reviews).

Young arrangers like André White (ADLIB) and Khuent Rose (Crossfire) are major music talents.  The future is now - they are realizing their potential and will be major forces in the steelband music arena.  Groups like Utopia Pan Soul: the Next Generation and Steel Sensation have provided real nurturing and opportunity for their young musicians to develop and showcase their skills.  This investment in itself has begun to pay off great dividends for the steelpan community.  Indeed, groups like Women in Steel, Steel Sensation, Utopia Pan Soul and Pan Ambassadors continue to show that there is much more to pan in New York than a panorama competition.

New York remains the mecca for pan in North America.  The bands participating in panorama were smaller than previous years.  They averaged between 80 and 85 players.  However, at least three groups did hit the 100-musician limit.

As the performing New York Steelband population has gotten younger by default, so has the natural acclamation to popular technology by the steelband fraternity.  This has instantaneously brought the NY steelband community online, and on par with other performing and artistic communities as they are now part of this millennium’s technology-based social networks, websites and other current communication/entertainment media and relevant  devices.  It is no longer possible to simply ignore, forget or fudge the history and existence of  the New York steelband community through ignorance, or design.  Indeed it was just a few years ago a major University percussion professor told us that he was totally unaware of the existence of the steelbands of New York.  Moreover he was astonished at the musical caliber at which they operated.

As we said last year, most of the steelbands are becoming internet savvy and are online through one means or another. Some have become e-commerce active, and are finally learning to make their music work for them.  And, some have continued  to recognize the financial freedom and power that emerging technologies will have on every aspect of their lives. Some of the bands are beginning to understand how to market themselves to a global audience.  Not so necessarily the panorama event promoters.  Amazingly, with attendance dwindling as far as the panorama competition itself is concerned, thousands of fans continue to come to the event with virtually no marketing or promotion to expand the base.

Regardless of attendance, all the bands on panorama night looked great, epitomizing professionalism for their audience and the artform.  Their designs and fashion all accented their chosen themes.  Although, this is a music competition, don’t ever let anyone tell you “looks don’t count!”



The Bad

Yes, New York appears to be big, bad and in control on the surface.  But once you look “under the table” you will see an infrastructure that is out of step with the times in an increasingly hostile environment that is in direction competition for time, finances, resources and the very people the steelpan movement is depending on.  The steelband leadership are in a state of denial of the gravity of the situation, but facts don’t lie. Just look at how many steel orchestras have disappeared from the panorama scene in the last decade, falling victims to either bad management, financial woes, loss of practice areas, or any combination of these.  Moreover, once these steelband music franchises suspend operations or fold, the likelihood of a return to prominence is very doubtful.  Moreover the majority of the participants and players associated with these organizations retreat from the steelband movement forever - they stop playing and performing permanently, perpetuating the loss of valuable people and some phenomenal musical talent.

In a nutshell - absolutely nothing we said that was bad last year was solved.  These issues became worse.   click to see last year’s “Bad.

Gone from the Panorama scene since 2000

  • Pan Rebels
  • Metro
  • Moods Pan Groove
  • CYP
  • Marsicans
  • Tasso
  • Harlem All stars
  • Invaders
  • NY Nutones
  • Pan Phonic

Eleven orchestras took part in the panorama competition in 2007.  Twelve participated in 2006.  Only nine orchestras participated in this year’s event.  This could easily have additionally been whittled down to six bands due to the drama some went through to secure practice spaces, with as little as two weeks to go before the panorama competition.  It was only a few years ago when fifteen bands participated in the 2003 competition.  From a financial and business sense, no steel orchestra should participate in the New York panorama.  It is simply a losing venture and horrific financial drain.  Even the winning panorama orchestra will come out on the short end of the stick financially; factor in the ‘creative’ or ‘corrupt’ math employed - depending on the vantage point vocalized by the show’s promoters - where the bands who place 1st, 2nd and 3rd, forfeit their advertised appearance fees/monies/awards as a result of their high placing.  Why would anyone or any orchestra agree to such a scenario?  Evidently the panorama organizers have a counting problem.  And this has been the case for several years now.  This is apparently not the case in the Trinidad and Tobago panorama.  It appears all orchestras competing receive their appearance fees - whether they emerge the champions, or place second or third.  And they get their appearance fee before they participate - after all, the very name of it - “appearance fee” - is actually meant to assist the bands financially to participate, and to therefore make the show the annual musical and cultural spectacle it is.  You would think that maybe New York’s hapless steelband association could have at least renegotiated this incredible point in NY steelbands’ favor.  Oops -  we had better leave that for the “Ugly” section.

