2023 Panorama Info Complete

Results - Small Conventional Steel Orchestra Finals - Trinidad & Tobago National Panorama 2023 - Tobago’s Uptown Fascinators and Arranger Ojay Richards Capture Consecutive Title

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Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - Uptown Fascinators from sister isle Tobago got the job done. They set out to retain their title won in 2020 and did just that.  Returning with arranger Ojay Richards, performing the classic soca “Dollar” (aka Dollar Wine) and scoring 281, the players captured their consecutive championship, keeping the trophy in the small steel orchestra category in Tobago. One of their main challengers, the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra - themselves champs in 2019 - took second place with 278. Both New East Side Dimension and St. Margaret’s Superstars locked up the third position in a tie, each garnering 275 points.

Power-packed performances brought out the passion in pan lovers who enjoyed the best of respective bands as they made their final music pitches in the quest to top the category. This night’s competition was the culmination of many weeks of practice for bands in the South/Central, Tobago, North and East regions starting with the preliminaries, then making it through semi-finals, and at last - the finals. The musical back-and-forth was to represent performances which improved in each leg after scores and commentary from the panel of judges. It appears that judges - Joanna Short, Joanna Ragbir, Kenrick Noel, Lorna Conyette, Michelle Dowrich and Dr. Roger Henry - remained the same from the semis through the finals.

The top prize of TT $400,000.00 (circa USD $59,000.00) was copped by Uptown Fascinators, while TT $325,000.00 went to the second-placed band. With the tie in the third spot, the third and fourth prizes are expected to be summed and split between both orchestras. No band walked away empty-handed as there were prizes for all finalists.

The finals of the small steel orchestra category were held at the Queen’s Park Savannah on Saturday January 14, getting underway with Alpha Pan Pioneers, the first of six Tobago-based finalists. A tribute to the late Black Stalin showcased at the beginning, preceded the band. Playing in second place, Highlanders Steel Orchestra came with a big band attitude and sound to match.

Sixteen competitors took the stage, and Roadblock Steel Orchestra wrapped up the musical showcase with a resounding flourish at 12:45 early Sunday morning. Results were announced after 1:00 a.m.

The event was simulcast on TTT (Trinidad & Tobago Television) and Talk City 91.1 FM, though the FM audio was of less-than-stellar quality for the most part. That did not however impact the competent and generally exuberant hosting handled by Dr. Mia Gormandy-Benjamin, who was on point with her knowledge of and involvement with the steelpan art form. Her brief interludes with the arrangers, touching on how their work over the season evolved, and gaining insight into their music activities post-Panorama, were also welcome.

Tired but pleased, and with something left in the tank after his band’s high-energy performance for a quick chat with Dr. Gormandy-Benjamin - was arranger Kareem Brown of Highlanders. There came a reminder of what could transpire behind the scenes even with a great onstage performance. Declaring as he did “It was fantastic,” still - the reality check: “I had some challenges on ‘the Drag’ with players, I didn’t play with the entire group; a ‘Quadro man’ didn’t make it, somebody else didn’t make it. But they sounded very good, very good.”

Brown, not wanting to pick from the usual popular artists for Panorama, had decided on A Better Tomorrow composed by Mark Loquan during the pandemic. What did his players think? “The members, they weren’t too keen on it, because it was a song they didn’t really know; it’s not a song playing everywhere on the radio.” But as the arrangement started to ‘set in’ “they started to feel the song and fall in love with it....[from an uphill battle] - and then it was like rolling down, running down with a tire ring....it just magically came to life.”

He explained the band’s musicians are mainly from the Laventille area; additional players came in from Success Village, Pashley Street, the Beetham, some Trinidad All Stars juniors, St. Margaret’s and Sound Specialists. “It was a whole collaboration of players from different bands that came to actually make Highlanders, Highlanders. You can’t really depend on your stage side alone to push Panorama. [And] it’s difficult to invite people into the area and keep them safe....” For rehearsals with this band, he urged players to “leave your other band by the door; when you enter the yard: Highlanders....When you pass through that door, think of it like a portal, you’re transformed, and you’ve gone to like, this different place.” Highlanders placed sixth at the end of competition.

There were unexpected nuggets from the likes of renowned soca artist Machel Montano when he dropped by to chat with Dr. Gormandy-Benjamin, having taken the stage with St. Margaret’s Superstars as they served up Too Young To Soca - the ditty which launched his much younger self into stardom many moons ago back in 1986. “....It was just a pleasure to be out there and hear the great arrangement - to see the kids having so much fun -- it’s a wonderful experience.”  On his involvement with pan, he spoke in part on his current educational path: “I’m back in school right now, doing my Masters [of Arts] in Carnival Studies at UTT [The University of Trinidad and Tobago].

