Edwards and Trinidad All
Stars Steel Orchestra Looking to Return to Winner's Row - Thoughts
on the Panorama 2006 Season
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago - One week before the finals of the annual National Panorama competition in Trinidad and Tobago, Leon 'Smooth' Edwards is quiet and relaxed in the panyard of Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra on Duke Street in Port-of-Spain. Sprawled out in a chair, the Trinidad All Stars arranger was enjoying a few quiet moments while waiting around for a possible quick practice with a few of the All Stars pan players tinkering around on their instruments. On this night, though, part of the band was already en route for a gig at the Normandie Hotel in St. Ann's, while other players were also members of 'pan-round-de-neck' sides, and were away practicing for the finals to take place on the night of Saturday February 18.
Topping both the preliminary and semi-final stages of the competition has both the resident arranger and the band quietly confident. When Steel Talks asked about this, and Smooth admitted that they are all 'enjoying' the season. He called it 'entertaining, less stressful and fun.' This year the band is going with a 2006 selection called 'Soca Warriors' which is tremendously popular with the people of Trinidad and Tobago, in keeping with the nationalistic fervor sweeping the nation with their qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Regarding the choice of tune, Smooth says it was a 'unanimous decision.' In 2005, All Stars had managed only seventh place in the panorama finals with a 'back-in-times' selection called 'Free Up.' Smooth is of the opinion that a sort of 'damper' was thrown over the selection of an 'old-time' tune for competition, by the wide protests of arrangers from competing bands who went 'on the air' [local radio], saying that move was a no-no. He said that 'kind of propaganda' may have been bought by adjudicating officials, and additionally felt that there was a 'strong possibility' that kind of atmosphere did not help All Stars in 2005.
that the goal for the finals at this point is to have the 'hundred and
twenty players' sounding as one, 'which is a lot of hard work to reach
that stage' he said. Though the band is running it's full
compliment of players, the arranger says that the issues faced by large
steel orchestras to have a committed set of players for the full
panorama season, remain. About two years ago the arranger had
pointed out that the then-newly added categorizations of small and
medium bands were responsible for players 'playing for pay,' with fees
While Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold told When Steel Talks earlier on in the year, that only one paycheck per player would be forthcoming from the organization for the season, the All Stars arranger says that players get around that by using 'aliases' and maybe registering under a relative's name, and having them cash checks. Smooth says that players would not normally have such monetary incentives in the large bands until the season was finished, and prize monies collected, then disbursed to the players.
The arranger did not know that some sort of crowd had literally materialized, especially on the sides of the stage, for the band's semi-final performance of Soca Warriors, this after two in the morning - and said he was 'glad to know that know that there are some people' who still supported them. To keep the focus, Smooth says that the musicians were kept in the panyard, which is literally a stone's throw away from the savannah, and that they went up only when it was close to the competition time, this being a strategy that the band always uses when they are playing late. He seemed un-phased by the lateness of their playing position, due in part to the inclusion this year, of the small band category in the semi-finals. Smooth said that whether the band played early or late did not matter, especially as they knew that 'their tune was ready.' He noted that few bands could play at that hour, and still create an impact, as there was a tendency for the players to get side-tracked. Smooth said that the band was of 'a strong mind and able to execute well, regardless of what sort of injustice there may have been, deliberate or whatever, because - some people would try to - spread it out - for certain bands behind- to be at a disadvantage,' adding that they [All Stars] had 'picked up these things over the years and they knew the tricks, and they were well prepared.'
Responding to best wishes for the season as the band attempts to take the 2006 Panorama championship title, Smooth said he thought the band 'really needed it this year, as it had been a while since they had been to winner's row, coming especially after that position [7th] they were placed in last year; they definitely needed to make amends' ended the Trinidad All Stars champion arranger.
C. Phillips, Basement
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