Now we’re not blaming the event promoter (who are also responsible for the entire week of Labor Day activities), - WIADCA, (West Indian American Day Carnival Association) for anything.  Their job is to maximize their profits and minimize their costs.  That is what promoters do.  And anything they can get away with - why not?  It’s their show and furthermore it is the New York steelband association or some other entity’s job to represent the interests of steel orchestras. 

However, it might be wise to keep in mind, the ongoing lessons of Wall Street, and to observe carefully what could happen when matters are allowed to proceed without oversight. Not only can you shoot yourself in the foot, but you can kill the geese that lay you the golden eggs.  In this regard, it is time for the top New York executives - the Mayor and Governor - to start answering some tough questions about the legislative, financial, cultural and economic past, present and future status of the entire Labor Day franchise.  Such as: where have the billions made over the past 41 years gone?

Our only question to the promoters, since it was asked of us by a few patrons is:  why were panorama attendees not allowed to keep at least half of their ticket stub when they came through the gates?  These folks were very piqued that they were unable to retain some portion of the ticket as a memento of their attending, for what was in two cases, their first panorama.  It is things like this that can cause folks minds to wonder... but we are sure the association has a firm grip on how many people actually attended this year’s panorama.

Like we said last year it has been thirty-plus years and counting, and we still have not seen the presidents of Percussive Arts Society, Paiste, Yamaha Drums, Pearl, Lugwig, Zildjian, Sabian, Latin Percussion, Remo, Tama and Gator - just to name a few - at the panorama.  What gives?  This level of disrespect is appalling.  If we have to mention this again you can be sure that we will move this issue to the “Ugly” section with the recommendation that the steelbands unite and manufacture their own lines of percussion instruments - such as the plethora in use within their Engine rooms.


The Ugly

With all the critical issues that are faced daily impacting the survival of steelbands in New York, the steelband association personnel have found themselves in a war over J’Ouvert.  LOL...  Ain’t got a pot to piss in - can’t name one significant accomplishment in six years of existence and y’all...  Borrowing a favorite quip from our illustrious Queen Macoomeh:  “Steups!!”


Panorama 2008 and more...

An interesting year overall for pan in New York.  The non-panorama organization continue to move forward.  Panorama 2008 was again fantastic in terms of the efforts and sacrifices the bands made to pull it off.

Sound: - Pass -

This is real funny as the sound at WIADCA’s panorama has historically been a source of much horrors.  Last year sound was done by Basement Recordings and by all accounts was excellent.  This year WIADCA brought back its regular crew who have been known to turn a panorama into a hideous distorted rock concert.

This year the sound engineer actually attempted a sound check. LMAO...  The thing is he only did it for the first band.  It didn’t matter anyhow - they got massacred by the sound system.  There were also occasions when short bursts of low-pitched feedback emanated from the speakers, caused by hilarious microphone placement.  But overall, the sound really wasn’t as bad as it has been in the past.  However, what was coming through the speakers bore little or no semblance to the awesome sounding orchestras who only minutes before would have been warming up on the runway to the stage.  It is just a shame that these well-tuned and balanced orchestras are not afforded the opportunity to present themselves properly on a panorama night to the audience, particularly after they have invested so much in presenting and creating the ultimate steelband music sonic and aural experience.  And it goes without saying that it is of deep concern that every orchestra of the night does not have their rightful opportunity, as competitors, to be properly heard and interpreted by judges without coloration.

