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 Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra 2011 Antigua’s Panorama Champion Arranger Khan Cordice - Up-close! 

In an arena where many have tried, but very few are successful, Khan Cordice has thrived. At twenty-one years old, he is young, bright, gifted, articulate, intelligent, charismatic, driven, immensely talented - and humble... In addition, he is one of the best steelband panorama music arrangers in the world.  In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, the arranger for the legendary Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra, musician Khan Cordice, shares his thoughts on his victorious participation in the recent Antigua & Barbuda national panorama, his passion for his country’s steelband movement, more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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Khan Cordice
Khan Cordice

WST - This is your second panorama win in three years; what was different this time around?

Cordice - The difference this time around is mainly the experience gained over the past 2 years; being enrolled at a university, working with different people and interacting with musicians from Antigua, Trinidad and other parts of the world.

When Steel Talks Exclusive iconWST - Going into this panorama Hell’s Gate and Halcyon were heavily favored to win; did that add additional pressure on you going into the season?

Cordice - Yes, it added some pressure on the situation. This is the third time I have arranged for national panorama and as a young arranger, everyone looks to you and is expecting you not to allow the other bands to win.  On the other hand, the pressure is good at times for it gives me the push to get things done at a greater standard in order to capture another panorama title.

WST - With one hundred players, Hell’s Gate performed the great Swallow’s “Satan Coming Down” - how and why did you pick that tune?

Cordice - Everyone asks this same question; why “Satan Coming Down?” Initially I did not make that choice. The executive of the organization did and at the time I wasn’t too familiar with the piece, but after listening I realized the beauty of the piece, and how that piece is a good choice for panorama 2k11.

Now, a lot of the public was, and I believe, still is, skeptical about the nature of the piece and how it ties in with the name of the band.  But we all know it is not a piece reflecting a religion or anything to that extent, so we (executive and I) decided to go through with “Satan Coming Down” for National Panorama.

Video from: N.M.E. Travels -
Hell’s Gate at the 2011 Panorama

WST - You are one of the youngest musicians to ever win a major panorama competition. And you are currently completing your musical studies at UWI (University of the West Indies).  Clearly you are expected to win every time you take the stage. Has that affected your approach to arranging your panorama works, and has this limited you musically?

Cordice - Being expected to win panorama at such an early age is a major task that I must say is a lot of hard work and dedication and also a great deal of pressure. However, for me it only makes me better at what I do. It gives me the urge to make better music, to try new things and to always remember to please both audience and judges. So it doesn’t limit me, but makes me want to explore more avenues for bringing a national panorama title to the Lime Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra.

WST - What was the most challenging part of this season?

Cordice - The most challenging part of this season was having to continuously remind the players of the severity of the competition, but I can’t blame them.  This is because over the past couple years, the band has become ‘smaller’ - not in numbers - but in the age of players playing for panorama; but this still doesn’t stop us from competing and doing what we have to do.

WST - What was the most fulfilling part of this season?

Cordice - The most fulfilling part of this season was watching these 8 and 9 year olds properly execute the difficult parts of the tune then running to me and asking me “Is that all?” ...I really didn’t know what to say...

WST - What was the most disappointing part of this season?

Cordice - The most disappointing part of the season was the thing that I or anyone else could not have changed.  That was the weather.  We had a lot of rain and even with the band house it still hampered the practice sessions. However, we had to struggle to find ways to rehearse in order to be ready for the competition.

WST - If you had to the power change it - what would be that ‘thing’ that must change for Panorama 2012?.

Cordice - If I had the power to change anything for Panorama 2k12, it would be to revive other bands around Antigua/Barbuda and make them be able to enter into the competition. There are other bands existing across Antigua and between finances, instruments and players, they are not able to enter into the panorama competition.

My main objective as a young musician is to let my country and the rest of the world see the importance of this musical instrument and the art form; to enlighten the beauty and versatility of what it can do and to show its significance as part of our Caribbean culture.  So, If I had the power, I would revive and assist bands, and find methods of going about pushing the importance of the art form and the benefits that could be derived from such a beautiful instrument.

WST - There has been a wave of new and young successful arrangers (Andre White, Andy Akiho, Iman Pascal,  Joshua McPherson, Kareem Thompson, Marc Brooks, Mark Garceran, Odie Franklin, Orisha John, Shenelle Abraham, Vanessa Headley) making their impression on the Pan scene globally like yourself; are you pleased with the change musically overall?

Cordice - Yes, there is a very impressive wave of musicians across the world and I am surely pleased with the level of music which they produce.  For the most part, I don’t think there is a matter of change on their behalf, but rather, more innovative styles of going about arranging/producing.

Some people around the world may dislike some of their arrangements because they aren’t accustomed to their style.  But my word to my fellow musicians is, to continue what you do because it is really hard to please everyone.  So, just put your best foot forward and always take advice from your predecessors.

WST - Much has happened to Khan Cordice since we interviewed you in Antigua a few years ago.  What has been the biggest change?

Cordice -  This is a hard question.  What is the greatest change?  I would say that the greatest change has to do with my maturity and my understanding of life and what I stand for.  I believe that there is still much to be done as it pertains to our art form (steelpan), and I will try my utmost best in assisting the art form in anyway possible, and aim to see how significant an impact I can make on the steel fraternity and the world.

contact Khan Cordice

Related article:  Hell’s Gate win 2011 Antigua Panorama

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