On the 60th anniversary of Panorama, it’s a time for celebration and reflection on the steelpan, the players and their bands, the arrangers, calypsonians and those composers from the steelband movement who have created music in this the greatest steelband competition.
Just a clarifying note to comfort for the historical purists. In the initiating year, 1963, the competition was called The Best Roadmarch Steelband Competition---Panorama came in 1964.
The country owes an unquantifiable and unpayable debt to the early pioneers of the steelpan as instrument inventors and those who added value after its creation. Winston “Spree” Simon, Neville “Cap” Jules, Ellie Mannette, Anthony “Muff Man” Williams, Oscar Pile and the many others must be remembered for their contribution in periods ignorant of the potential of the instrument and a colonial society which deemed the steelbandsman an “outcast.”
Special consideration must go to Ray Holman, Boogsie Sharpe, Alvin Daniel and others who composed and arranged special music for the steelband. Outstanding arrangers, “Muff Man” Williams, Clive Bradley, Jules, Earl Rodney, Junior and Edwin Pouchet and Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed, took steelband renditions to another level of musicality. A reflection on Panorama cannot be complete without Lord Kitchener, the Mighty Sparrow, Super Blue and other bards who created the melodies for the arrangers, panmen and panwomen to distinguish themselves.
While recognition is given to the 100-plus steelbands that have participated in the competition over the decades, All Stars, Invaders, Renegades, Desperadoes and great originating bands such as Casablanca, Tokyo, Dixieland, Silver Stars—the latter two the “White Boys,” college boys bands that created social and ethnic history—Cavaliers, Starlift and those that have faded from the scene such as North Stars, which won the first two competitions, must be remembered for their quality of music and the communities they represented.
George Goddard as president of the steelband movement in critical periods of the life of the pan, notwithstanding the controversy he often generated or perhaps because of it, is a standout.
Then Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams used his influence to encourage corporate sponsorship of the steelbands in that period when conflict raged among bands. Many such sponsors have stood with their bands, giving support in significant and publicly unknown ways, for decades.
Panorama has been of undoubted significance to the growth in the quality of instruments, the arrangements and discipline of steelbands and their members. Notwithstanding such value, however, the overwhelming pull of the competition has been said to have overpowered and constricted the bands from seeking out other possibilities.
That may have some validity; but it must be weighed in the balance against the quality of music created, the manner the competition has generated energies amongst pan communities on “the Drag” and in the maddening thrill of a Panorama final when their supporters have gone wild with delight.
The pioneering work now achieved, a gradual shift in focus and energy and the perspectives of especially the outstanding bands, can lead to a spreading of their energies and effort to delight and conquer the world.
Yes, the steelpan and band have been spread, but there is so much more pioneering territory to be covered and conquered.