Marc Brooks, Kendall Williams, Odie Franklin @ Skiffle Steel Orchestra’s panyard --
photo by Elroy Primus
by When Steel Talks
One thing is for certain this year at the 2016 Panorama Finals in Trinidad and Tobago; after Skiffle performs the structural integrity of the big stage and the North Stands will have to be checked. No doubt this big band from south, will have the Queen’s Park Savannah rocking on Panorama Finals evening. If the recently-concluded semi finals has taught us anything, it is that Skiffle under the musical directive of Odie Franklin, Marc Brooks and Kendall Williams is going to have much fun, enjoy themselves, and put down a performance that will let everyone know their contention for the title is as serious as a heart attack.
It’s been over 40 years since an orchestra from southern Trinidad has won the national Trinidad and Tobago Panorama championship. Hatters Steel Orchestra under the musical leadership of Steve Achaiba secured that top honor in 1975. Since then the ‘winning’ drought has been both significant, poignant and weighs heavily in the minds and hearts of the southern steelpan region, its players and supporters. Maybe this is the year the suffering ends. You never know. However, one thing that is certain: the field has never been more crowded with bona fide contenders for the title.
Humble, quiet, focused and immensely talented are the optimal descriptive tags for these three deep-thinking New Yorkers. Their ability to work together and produce seamless musical works has amazed many. But to those who know them and have watched them grown over the years - anything otherwise would be a surprising.
Coming off of their strong showing in the recent International Panorama, the threesome was pegged by Skiffle’s executive officer Junia Regrello to take the musical helm of the southern-based steel orchestra franchise. Skiffle, already a well-established and very successful institution has high expectations of these arrangers. And they have not disappointed. Playing the wickedly popular Caribbean ‘chune’ “How She Like It” by Hypasounds, they have brought anything but a conventional approach to this Panorama season. Their arrangement of the song has clearly captured the hearts and imagination of the young people of Skiffle, as witnessed by the spirited performance of the players. In addition to the band members, there has been a buzz in the community - curiosity and caution about whether these young men had the ‘right stuff.’ This has turned into full-fledged support for the band, with nightly visits and smiling faces.
In an earlier interview this season Mr. Regrello explained that he felt there were certain attractive traits that these arrangers could bring to the Skiffle franchise that would be beneficial. The New York Panorama season is always extremely competitive, compact, intense and energetic. Because of the NY environment, the NY Panorama embraces the ‘immediacy of now’ like no other. The NY format is a “one-and-done” contest - no do-overs, no second chances. It’s finals night every time out.
Skiffle and its arrangers have given the community good reason for high expectations and to keep smiling. After their successful semi-finals performance, it is now on to the finals where the three arrangers will be quite comfortable given their NY performance background.
The synergy between the Skiffle arrangers, players and San Fernando community has been outstanding - surely to be remembered as the year North and South came together. The Big Apple [North] urgency of ‘now’ attitude with ‘madd’ southern Trinidad performance skills.
Skiffle Steel Orchestra 2016 Semi Finals Panorama Performance