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When Steel Talks -  Post - Steelpan Panorama 2005

           Date: 2.20.05

Did Judges Finally Get It Right?  Maybe?


Phase II was the best band on Panorama night 2005.  The band put on the best performance.  They had the best song "Trini Gone Wild."  Visually they looked good.  Their instruments were superb as they contracted some of the best tuners on the global steelpan scene.  They implemented a heady tactic by engaging the no-nonsense and unflappable Ray Holman -  a first-class, winning panorama arranger in his own right to drill and prepare the band for the competition.  And they had the best arrangement done by their leader - the great Len "Boogsie" Sharpe...   Simply put they were indeed the best.

So what's the big deal?  Well - on panorama night very strange things can, and have, happened when coming to judging.  Upon hearing the results in past panoramas one has sometimes wondered what planet were judges on during this musical event.  Panorama judging is very subjective.  It is not an exact science.  So it is open to all the human short comings, ills, biases and strengths.   It is not the intention to engage in judge-bashing here.  Being an adjudicator for a world-class competition is a very difficult job.  But there is no defending of judges here either.   It is a no-win, thankless situation.  And you are guaranteed that players, band management and fans of seven out of the eight steel bands competing in the finals, will hate the adjudicators' guts immediately after the competition.    But, with the large portion of the sixteen million TT dollar-pan budget set aside for prizes hanging in the balance, one must focus on the judging aspect of the competition.  Pan is big business now.   Lord knows judges have at times in the past earned the wrath and venom they received from fans and players with their outrageous and unintelligent comments and decisions.

Let's face it:  the best band who plays the sweetest music that moves your soul, and make you want to dance, sing and shout will not necessarily win panorama.  And the band that tells a story for the ages with their dynamics, key changes, seamless transitions,  modal changes while still embracing culture and tradition - and that generates deep emotions in your gut and heart, will not necessarily win.   And the band that displays deft navigation and talent with melodic passages and rifts that make you go "WOW" while sounding modern, adventurous, futuristic and spewing ancient rhythms that simultaneously hook you into euphoric hypnotic transitions - may not necessarily win either.

The band that is most likely to win is the band which best follows and addresses the rules as set out by Pan Trinbago, and which also does not stray outside what may have become the current arranging status quo for that period of time.   Sometimes in competitions, the judging mindset and criteria leave no room for musical genius, innovativeness and spiritual and soul-stirring experiences.  Maybe one day in the future, the Steelband competitions in Trinidad and Tobago will be blessed with guidelines and personnel which allow for a marriage of all worlds.

2005 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved

Pictures at Panorama Finals

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