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We Kinda Music:  White Clothes and Gravitas

(An open letter to Andy Narell)

by Dalton Narine

Global -  In an open letter, Dalton Narine proffers his frank sentiments of Andy Narell’s 2014 arrangement of the latter’s We Kinda Music as performed by birdsong steel orchestra for Trinidad & Tobago’s Panorama season.  Narell’s response is also included.

From Dalton:

“It is Carnival Monday night and I just this minute found We Kinda Music on YouTube. I’d have loved to hear it on a finals night.

“Its richness might have made a difference in the conversation among pan’s so-called cognoscenti.

“The song would have meant so much more to them, its significance defined and dignified by its sheer power and gravitas on this sensitive, though mythical, platform - the Savannah stage.

“As in soccer, space and adapting to pace mean a lot to how I view the game. And We Kinda Music cherishes those ideals in the cleanliness of, say, white clothes bleached and brightened on a mound of stones in a barrack yard in old Port-of-Spain; then rinsed in blue as if to outshine and blind even the sun as they hang out amid the babble of ole talk.

“Maybe detractors can’t see the music for its discipline. Could be it’s not their kinda shit.

“Maybe they’re still deep into the allegory of the shared latrine of their forebears, whose original music held a mirror to existential life as juxtaposed next to manifold neighbors trapped in a bittersweet and dread environment. Which, in the mild satisfaction evinced by immigrants, they called home - those spare warrens that coursed the city’s veins like heroin.

“That’s where your song, in the shadow of pristine clothing hung on "tramcar" lines and swaying with the east wind, seems to begin the story of a storied people in a land of fables.

“For deeper context, in an interview I conducted in her living room in San Fernando, long years before “Boogsie” Sharpe won his first Panorama in 1987 (This Feelin’ Nice), Chief Judge Marjorie Wooding said: “He’s full of imagination, and I feel he has led the steel band into a new era. I said years ago that one of these days, we, as judges, would have to deal with this man, because I was able to appreciate his change of style. I was seeing an emerging jazz style coming through, which I admired. It was different—the chording, the rhythm, everything; and I don’t like stagnancy.

“So, hold on tight. The view will always be there to behold. Or, be beheld.”

"Remember the line in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist? “Please, sir, I want some more.”

“Now, pan and its enthusiasts are all the richer for change. Would that there’d be more adjudicators with Marjorie Wooding’s futuristic view of the instrument and Panorama, an intergenerational conversation demanded by both!

“And, lastly, look how, from her Woodbrook gallery in 1992, the line Pat Bishop fed me, how it still resonates today. “We have this thing (pan) and we don’t know what to do with it.”

“The late doyenne of culture dared anyone to deal with that.

“Respect for the music.”


Andy Narell responds: 

“Dalton - thank you for the kind words, and for the poetry. I’m deeply gratified that you were moved by the music. I was pleased with what we accomplished. It’s very difficult to get a big band well-rehearsed these days - so many players are running around playing in multiple bands, or just waiting till the last minute to come practice, or their parents want them to concentrate on school, etc…. We pulled it together though, and I was proud of how they played at the semifinals, and pretty much satisfied with what I wrote.

“People on the track were really enjoying the music. I don’t take the judging seriously, except to say that I think we made our positions clear this year, that I won’t play panorama games with the music, and that they were not going to even judge the performance (the worst performance of the night? You’d have to be kidding), the music being not acceptable for panorama.

“As long as the steel bands are satisfied with the status quo and Pan Trinbago keeps bringing back the same type of judges who have little or no musical qualifications, nothing will change on that front. Fortunately, I don’t depend on Panorama success to get my music heard and continue working.”


Listen to We Kinda Music , one of Narell’s classics written several years ago, and birdsong steel orchestra’s 2014 Tune of Choice

Dalton Narine
Dalton Narine

Dalton Narine is a Miami writer and filmmaker, whose worldwide award-winning film Mas Man - The Complete Work, about Peter Minshall, the Trinidad Carnival artist and Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies legend, is available on home video as a three-disc set at

click for more on Dalton Narine

Related:  Exclusive interview with Andy Narell

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