Steelband Panorama 2011

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by Dalton Narine

Panorama 2011Trinidad & Tobago - Now that I can see things more clearly since eye surgery, allow me to avail readers with more material from the 2011 Panorama. And, yes, I trust my ears.


Raf Robertson, musician:  Trinidad is not a music place. When people hear me talk like that, they say, “How you say that. People does be in the panyard for hours...” I say, “Whoa, whoa, listen, Trinidad is a fete place, of which music is a component of that.’’ I used to go by Tower Records in New York after midnight, and I would see people there looking for music. That is an example of music. And if I want, I could be very acidic in saying that, sometimes, Trinidad could be the place where they send people in the music world who behave bad.  Banished to Trinidad.


Fonclaire’s “A Raging Storm” carries a bold line that surely resonates both in the Grand Stand and The North Stand, which sits one-third empty in stark contrast to an arty light show playing all night on the ceiling, sometimes matching colors with uniforms of panists assembled at mid-stage, squarely in front of the judges. “Dey tief we ‘Pan by Storm’ in 1990.” Perhaps to underline that sentiment, players are dressed to the nines - in black. Maybe they plan to put that horrible experience to rest once and for all. Yet, they hope to reprise the rhythmic jam of two decades ago when Renegades snatched the title from their teeth. Jackals all of them, not necessarily fighting for scraps of prize money, for the whole hog. Like Phase II a few years earlier, they’d become victims of the half-point syndrome. Half a crumb dangling from bloodied lips.

Ken “Professor” Philmore, there then, here now, brings his war cry of vengeance, animating the troops to push this rack of pans by so and that rack of basses across the way.

Fonclaire Steel Orchestra
Fonclaire Steel Orchestra

He looks like Frankenstein in a long black jacket and a Peter Minshall hat, or a villain wearing a duster in an old cowboy movie. A bandanna enhances the image. When he strikes up the band, the beat recalls the sweeping breadth and pace of an era long gone. A raging storm suffuses the work from the get-go.  It’s the most technical score he’s done - it is how the ear receives the music at the tip of the baton. It all rains upon us just the way he’d summon the gods to work the effects - multiple timpani to augment the boom of basses and lower register drums, as if to underscore the theme, which, through the intro, the judges already will have gotten the message. 1991 had the taste of a saccharine workout. This year’s message arrives dark and hostile. What a treatment of the adjudication system! Maybe, it also has to do with 1991’s “Pan in Ecstasy,” which they might have filched from his back pocket, too. Pickpocket is the word on the streets. All in all, it’s Professor’s work. And it ought to be enough. He should remind himself at this stage in his career, though, that it’s never good to keep grudges. Or to go back to your old lady after 20 years trudging through a storm. Town remembers that you wuz robbed. Twice. Now, bury it. And wait till next year.

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