Adjudication: - NG -

2008 Adjudicators at work

hmmmmmmmmm...  We haven’t seen the score sheets yet...

2008 Judges & related personnel

  • Judith de Four-Howard

  • Franklyn Grant

  • Tommy Crichlow

  • Jeff Smits

  • Ezra Joseph

  • Keith Preddie   (tally judge)

  • Wade Robinson   (time keeper)

As we said last year - the judges’ decisions are final and thus are not subject to question.  However, it would have been intelligent if the pan association had someone to monitor the process on the orchestras’ behalf.

Arranging:  - Pass -

We are becoming more and more concerned the arrangers are letting judges legislate taste and stifle their creativity through their desire to please the judges at all costs.  In this regard we are very pleased with the two young arrangers who dared to take chances and take us and pan to some place new.  It is also good to know that music lovers can bank on the solid work of the likes of the veteran arrangers such as Goddard, Popwell and others.  Winning isn’t everything.  Selling out your musical soul for a win has never worked.


New York Steelband Governing Bodies: - Fail -
It’s a year later and what’s different?  We won’t even give them a ‘Z’ grade because that would be too high.

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

ADLIB  CASYM CrossfireDespers USA D’Radoes Harmony Pantonic Sesame Flyers Sonatas
Utopia Pan Soul; the Next GenerationSteel Sensation  Women In Steel Pan Ambassadors Higher Levin Hearts of Steel

ADLIB Long Island’s Finest 
When Steel Talks said last year everything we need to say about ADLIB in our summary.  Of course ADLIB going out and actually winning this year’s panorama doesn’t hurt at all.  In fact it makes us look like geniuses.  ADLIB is a self-contained, progressive operation that exemplifies the modern urban steel orchestra.  They have in-house pan manufacturers, tuners, welders, pan stands builders, and arranger!

ADLIB brought it all to this year’s panorama.  ADLIB is blessed with a great management team, great players and a great young arranger. 

ADLIB is for real, and here to stay.  ADLIB is made up of quite talented and extremely humble people.  Their only challenge is to remember who they are, what it took to get to the top, and continue to work hard.  Always attractively attired, this year was no different when the musicians took the stage clad in snazzy white jackets, the band’s name boldly emblazoned on the left majorly in red, with white trousers.  They were topped off - literally - by red-ribbon trimmed white hats.

ADLIB’s tune of choice was “Heat” by Amrit Samaroo.  They took the stage with 85 players and delivered the goods.  A command performance indeed.  Clean, balanced, exciting and true to the storytelling expectations of the song content.  André’s transitions through his musical passages were that of a seasoned veteran.  In fact only the truly great ones have been able to master that skill set.  He nailed his minor mode criterion without any pretentious or canned moments.  His harmonies were both tasteful and meaningful.  There were none of the ‘just because I can’ moments that plague most panorama arrangers.  André White is very good and he is only going to get better.  The well-timed fireworks that coincided with a few bars of Maestro’s “Fiery” definitely didn’t hurt the overall presentation.

Congratulations ADLIB, you are truly champions.

Tune of choice:  Heat

Last 6 Panorama Placings >>  1st  | 3rd | 10th | 10th | 10th | 7th |

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For more on ADLIB click here
Web:; | ADLIB on facebook

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CASYM remains consistent and a prime candidate contender in its panorama appearances. However, they have not found a way to decisively separate themselves from their competition the last couple of years - which they have proven in the past that they can.  The reality is that CASYM lost this year’s panorama by one point.  CASYM - although its members are young in age, is a veteran crew which has been together for many years - been there, seen it, done it - would appropriately apply to them.

