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A weekend of Joy and Sorrow

Champs of Steel—great live music
Friday, February 19, 2016
Ace tenor pan players Michael Duncan, left, and Martin Cain share good vibes during Desperadoes Steel Orchestra’s performance at Champs of Steel Plus. PhotoS: SEAN NERO

The weekend past was a bittersweet one, saddened by the deaths of veteran musician Joey Lewis and Japanese pan player Asami Nagakiya but brightened with Saturday night’s staging of Champs of Steel Plus, hosted by Pan Trinbago Inc at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain.

Nagakiya was remembered in a 30-minute tribute paid to her at Champs of Steel by her PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars colleague Ayana Garcia and show co-host Sharon Pitt, the latter reading the tribute of Japanese sound engineers Yoichi Watanabe and Karsunari “Kats” Imani. A moment of silence was also observed in her memory.

Saturday’s production began at 8 pm, and ended at 1.30 am on Sunday. The programme featured the champions of Carnival 2016 of various components of the festival, as well as guest artistes including Jha-Whan Thomas as The Dying Swan—Ras Nijinksky in Drag as Pavlova; pan musicians the Cain twins, Derron Elles, Natasha Joseph and Yohan Chuckaree; and Farmer Nappy and 5 Star Akil.

With musical accompaniment by Kelly Greene & Harmony and chorus by The Kaiso Jewels, Champs of Steel Plus was produced by Pan Trinbago vice-president Byron Serrette.

When one considers that Monday night’s Grammy Awards lasted three hours, local producers should follow this template when producing events and try and not have them last for four hours and beyond.

A couple weeks ago a Pan Trinbago official took me up on this, making a comparison to the Woodstock Festival which lasted two weeks. But, in all seriousness, I thought this a poor comparison instead of, let’s say, the Panorama semi-finals or Dimanche Gras.

RIP Joey Lewis
The Savannah was also the venue for Lewis’ funeral on Saturday morning, conducted by Pastor Rawlston Bodkyn of the Enterprise Open Bible Church, and assuming the format of a back-in-times dance and concert. The Pal Joey Lewis Orchestra played many items before, during and after the service, with mourners obliging by taking to the dance floor.

The band was augmented by keyboardist Pelham Goddard, trumpeters Errol Ince and Enrique Moore, and saxophonist Malcolm Boyce. Singing Francine, who was celebrating her birthday on Saturday, rendered a medley of three songs. During the service, snacks and refreshments were served. After the service, Lewis was buried at Western Cemetery, St James.

Overseas-based show promoters, music producers and disc jockeys seized the opportunity of being still in Trinidad after the funeral of Joey Lewis to hold a renuion and lime at the Brown Court, Curepe residence of popular DJ Donald “Sugar Fingers” Brown last Wednesday.

Among the foreign-based and local showbiz folk attending were New York-based producer Rawlston “Charlie” James; promoters Hollis Kam, Clyde Henry, Pat James and Cliff Harris; and DJs Mike the Magician (Texas); and Michael “Scobie” George (New York). The DJs were unanimous in their intention of coming together for one big Carnival fete in 2017, if only to show how calypso and soca was played back in the day.

Oh for live bands on the road!
About disc jockeys and Carnival, I lament the disappeance of live music on the street for the two days of the festival. I yearn for those days when a masquerader would be thoroughly entertained by Roy Cape All Stars playing for Wayne Berkeley and Brian Mac Farlane, Charlie’s Roots with Peter Minshall, and Triveni playing with Trini Revellers.

On Carnival Monday and Tuesday this year, I am certain that I suffered some degree of ear damage with the countless trailer-borne DJs blasting what seemed to be the same selections over and over, ad nauseum, at levels way beyond those the EMA should permit.

Music on the road was not enjoyable and if one had to judge from the selections played, it seemed that only Machel Montano, Kees Dieffenthaller, Shurwayne Winchester and Patrice Roberts produced any music this year.

The only disc jockeys I heard offering any form of variety to their selections were Production Sounds with Trini Revellers and Mr Desmond of Crosby Sounds in Jus’ Friends. I cherish the memory of Roots performing Las Lap Time as Minshall’s band returned home on a Carnival Tuesday evening, as well as Tony Prescott & Surface performing on the road for Mac Farlane’s presentation of The Washing and Threads of Joy.

There’s hope, though, as I have been told by a little birdie that Minshall will be back on the road come Carnival 2017 and will have live music in the form of Pelham Goddard & Roots.

My other concern is the absence of steelband music on the road, especially on Carnival Monday night. Aside from Massy Trinidad All Stars, Desperadoes, Republic Bank Exodus, Courts Sound Specialists of Laventille, Starlift and World Wide during both days of Carnival, nary a live steelband could be seen or heard on the streets of the nation’s capital. 

Pan Trinbago has given me a litany of reasons why it didn’t hold its Groovy Pan on the Road competition on the road this year. I feel that Pan Trinbago needs to become more aggressive in its quest for corporate sponsorship to hold events like this one, as it is responsible for maintaining the participation, high visibility and longevity of a vibrant pan music presence in Carnival.

Drums of Freedom from tonight
This weekend’s big entertainment feature is the annual Drums of Freedom three-day bram in St James. The programme kicks off tonight with Video Night at 8 pm. Tomorrow at the same time, Reggae Night will be held and on Sunday afternoon, from 2 pm, Ellie Mannette Park, located at the corner of de Freitas and Alfred Richard Streets, will be open for a children’s treat.

This will be followed from 6 pm with a mammoth show, featuring top notch entertainment from the likes of Hadco Phase II Pan Groove, SuperBlue, rapso and reggae acts, and other calypsonians. Among the chief cooks of this annual affair are sound engineer Nyron Greenidge and the US-based Achee brothers.