“So I’m doing panyard studies, calypso tent studies, carnival culture with Dr. [Hollis] Liverpool and Dr. [Rudolph] Ottley. So pan is actually one of my assignments, and my big project this year is I’m with Siparia Deltones; we doing a song that was done by Siparia Deltones, Hugh Masekela and myself. It’s called the Meeting Place; so we will be performing that together in the Medium band competition. But so many other bands calling me because they playing some songs. So when I got the call from St. Margaret’s I thought it was significant with the tune Too Young To Soca and their message. And then I met another young band, Under-21 category; [they] will be doing Pop- Ah Bottle. So I want to lend my support. And this is my way of immersing myself into the Pan. First time having the time to be able to do that, you know? It’s a joy.”

And St. Margaret’s message referred to by Machel, the same told to him at ten/eleven years old singing soca? The band’s manager speaking on their choice of tune for Panorama, shed some light on that with Dr. Gormandy-Benjamin. “Normally, seeing that we are a bunch of youths...so they always think “They’re youths, so I don’t think they belong here.” But we are not too young to soca.....Under St. Margaret’s brand we actually start from first year; so St. Margaret’s always has a flock of players. That’s why a lot of people would think that we ‘too young’ to enter this thing [Panorama]. But definitely, we not too young to soca!”

The second half of the presentation was overseen by respected veteran broadcaster Ruskin Mark who also had opportunities to bring arrangers to the table, so there was some understanding of the landscape within the art form. Arranger Ojay Richards joined him after what turned out to be his band Uptown Fascinators’ winning performance. Ruskin asked him about the overall steelband scene in Tobago, fielding ‘so many outstanding bands.’ “I think we’re just hungry for it; we are the sister isle, the smaller isle, the one that usually might get looked over, looked past, so we always feel, you know, that we have a point to prove, and we have the passion for it. And we put our best, best, best foot forward when we come down to Trinidad. Because we look at Trinidadians, and look at the Trinidad bands as the strong bands. So we say, “You know what? We want to show that we are relevant as well. That we have the tools to put forward, to ‘mash up de place’.”

Touching on the ‘understanding’ in place ‘from one band to the next,’ Ruskin spoke of - about allowing Tobago players to play with different bands on the island, Richards elaborated, “It hasn’t really caused any huge, huge issues. Like you said, we understand; we understand that we don’t have the amount of players we would like to have so we have to share. When we come to Trinidad, we don’t go as Uptown Fascinators, Pan-Thers, West Side; we come as Tobago, so we show that kind of camaraderie.” On the choice of tune, Dollar, Richards said, “Well, you know I like to choose old songs,” and the tune ‘would have to be something that the majority [of players] would know,’ which was indeed the case for Dollar.

With regard to improving the score in the finals in their case: “I study the judges’ sheets; that’s what I focus on. I check out what the judges are saying, what we could probably work on; I try to deal with that first, then I do my interpretation or otherwise.” Based on those sheets there was not much to be worked on; “It was basically like, some things could use more development,” says Richards, citing the introduction and ending as examples, which were to have been revised anyway for final competition. “Just little, simple things, maybe work on cleaning up your dynamics and stuff. So it’s nothing that we had to go and change a whole song about; it was just working on these certain points. When you could reach to that point where the judges have simple things to say and we could just work on these little tweaks, that’s when we know we are in a good spot.” On the future of Uptown Fascinators that fans could look forward to? Celebrating if they won again - check! - and using their win to push forward their brand as a band, being currently ‘unsponsored,’ gaining more traction, and securing better gigs. “We want the band to keep doing things throughout the year; then we’ll have seasoned players, and we’ll borrow less players [for Panorama].

For off-shore audiences a Pay-Per-View option was available via WACK TV.

Following are the full results for the finals competition for Small conventional steel orchestras.

Color Key East Zone Region North Zone Region South/Central
Zone Region
Tobago Region

Small Conventional Steel Orchestras - Full 2023 Finals RESULTS

Updating in real time
Uptown Fascinators


Ojay Richards
T&T Defence Force 

Raising Dust
Duvone Stewart
Duvone Stewart
New East Side Dimension

I Love Being Me
Kersh Ramsey
St. Margaret’s Superstars 

Too Young To Soca

Sheldon Peters 
Fascinators Pan Symphony

Long Time
Amrit Samaroo
Amrit Samaroo

A Better Tomorrow
Kareem Brown
Kareem Brown
Arima Golden Symphony

This Melody Sweet
Terrance “BJ” Marcelle
Terrance “BJ” Marcelle

Dear Promoter

Dejean Cain
Southern Stars Steel Orchestra


Out and Bad
Len “Boogsie” Sharpe
Len “Boogsie” Sharpe
Tobago Pan-Thers

Get Up and Dance
Micheal Toby
Micheal Toby
Fusion Steel

By Any Means
Darren Sheppard
Darren Sheppard
Alpha Pan Pioneers

Cheers To Life

Keishaun Justin Julien

Marina Marfan
Genesis Pan Groove

Burn Dem
David Yundi, steelpan arranger
David Yundi
Crown Cordaans

Mash Up
Koreece Graham - Steelband Arranger
Koreece Graham
Panosonic Connection

Calling Meh
Verryl Charleau
Marclon Byron
West Side Symphony

Calypso Music
Mickiel Gabriel
Mickiel Gabriel

  FINALS results >>> Small | Medium | Large

** Complete Summary of all competition Results

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