CASYM put on a great performance from an execution standpoint.  But it was a bit underwhelming by CASYM standards as it relates to the story of “Musical Vengeance,” though more than sufficient to capture second place in the judges’ opinions.  Dressed all in black with white ties, finished off with black hats trimmed with white ribbons and faces partially adorned with silver musical notes, CASYM’s visual presence on stage was outstanding. The ‘grim reaper’ flying ominously in the wind definitely allowed the audience to get into the spirit about what the song was about.  Their arrangement displayed moments of creative brilliance and deft musicianship.  In hindsight, their on stage performance was among the most impressive for the evening.  But the arrangement contained disjointed segments that lack the transitions you would expect to stitch everything together into a seamless musical tale.

CASYM remains one of the premier steel orchestras in North America.  Its stage side is one of the most sought-after steel orchestras year round.  In spite of a difficult year CASYM remains much more than a panorama organization.  Its educational programs are extremely successful.  This year CASYM celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Tune of choice:  Musical Vengeance

Last 6 Panorama Placings >> 2nd | 2nd | 1st | 4th | 2nd | 2nd

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For more on CASYM  click here
Web: | | CASYM on facebook

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Crossfire experienced a very, very challenging panorama season.  The lack of a proper practicing space haunted the band almost to the very end of the season.  The mere presence of Crossfire in this year’s panorama is a testimony to the commitment of their management, core players and fans.  Just surmounting the forces that were in their path for this year, in part caused Crossfire to take the stage with the smallest compliment for the night.

Crossfire’s 2008 panorama performance of their arrangement is easily one of the most musically intriguing moments of the year.  Unfortunately much of the performance was lost on the audience because of the sound system.  It was simply horrible during Crossfire’s performance.  Add the small size of the band to the sound system issue - well, you get the point.  However, in spite of all this Crossfire presented some revolutionary musical statements with regard to the expected musical norms of panorama presentations.  Obviously this approach was not rewarded, well-received  or processed well by the panorama competition judges.  Nevertheless it was truly refreshing to watch one of the event’s younger arrangers, Khuent Rose, and Crossfire’s young crew break with tradition and attempt to take the music and genre to a different and higher level.  Remember the Beatles never won a “Grammy” but that doesn’t lessen their music’s impact on popular western music.

Crossfire secured the services of  musical standout Khuent Rose as arranger this year.  Khuent Rose is a major talent who has his own voice and will be a major player and influence in the future of steelpan music.  This was his first opportunity at guiding an orchestra through a panorama competition.  Crossfire showed that there are many other musical movements from the Caribbean experience that can be easily inculcated within the panorama music structure to tell a wider and detailed music story from the diasporas.

We look forward to Crossfire’s next entry. 

Tune of choice:  Musical Vengeance

Last 6 Panorama Placings >> 9th |  8th | 8th | 7th | 5th | 13th

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For more on CrossFire  click here

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Despers USA
Like for so many other New York orchestras 2008 was a difficult one for Despers USA.  They too were faced with ongoing challenges of securing and maintaining their practice facilities in New York’s “steel orchestra housing [pan yard]” crunch.

After a few years of disappointing finishes Despers USA has finally turned the ship around and is now seemingly heading back in the direction of their championship years.  This year Despers turned the panorama arranging reigns over to their long time in-house stage side arranger, now-turned-panorama-arranger, Wilfred Kieal.  Under Wilfred’s lead Despers USA achieved one of its highest panorama positions in years.

Despers USA made absolutely no bones about their dissatisfaction with their place and the judging in last year’s competition.  After three years with Eddie Quarless at the arranging helm, and with less than acceptable results, the change in arranger was made.

Their tune of choice this year was South Pan Champs by E. Brooks and A. Daniell.  While this song was not widely known by the steelband music community, it did work well for Despers.  A more popular tune might have pushed them more toward championship contention, and would have also brought the audience response into the mix..  Wilfred Kieal is to be commended for moving the band six positions upward from last year in such a competitive field.

As we’ve said before in previous summaries Despers USA possesses quality players and veteran management who are no strangers to the winner’s table.  Look for Despers USA to continue to move forward.

