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Sunday, July 30, 2017

A most powerful result emerged out of the sonorous, multi-talented, Big Five steel band musical of the last weekend. The performances created the space for a few of the greatest of our musical talents to perform and enhance the quality of lives.

Along with Exodus, Renegades, Phase 11, Despers, All Stars (inclusive of their sponsors) were the talents of tenor Eddie Cumberbatch, 3Canal, David Rudder and Pelham Goddard, Karene Asche and others, the show achieved exhilarating crescendos in musicality.

Add to the performing talents, the tuners, the arrangers—Dr Jit, Boogsie, “Smooth” Edwards, the organising and administrative and legal skills and know-how, stretching back to the late Teddy Guerra, and now including Martin Daly, SC, and economist Terrence Farrell.

This talent pool resulted in grand satisfaction for Pan Jumbies, the mellowing 40 something plus who grew up with pan in the steel band yards, at Panorama, on the Drag, on J’Ouvert morning in the Bomb competition. I am concerned though about the absence of the youth.

On the evening, at the Paddock adjacent to the Grand Stand, the Big Five triumphed over conflict, pulling and tugging and disorganisation to produce a musical evening of sweet pan plus.

Exodus from the East sounded the first notes, most appropriately in tribute to the Grand Master with Pan in A Minor, instantly reminding us of the sweetness of the minor key explored by “Dr Kitch”, who in the 1990s received a challenge from the arrangers of the day: “they all indicated they were getting bored and they would appreciate something new…. so ah told them I would change to the minor chord to see really who is who…Beat Pan.” Exodus pan players are fabulously talented and well-rehearsed.

Latin/jazz/calypso arrangements, and hand clapping Broadway-style pieces stood out. The band and its singer’s interpretation of GB’s Calypso Rising turned the typically melancholia into a celebration of achievement. Exodus’ accompaniment of Cumberbatch could not have been surpassed by strings and brass.

“One lovely nation under a groove,” is what we often hope for, we experienced a taste of it through the band from Tunapuna’s interpretation of Rudder’s “Ganges done meet the Nile”.

The first thing that struck me about Phase 11 Pan Groove was the diminutive, still boy-like figure of Boogsie. No longer is Boogsie the musical prodigy with the Che beret; he is now the accomplished maestro leading his band.

Phase II brought back memories of classic calypso pieces such as Merchant’s Um Ba Ya O and Sparrow’s Too Much Wood in the Fire, and Drunk and Disorderly. It seems only yesterday that Boogsie brought Phase II to represent the young black, and mixed, upwardly-mobile youth wanting change. It’s been 45 years.

Best representative of today’s generation of female pan players on the night was Phase 11’s frontline “Red Oman’s” (who know she nice) rhythmic dancing and “playing de pan” in that stylish and confident way of today’s generation “who doh have to run from police”. We should constantly say thanks to “them panmen who soak in police baton”, and endured the ridicule of the magistrates before sentencing them to stretches of imprisonment for playing pan.

3 Canal joined Phase 11 on stage with the word from the Rapso men: “everybody talking; nobody listening … but de fire next time.” The combination was exhilarating and cathartic.

Renegades—from 1948, almost 70 years of playing pan, to the present and having come through many trials, the joy of the band from upper Charlotte Street on the night was the medley of Dr Jit’s Panorama winning arrangements. The Renegades interpretation of Carlos Santana’s Maria Maria emphasised the Latin/calypso connection of our musical heritage, the West Indian Latin connection in the Bronx.

Desperadoes started with an American back-standard, Autumn Leaves. The clarity of what Bertie Marshall, tuner supreme, once told me he always searched for, the harmonics of the notes, sounded like a bell; the skills of the players from on the Hill were no better exemplified than by the 15-year old tenor player. And then they called on their queen from the Hill, Karene Asche with a soul-searching Every Knee Shall Bow.

The finale of Trinidad All Stars, the band from Hell Yard, had pan revelations and well-savoured sweetness.

My discovery of the melody created, seemingly out of character, by the flying speed on the tenor pans was the revelation. When Dane Gulston and his fellow tenor players went past ordinary limits of speed on the tenors, there emerged a harmony of sweetness that approaches a surreal world of harmony. The Moko Jumbies with their masks and ethereal look completed the musical experience.

Any performance by All Stars will always be judged on its replaying of Woman on de Bass. We left our seats, the over 40s, we could “play weself” even though in a subdued mode, no hard wine.

One of the poet laureates of the steel band, David Rudder arrived on stage with Pelham Goddard to tell the story of the panman: “This praise song was written for the panman…Out of yesterday’s rejection…ten thousand flowers bloom.” What of a show featuring the great Panorama and Bomb arrangements?

The lesson is that when we harness our talents and human and material resources we enhance our economic prospects to achieve social peace through the creation of spaces for all groups and we can obliterate the ignorance that stands between and among our peoples, it’s the only hope for the future.


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