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Champion Steelband Arranger Yohan Popwell
in the Spotlight

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Sonatas 2009 Up-tempo

Sonatas 2009 Cool-tempo

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Sonatas 2009 Up-tempo

Sonatas 2009 Cool-tempo

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Powell speaks on his championship year with Sonatas Steel Orchestra

Under Popwell

  • 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 row.
  • In addition, that Sonatas- Popwell collaboration has won 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
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.

His name is Yohan Popwell and as quietly as it has been kept, he (pictured above) 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, and 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 primal passion - 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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