Last 6 Panorama Placings >> 4th | 10th | 5th | 5th | 8th | 6th

Tune of choice:  South Pan Champs

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For more on Despers USA click here

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For the third time in as many years D’Radoes took the panorama stage with a different arranger.  From the band’s inception and up until his passing in 2005, D’Radoes had known only one arranger, master arranger Clive Bradley.  Since then D’Radoes have been trying to find a steady arranger, and moreover, regain their voice.

D’Radoes aka ‘Radoes’ turned over the arranger’s duties to veteran Eddie Quarless, who last year arranged for Despers USA.  This year’s tune of choice was “Oil & Music” by M. Montano & D. Rudder.  That choice went over well with pan fans because of the popularity of the song.

D’Radoes on the road for J’Ouvert

D’Radoes played first and as is customary, was crucified  by the sound system.  They suffered the worst of all the bands from the sound system on this night.  Booming bass one minute, followed by severe dropouts. Yuk!  A steel orchestra’s nightmare!  The sound engineer was practicing on them.  Nevertheless we have been told for years that the ‘live sound’ has no effect on what the judges are hearing.  Please... If you believe that you will believe anything.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The judges’ table was flanked by the two massive banks of speakers, which were almost aligned with respect to the table, and at an approximate distance of a mere fifteen or so feet.

Having said all this, D’Radoes’ approached this year’s panorama with a non-conventional tempo.  It was a deliberately slower tempo - in stark contrast to the expected fast-paced execution.  All the parts should have been distinctly audible - if the sound system had not been the vying with and overwhelming the orchestra, thereby most probably coloring the adjudication process.  D’Radoes’ 8th place finish suggests that the judges either didn’t connect with the tune, adjudicated the distortion the sound system dispensed of the orchestra, or an unfortunate combination of both.  However they pretty sure connected with people on the road on J’Ouvert  morning with the same tune.  D’Radoes owned J’Ouvert.  They were the life of J’Ouvert.

Last 6 Panorama Placings >> 8th | 7th | 4th | 2nd | 4th | 3rd

Tune of choice:  Oil and Music

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This is the second year of Harmony’s association with veteran arranger Ken “Professor” Philmore in their concerted push to cop the championship title, which was clearly Harmony’s goal this year.  In choosing Hooked by M. Loquan, K. Philmore and D. Garcia, the band once more opted for a panorama selection that was popular and resonated well among its enthusiastic and mainly youthful membership.

After a good performance in 2007 Harmony came into this season looking to close the gap between them and the ‘big guns.’  And in this regard, based on their fourth place showing, on the surface they appeared to have accomplished that feat. 

However, last year Harmony came in seventh place, but was only 9 points behind the third-place finisher.  This year, climbing up three spots to fourth place, they were 19 points behind.  So in reality Harmony’s young upstarts did not gain on the pack musically but actually fell further behind.  But to put this in proper perspective - only three of five adjudication scores were actually used (the highest and lowest were dropped).   This was not the case last year, when all five scores for each band counted. Nevertheless, Harmony showed much growth and excitement as the group hit the 100-player limit for this panorama.  The sound system was less than complementary to Harmony as they came across noisy and distorted with booming bass through the speakers.

There is a concern that Harmony may have grown too fast, and in the process lost its innocence and the things that made it a special organization.  When Steel Talks’ own personal experience in Harmony’s yard this year raises many concerns for Harmony’s ability to control key factors that could impact adversely on their progress.

Last 6 Panorama Placings >> 4th |  7th | 8th | 12th | 9th | 12th

Tune of choice:  Hooked

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Pantonic speaker.gif (351 bytes)
The 2008 panorama season was filled with surprises and challenges for Pantonic Steel Orchestra.  They experienced extreme practice issues.  In fact up to two weeks before the panorama they had not secured and settled into a new yard, and this is what makes them the other band that could have been absent from the competition this year - which would have then seen only seven orchestras without Pantonic and Crossfire, the other band with a critical panyard dilemma.  For any group as large as Pantonic this kind of situation at the last minute, would be major trauma.  To their credit Pantonic management and players pulled together and made a creditable run.

