Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - The conventional small steel orchestra leg of Trinidad and Tobago’s 2023 Panorama competition opened up with a big, big, big bang - when Southern Stars from Siparia with the legendary Dr. Len “Boogsie” Sharpe at the musical helm dropped some science (reality juice) on the competition. Boogsie again reminded the world why he is the legendary Doctor Sharpe and most everyone else is just, well, regular, most of the time.
Indeed the good doctor held a Master class last night, Monday December 13. When others are wobbling and dabbling between major and minor scales or probing through Ionian, Dorian, Lydian, and or Mixolydian modes among others - the doctor went into full Boogsie mode.
The illustrious pan composer and educator Dr. Dawn K. Batson - says black holes do exist. And one would dare say, that every now and then, geniuses like those giants of the golden age of pan do escape and drop nuggets that will resonate and illuminate and inspire future greatness forever.
Southern Stars panyard should have been filled with UTT (University of Trinidad and Tobago) and UWI (The University of the West Indies) music majors taking notes, and examining – live, up close and personal - one of the greatest of all time. Not for the purpose of being another Boogsie – that’s not going to happen; it doesn’t work like that. However to feel and experience firsthand, the magnitude and music of the man in the greatest arena - the panyard - should not have been missed. But that’s another discussion for another time. The man does not ‘DM,’ Instagram, facebook, Tik-Tok, self-promote or boast. He just does it. And he continues to represent Trinidad and Tobago’s highest form of black gold - and we are not talking about Trinidad & Tobago’s crude oil, either.
Big-up Southern Stars Steel Orchestra, not only for their great musical presentation, experience and skilled execution by their young and extremely talented musicians who are leading from the front, and not bringing up the rear. But also to their management for their professionalism, community spirit and can-do attitude.
Yesterday afternoon, When Steel Talks realized we had no info on Southern Stars. We took a chance and DM’ed Mrs. Farida Sudama, wife of Southern Stars’ manager Haimraj Sudama on facebook about our dilemma. She provided us with some basic info and said she would organize something for us. Within one hour, Southern Star’s secretary Ms. Ke Shari J’knysa Caesar provided the band’s logo, and then proceeded to type up a bio/history ‘live’ for us. A ‘wow’ response indeed…
Trinidad and Tobago’s official live audio streams, and Panorama and panyard recordings for the most part continue to be somewhere between awful and unbelievably bad. This is not to say that Trinidad and Tobago is the only one guilty of this, but being the home of Pan Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) has to be held to a higher standard. Moreover, the country should be consistently setting new world thresholds for steel orchestra audio.
In an age of 9.1 and up audio/recordings configurations, in addition to immersive audio - creating and embracing the immersive experience is ‘king.’ Releasing and creating distorted monaural recordings of steel orchestras in any setting in 2023 is straight-up criminal.
Years ago another legend, the late great Max Roach instructed this engineer to keep the recording going, because you never know when Boogsie (who reminded him [Max] of Charles “Bird” Parker) might do something magical. In this regard, it would be an understatement to say that many magical, artistic and musical moments in T&T regarding steel orchestras, especially regarding Panorama - have been lost. Dr. Sharpe deserves much better than the audio quality delivered last night.
Take a listen to a recording of a Boogsie-led Moods Pan Groove Steel Orchestra out of New York almost 30 years ago. Quality matters.
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