New York, USA
- He is the arranger for one of the top steel orchestras in America,
Sonatas. And in 2009 he made a clean sweep by capturing championship titles in
steelband music Panoramas in both Trinidad
and Tobago - the home of pan - and in New York.
three of their
last six panorama entrées.2004 - War 2004
2005 - From Beyond
2006 - This One’s for You, Bradley
2007 - Pan Lamentation
2008 - The Ten Commandments of Pan
2009 - Bandoleros
- Popwell was recommended to Sonatas by famed Trinidad All Stars arranger
Leon “Smooth” Edwards
- With Popwell as arranger, Sonatas now has placed in the top three positions six consecutive years in a
- In addition, that Sonatas- Popwell collaboration has
His name is Yohan Popwell and as quietly as it has been kept, he
is one of the
most successful steelband panorama arrangers around on the world scene. In
a relatively short time Popwell has amassed a very impressive record from his
work in both his native Trinidad and Tobago and New York. Trinidad/Tobago and New
York remain, without doubt, two of the most challenging and difficult arenas in
the world for a steelband music arranger to achieve success because of the
competitive nature of the environs and high expectations of the people.
Powell attributes his success in New
York to the result of hard work,
paying attention to detail and taking nothing for granted, with both himself and
the band he works with - Sonatas Steel Orchestra.
The tried and tested veteran musician is a firm believer in putting the work in upfront,
across the whole panorama season, as opposed to cramming everything into the final weeks of
the panorama season. In Popwell’s model of operation, the majority of the panorama song should be finished
at least two weeks before panorama competition.
For Sonatas, Bandoleros was not Yohan’s initial tune of choice for New
York’s 2009 panorama, as he had previously arranged the song earlier in the year for Sforzata Steel Orchestra in
Trinidad for their national competition, and with which they went on to cop the
championship in the medium band category. In fact, he was leaning towards
Len “Boogsie” Sharpe’s Magic Drum but the Sonatas players took
more of a liking to Bandoleros. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Because of the setup of New York panorama - Popwell uses a
different approach to the “Gotham city’s” competition. It is essentially “one and done” leaving absolutely no room for error. There are
no preliminaries or semi finals; it is a one-shot deal. He comes to the panyard prepared.
For Popwell, the best thing in New York pan is the coming together of young people. The worst part of New York pan is the lack of
appropriate finances for the steel orchestras and players.
Music literally oozes from Popwell’s every pore. His
- PAN - has once more overflowed into his personal innovations, and taken the
form of the arranger’s own band called
Pantastic Players. The group fields twelve musicians
including Popwell himself and is somewhat similar to his old
band Panazz Players. The first ever concerts for Pantastic Players
came off November 6 and 7 and were held at the University of the West Indies in
St. Augustine, Trinidad. He was extremely excited about Pantastic’s repertoire of
twenty selections which featured varied genres of music and all with Popwell’s unique
‘branding’ - he did ninety percent of the arrangements. Practice for Pantastic started
before he came to NY to prep
Sonatas for their eventual championship performance
of his Bandoleros arrangement. Livin’ De Music, a CD compilation of the
selections performed by Pantastic Players at their November concerts was produced
beforehand and made available for enamored concert goers.
Now, once again - after chalking up his latest accomplishment
with the production of the Pantastic Players, Yohan Popwell naturally continues his tireless
pursuit and passion - PAN. Up next in his sights - Panorama 2010 - where
he is expected to finally step into the ‘big band’ arena arranging for San
Juan-based Harmonites Steel Orchestra.
More on Yohan Popwell
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