Pantonic took the stage with only 85 players - far less than the 100-plus juggernaut to which we have become accustomed.  However this served Pantonic well this year and the band was much tighter and cleaner in its presentation.  Pantonic was awarded an uncharacteristic 7th place.  While the arrangement and performance may not have registered with judges, the audience gave the group an ovation after their performance, and sure made their displeasure with the judges’ decision known.

Keith Roberts is now in his third year at the helm as arranger for Pantonic and has established his voice and style.  Pantonic’s history says that whenever they have not placed in the top three - watch out for the next year.  Look for Pantonic to be back in the mix for 2009.

Last 6 Panorama Placings >> 7th | 3rd | 3rd | 1st | 12th | 1st

Tune of choice:  Musical Vengeance

Recorded Musical Vengeance for Pan in New York 2008

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For more on Pantonic   click here
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Sesame Flyers speaker.gif (351 bytes)
2008 marks the second year for veteran and champion arranger Pelham Goddard of the famed Exodus Steel Orchestra, at the helm of New York’s Sesame Flyers.  The operating title or expression would be “the project continues.”  As we said last year Mr. Goddard is committed to developing Sesame Flyers into champions.  And similarly there is no doubt that is also the goal of Sesame Flyers’ management.

The Sesame Flyers Steel Orchestra’s homegrown musicians are becoming increasingly more comfortable with the style and expectations of a Pelham Goddard arrangement.  There is no question that the group has improved considerably.  And in this regard, they have now put themselves in position to turn the corner and challenge the front runners.  If Sesame Flyers puts the work in during the off season, look for them to step-up into contention.

Sesame Flyers in their yard - captured by Basement Recordings

Sesame Flyers remains one of the most progressive steelpan music organizations around.  They have an understanding of the need to properly document their performances and events with the best that modern technology has to offer.  Sesame is one of the few steelband organizations  that has continually  produced high quality video and audio recordings of their music works.  As we’ve said before, Sesame Flyers Steel Orchestra is more than a mere music organization.

At the panorama Sesame took a bold and calculated risk and removed their canopies for their performance.  It is WST’s opinion that this move actually hurt Sesame on a number of fronts - lighting, sound and video. 

First, from a visual stand point under lighting, the decoration of the racks with shining and glistening ornaments reflecting in the spotlights bring an excitement to the band’s performance theatre.  Indeed - the racks bouncing, dancing and swaying in time with a band’s music is an added visual advantage and connection with the crowd.  The racks and canopies serve as the traveling, housing and theater from which audience and judges will hear and view the band’s performance.  In other words, it is a traveling ‘home court’ advantage.  The removal of the canopies should have allowed for a better view of players, but since the producer of the show had no game plan to take advantage of this, it had no relative impact. 

From a sound stand point - the band did not project forward which now became a relevant factor with the removal of the canopies, that served as a natural and cohesive sound amplifier when they came together.  The sound engineers could have counteracted this as just part of everyday sound engineering responsibilities, but from the looks of their poor mic placements they were also not prepared to deal with, or take advantage of, the removal the canopies.  Video-wise, from the audience view of the jumbotrons, there were no outstanding or distinguishing video angles from those of the other canopied bands.

Maybe in the future Sesame, as the only band without canopies, should sit down with the sound, video and lighting teams as to identify ways in which they can function in the band’s favor.

The recent opening ceremonies at the Olympics in Beijing showed that viewers are not so interested in individuals, as they are with the drama, story and statement they make when they come together, with supporting visual elements.  Comparatively the coming together of the racks as the overall backdrop for the entire musical and visual performance influenced by the interactive movement of the musicians, characteristically create a similar statement for the audience.

