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Songwriter Jovan James Rocking the Panorama & Carnival Music World Again - UpClose!

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

In the inner circles of Soca music creation and production, the name Jovan James is well known, as he has singularly written, or co-written, hits for some of the biggest Soca stars in Caribbean. The list reads like a who’s who of heavy hitters - Machel, Kes, Destra, Peter Ram, 5Star Akil, Teddyson John, King Bubba - just to name a few. 

From Machel Montano’s ‘Temperature’ to 5Star Akil’s ‘Different Me’ to 2018’s runaway hit ‘Sweet Fuh Days’ performed by Patrice Roberts - they’ve all come from the creative mind of Jovan James. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, panist and songwriter Jovan James speaks about his blockbusting success with producing popular Caribbean music for the party scene and adopted within the Panorama music genre.

When Steel Talks Exclusive icon

Jovan James’ music is currently rocking the party scene and the panyard world-wide. Although, maybe not intentionally  planned, he is arguably one of the most intriguing and influential talents in the obvious change of the course of music chosen for the prestigious Trinidad and Tobago National Panorama competition.

With songs like “Different Me,” “Good Morning” and “Sweet Fuh Days” as part of his songwriting credits - not since the likes of the legendary Lord Kitchener, Winsford ‘Joker’ Devine and the great Pelham Goddard were dominating popular/party music of their day - have the greatest steel orchestras in the world gravitated towards and embraced the musical compositions of a single musician so enthrallingly. 

Oh, and did we mention that Jovan composes most of his music with the steelpan?

WST - “You are a composer, but also a pan musician, and a past member of Merry Tones Steel Orchestra.  How did you first become involved with the steelpan instrument?”

Jovan J. - “I was exposed to our national instrument (steel pan) at a tender age. My father and other family members played and would always take me to Panorama. Dad always reminds me that there was a Pan Side at my christening.”

WST - “You used to play in Panorama - do you miss it, and why did you stop playing/performing, at least with a steel orchestra?”

Jovan J. - “I do miss competing in Panorama a lot. I remember one time playing on stage and tears began flowing from eyes. I had to stop competing in Panorama because of my profession... timings for my work and rehearsals clashed.”

Panist & Songwriter Jovan James
Panist & Songwriter Jovan James

WST - “You composed “Sweet Fuh Days” on tenor. Is this how you customarily compose, or do you at times use other instruments?”

Jovan J. - “The steel pan is the only instrument I play and I do most of my composing with it.”

WST - “ When you composed “Good Morning” sung by Peter Ram, did you ever consider it being performed by steel orchestras?”

Jovan J. - “[I] Never really considered it to be played on the steel pan because I knew the culture of steel bands is to play ‘pan songs.’”

WST - “How long have you been composing?”

Jovan J. - “I’ve been composing a while now. Even when I played pan with the stage side; I always used to make up my own solo at rehearsals.”

WST - “‘Good Morning’ was the most popular tune for Panorama last year; were you surprised by the popularity of the song in the steelband arena, considering it was already a smash hit from Crop Over 2016, then Carnival 2017 in Trinidad & Tobago? Ten steel orchestras, five of them large, ‘legacy’ bands - went to Panorama 2017 with it.”

Jovan J. - “I was very much surprised because like I said earlier the culture was for pan bands to play pan-related songs, so on hearing that was the case [it] had me excited.”

WST - “How did you feel when the realization sunk in that “Good Morning” resonated with such major steel orchestras that are global household names in the genre?”

Jovan J. - “I felt honored...(can’t explain it)”

WST - “You heard the arrangements of some of the steel orchestras of your music in 2017, what were your general thoughts on the musical re-visioning/arranging of “Good Morning”?”

Jovan J. - “I loved what they all did with their arrangements especially, Exodus and Desperadoes)... had me elated listening to their pieces.”

WST - “Do you drop by any of the pan yards to hear the tune in progress?”

Jovan J. - “I didn’t get time to last year but will definitely make it my duty this year to do so.”

WST - “How do you feel about the movement ‘back’ toward “popular Soca” as the Tunes of Choice by steel orchestras going to Panorama?”

Jovan J. - “I know it’s a major step forward for the pan industry whereas people of all ages will now be more attracted and interested in that segment of our culture (I call it ‘Sweet Pan Culture’).”

WST - “Already for 2018, three large steel orchestras—Exodus, Supernovas & Tropical Angel Harps—have chosen “Sweet Fuh Days” for Panorama. Do you think that there is something about your music creations causing steel orchestras and/or arrangers to gravitate toward it? ”

Jovan J. - “I think a lot of bands will always gravitate to my compositions because I was cultured in pan and I always try to keep most of my songs with that natural Soca/Calypso feel.”

Patrice Roberts performing “Sweet Fuh Days” written by Jovan James

WST - “Had you ever thought about a steel orchestra winning Panorama with your music, and what it would mean to you?”

Jovan J. - “Desperadoes won with my composition in 2016 “Different Me” - can never explain that feeling!”

WST - “ Who, and what are your musical influences?”

Jovan J. - “Everyone who plays a major role in the Soca Music industry and, well, of course, my family.”

WST - “What engages your time/interest outside of the Panorama/Carnival season? ”

Jovan J. - “I’m always ‘in season’ (has no season for me) always writing and composing all year round cause it’s what I love doing.”

WST - “What’s next for Jovan James? ”

Jovan J. - “Just to create more great Soca music for the masses and myself to enjoy all year round.”

More on Jovan James

2016 Panorama Champions Desperadoes Steel Orchestra performing
 “Different Me” written by Jovan James

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