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Panorama of arrangers

Published: 
Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Yes, the annual National Panorama competition is served by the best pannists on the planet performing on the best tuned instruments. After 55 years of the competition, globally acclaimed as the most prestigious steelband and percussion orchestra competition, Panorama is not so much a duel of who are the best pannists or which steelband executes best on final night.

Panorama is epitomised as actually being a competition of outstanding musicians, and which arranger best interprets a steelband’s Tune of Choice, judged by a panel of adjudicators on eight minutes of music.

Since 1963, these National Panorama finals have been enhanced by some memorable arrangements produced by some truly remarkable musicians, among them being Anthony Williams, the late Clive Bradley and Jit Samaroo, Leon “Smooth” Edwards, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Ray Holman, Robert Greenidge, Bobby Mohammed, Earl Rodney, Steve Achaiba, the Austin brothers (Milton and Rudin), Ken “Professor” Philmore, and the list goes on.

Who can forget Mohammed’s earth-shaking, innovative arrangement of Kitchener’s ‘67 in the 1967 final. With blackpainted instruments spilling off the Queen’s Park Savannah stage well into the Drag, south’s Guinness Cavaliers created history by repeating its 1965 victory, the only San Fernando steelband to ever win the Panorama competition more than once.

There are so many Panorama excellently arranged tunes of choice that to list all of my favourites would require much more space to itemise them all.

Apart from a few that have won the competition there are a few that were beaten.

Coming immediately to mind is Desperadoes’ 1982 and ‘84 runner-up placings with Bradley’s arrangements of Lord Nelson’s Party Tonight and Baron’s Jammer, respectively.

Prior to that, in the 1972 final, the competition was won by Harmonites playing Rodney’s arrangement of St Thomas Girl, followed by Tokyo playing Gerald “Belly Charles’ interpretation of Kitchener’s Miss

Harriman. But, several pan folk sat up and paid attention to Ray Holman’s innovative treatment of Pan on the Move, Panorama’s first “owntune” composition.

The Woodbrook band was placed third but the door was now opened for 45 ensuing years of “own-tune” Panorama compositions, Boogsie Sharpe being the main progenitor of this genre of steelpan composing.

Also within this category of memorable non-winners are Smooth Edwards’ 1987 arrangement of De Mighty Trini’s Curry Tabanca and Philmore’s treatment of Designer’s Pan by Storm in 1990, the southern band placing behind Renegades performing Samaroo’s arrangement of Kitchener’s Iron Man.

I also have indelible memories of Trinidad All Stars’ 1982 scintillating final night performance of Heat, also arranged by Edwards and placing second to Samaroo’s Pan Explosion.

I still have a vivid recollection of that final night when All Stars performed and the Savannah seemed to be an actual inferno hot fiery arrangement accentuated by the amount of dust raised on the night by throngs of supporters stage side.

Speaking of Renegades, another of the Charlotte Street band’s nostalgic final night performances was in 1992 when Samaroo succeeded in succinctly interpreting Kitchener’s masterpiece of Bee’s Melody but apparently not sufficient enough to impress the judges. That night the judges placed Renegades third behind Exodus and Phase II Pan Groove.

As stated earlier there are too many memorable victorious arrangements to list them all but I shall endeavour to name some of my personal favourites, the year and their arrangers.

Tribute to Spree Simon (1975), played by the top three bands in the final; Rebecca (1983), Clive Bradley; Pan Night and Day (1985), Beverly Griffith and Jit Samaroo, respectively; Woman is Boss (1988), Boogsie Sharpe; Iron Man (1990), Jit Samaroo; Musical Volcano (1991) / In My House (1999), Robert Greenidge); High Mas (1998), Clive Bradley; Different Me (2016), Carlton Zanda Alexander; and, Full Extreme (2017), Smooth Edwards.

Panorama 2018 will be served by some of the finest steelband musicians/ arrangers in the land so come Sunday, January 28 expected “cat piss and pepper” in De Big Yard Queen’s Park Savannah.

Large Conventional Bands will have their preliminary adjudication in their respective panyards and other nearby venues on January 20-23.

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