Last 6 Panorama Placings >> 6th | 5th |  6th | 9th | 7th | 15th

Tune of choice:  Hooked

Recorded Hooked for Pan in New York 2008

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For more on Sesame Flyers  click here
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Sonatas speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Sonatas came into this year’s panorama as the defending champion and the favorite.  And they again put on a great choreographed, performance-filled arrangement that from the onset, captured the attention and interest of the crowd.  Now in their fifth year with Yohan Powell at the arranging helm, Sonatas has settled into a groove.  Sonatas is never going to beat themselves - they are too good.  Anyone who wants to win the  championship will always have to go through Sonatas.

Sonatas’ tune of choice was the Ten Commandments of Pan.  They dressed and played the part.  The only thing left was for Moses to appear and part the sea.  Too bad a professional video crew was not there to capture the performance.  HD, anybody?

Sonatas in their yard - captured by Basement Recordings

The judges had an eight-point separation between the winners and Sonatas.  The judges have been essentially the same every year so this is something to watch.  We have not seen any of the score sheets yet but that of Sonatas has got to be one of the more interesting.  Of course, that is assuming the judges remembered to make noteworthy comments...

Special mention is once more in order for master tuner Birch Kelman, as Sonatas again showcased the best sounding instruments in New York - maybe North America.  Unfortunately, if you only heard Sonatas through the sound system you were robbed.  If you were some of the fortunate people that caught Sonatas as they warmed up before taking the stage, you heard pan instruments at their best, and how they were meant to be heard.

Last 6 Panorama Placings >> 3rd | 1st | 2nd | 3rd | 1st | 4th

Tune of Choice - Ten Commandments of Pan

Recorded Ten Commandments of Pan for Pan in New York 2008

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Utopia Pan Soul: the Next Generation speaker.gif (351 bytes)
Utopia Pan Soul: The Next Generation continues to be that organization which is “doing it.”  Far beyond being a steelband of top notch musicians, they are event producers, recording artists, talented developers and educators.  Man for man (player for player) - no other orchestra surpasses Utopia Pan Soul in sheer music talent and steelpan performance ability.  However, it is Utopia’s vision and purpose that separate this maverick steel orchestra from the other talented music organizations in New York city.

Like we said last year, while most other people are ‘talking,’ Utopia is doing it.  That is not to say that they are not continually faced with the challenges of running a successful steelband in an urban setting like New York, including practice space.

Look for Utopia Pan Soul’s musical offerings on CD in the near future.  They recorded tracks for the project this summer.  Musically there is no other group with a musical voice such as that of Utopia Pan Soul.  Their colors and approach to voicings on the steelpan family of instruments are unique.  Utopia is unafraid to challenge our sense of the accepted norms in regard to steelpan music arrangements; they deliver new, striking, and thought-provoking musical passages that leave you wanting more, and challenge your normal sensibilities.

Once again Utopia was strong and “on message” on J’Ouvert morning with Zan’s popular 2008 ditty for the road “Out on de Road.”

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Recorded Musical Vengeance for Pan in New York 2008

For more on Utopia Pan Soul  click here

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Steel Sensation
Steel Sensation continues to be one of the special, non-panorama organizations whose focus is on musicianship and performing.  They continue to attract unique performance opportunities such as those at New York’s Tavern on the Green, while maintaining probably the most diverse repertoire of any New York steelband.

The band continues to maintain a strong J’Ouvert presence, and were on the road once again for 2008.


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For more on Steel Sensation  click here

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Women In Steel
Women In Steel (WIS) is a critical component of the New York steelpan music landscape.  The all-woman group continues to inspire and blaze new trails and opportunities for female players.  Ironically, WIS may have to consider spearheading a program to get city males back into the steel orchestras, where the overwhelming majority of players is now female, a reversal of what was the case many years ago.  

Women in Steel at Kings Plaza

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For more on Women In Steel  click here



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Pan Ambassadors


Pan Ambassadors, very quietly continues to do its thing.  Years ago they made the business decision to no longer get caught up in the panorama “madness.”  This has worked well for them - as Pan Ambassadors has avoided many of the destructive pitfalls of running a steel orchestra in this competitive urban market.  Indeed, there are several great NY steel orchestras now defunct, that may still have been around had they avoided the panorama crunch until they were amply prepared for all the rigors competition requires.  Pan Ambassadors does provide an alternative working model.


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For more on Ambassadors  click here

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Higher Levin
Higher Levin Steel Orchestra is one of the special steel orchestras that is developing out of the many steelpan music programs that are now found throughout the NYC Board of Education school system.   In addition to their normal school performances Higher Levin can now be seen participating in other festivals throughout the region.


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For more on Higher Levin  click here

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Hearts of Steel
Hearts of Steel - hmmmmm, we don’t have all the details, and frankly, we are not trying to find out.  But after a great rookie season (check out last year’s report) Hearts of Steel seems to have fallen victim to its own success.  The group suffered splits, break-ups and disharmony.  Nevertheless, which ever faction of Hearts of Steel was present for New York’s 2008 J’Ouvert, remains close to the people, as their fans were out in full force.

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For more on Hearts of Steel  click here



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New York Panorama - 2008
In Pictures
- click >> New York Panorama 2008 In Pictures.


The Show: - C -

Insufficient seating as always, no Event program, listing participants, etc. - are we missing something here?

Media Facilities  - While it eventually worked out due to extreme persistence on the part of When Steel Talks, what is the relevance of press passes given out by the event promoters, if their ‘larger than life’ personnel determinedly erode press access?  Fortunately, WIADCA officials Michael Young Lau and Yolanda Lezama-Clark stepped in and brought common sense to severe nonsense.

Stage Size  -   Same as Last Year

Prizes / Appearance Fees  -  Same as last year, but again, a non-issue -- once bands sign on the dotted line  --

Post-Production and Follow Up

We are looking forward to the HD versions with full 7.1 surround sound of the soon-to-be-released DVD of the panorama - with supporting full color magazine special.  In addition, there will be downloadable panorama ring-tones for your mobi devices - yea! And special panorama releases for your PS2s!  And there are going to be vivid giant color posters of all the bands available.  Sorry - not!!!!  We are just joking!!  As far we know, there are no plans for a CD/DVD to be made available for public purchasing.

Access (bands, players, management, arrangers, fans)-  B+-

The NY Steelpan community has been ready for prime time for quite a while now.

J’Ouvert: - B -
J’Ouvert was enjoyable as usual.  But while the crowd was still quite significant, it was reduced from that of 2007.

J’Ouvert 2008 - in Pictures - click >> J’Ouvert 2008 Pictures - In Review


Audience: - A -
The New York audience remains knowledgeable, supportive and extremely tolerant.  The composition of the audience is again changing as it parallels the diverse make up and backgrounds of the young people in the New York steel orchestras.  In the early 70’s there were individual steelbands representing almost every island in the Caribbean, peppered throughout the city.  Now, New York steel orchestras continue to reflect not only people from those islands, but also include non-Caribbean Americans, all amalgamated within the various orchestras, especially during the panorama season.  And by default, the audience mirrors that varied constitution of the orchestras.

Stage Sides: - B -

Special Mention: - When Steel Talks is thrilled to recognize several brilliant and up-and-coming young steelpan musical talents either beginning college, or continuing their musical studies at renowned institutions, with a focus on the steelpan instrument.  This illustrious list (which will be updated) includes, but is not limited to:

  • Iman Pascall of Utopia Pan Soul: the Next Generation - now at Berklee College of Music, continuing on from Florida Memorial University
  • André White of 2008 Panorama champions, ADLIB Steel Orchestra - brand new freshman at Berklee College of Music
  • Kareem Thompson of  Jambalasi, who continues his studies
  • Sheldon Thwaites - drummer for ADLIB Steel Orchestra this year, and who maintains connections with the New York steelband community, continues on at Berklee College of Music

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The famed recordings series continues...  Basement Recordings again captures the prominent steel orchestras of  New York City, the North American Mecca of pan, in their panyards as no other in the world...

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