Thank you, Adrian, for this post. It's a great service to put it all on the record.
It's especially helpful for those such as I who have been away from the scene.
I'm working my way through it.
I see you put Phase 2 at the top of the list. I wonder why:) This is certainly music of a high order, with musicianship to match. The only trouble I see is the issue of genre. Is this a Panorama tune, Panorama plus, or Panorama minus? Musical influences and trends being what they are, I think I agree with the poster that said something (on another blog somewhere) to the effect that Boogsie has been andynarized,
Like the judges, I was impressed by Zanda's work with Despers. I've liked Zanda at least since "I'm not drunk" with Deltones. He's on to something. I'll let the musicologists tell us exactly what.
I'm working my way through the others...
S.F.Thomas it is only Zamda and Boogsie that is taking the music away from the norm, all the rest is same old same old.
Good observation. See my reply below to Bugs...
- Big Sid
Zanda is indeed challenging both the judges and the fans to step out of their comfort zones and listen. It will be interesting to see how Boogsie responds. No one since the death of Clive Bradley has forced Boogsie to step out of this musical complacency he has fallen into. The potential for this to become a game changing Panorama musically is refreshing.
You might be right, although I never saw Boogsie's genius as being complacent. Restless is more like it. But you're right that his genius is easily provoked. Given challenge, you can count on genius to respond. Consider Lara, consider Muhammad Ali.
Trinidad steelband panorama, from its founding, was set up as a genius-vs-genius, who-better-than-who, kind of contest. Where else in the world has such a format persisted, I wonder? So I doubt very much that Boogsie's inclination is to be complacent. Even with all the laurels, genius has a way of calling attention to itself, and sometimes positively to seek it. The very name of his band -- Phase II -- calls attention to something new and avant garde. All these many years later, Boogsie's genius calls attention to itself, even if now, older and wiser, Boogsie projects a mellowed humility.
I for one do not resent his genius. But he has had many detractors who take the evidence of his genius as intrinsically a character flaw -- the desire merely to show off. That is the burden of genius. It calls attention to itself, even if the genius in question is a very humble guy.
Bradley and Jit also were geniuses, and I would definitely add Smooth to that illustrious company. But somehow none of these were seen as show-offs. Why that is is a good question. The same kind of issue surrounded Lara and Ali to take just two examples.
In the present, musical context, I think it has to do with the nature of a folk music and a folk art more generally. One way for genius to assert itself is by taking the art outside of the "zone of comfort" as you call it. That is what Boogsie's muse called upon him to do. Or maybe he was in fact being a show-off. Why not? Genius is entitled. But that kind of expression of it will be certain to evoke the resentment of the folk who are in some sense the keepers of the folk art, of the cultural flame. Outsiders like Andy stir resentment for the same reason.
The contrast with a Clive or a Smooth is clear. Their genius did not stray from the idioms of the folk art. In some ways that is the tougher task. How do you stay well within crease, yet stretch the boundaries? That clearly is a tough call for the artist.
Jit in his genius also stretched the boundaries, but in a modest sort of way because he put a sort of classical discipline to an art form that tended, at its best and worst, to be loose at the edges. He was able to keep the excitement of the art form, perhaps even enhance its expression, by observing the niceties of classical architecture and expression. So in that way his genius did not come across as that of the show off. Quite the opposite, his genius lay in restraint.
The great artist, whether a cook, a tailor, an automotive designer, or a musician, will at some point learn the power of restraint. Too much bay-leaf will spoil the stew, too much flash will spoil the suit.
In music, the performer must establish his authority in the first two notes. I remember once at the New Orleans Music Festival seeing Wyclef Jean struggling for an hour and failing, to be followed by Hugh Masakela, who let us know in two notes that here was a master.
So Jit's genius lay in what he left out. Boogsie is well able, both as performer and arranger, to establish his authority in two notes, but then he proceeds to take you out of the musical crease of the folk art. Some will love it, some will hate it.
But Boogsie's genius IMO does not tend to complacency. It is a restless, bubbling kind of genius, tumbling over itself to come out.
Jit's work tended to complacency, perhaps because it worked too well, and the judges loved and rewarded it handsomely for perhaps a year too many. It is perhaps a good thing that Boogsie was made to work harder for recognition, so never lapsed into a same ol' same ol' sort of pattern.
Zanda I'm still trying to work out. I suspect he might more likely lapse into a repetitive formula. His music is new (?) and different, but very much in folk art crease, if anything looking backwards to reconnect to the deep ancestral roots of the "folk".
Bradley was totally in folk-music crease. He might as well have been arranging for the brass bands that pre-dated the steelbands. His music had the sophistication and exuberabce, both, of musical giants like Pal Joey, Dutchy Brothers, and the other exponents of that ilk and before, but brought over to the steelband. So he was true to at least two genres of the folk music, and so resonated deeply with the "folk". He also straddled the generations, and could appeal to the generation before the one that came of age with pan. Part of his genius was to take the new and turn it back upon the past, staying doubly well within folk art. This was not new direction. This was rediscovery of the old, using the new art form of the pan.
Zanda may be rediscovering the old also, but harking back to generations so far back that they resonate really only as ancestral memories somewhere in the blood. Not even Holly Betaudier (God bless his soul) could take us back that far.
So what is the sum of what I'm struggling to say? Thanks for bearing with me this far. 1) I don't think Boogsie would ever be complacent. 2) Zanda is taking us in a direction which is certainly working and I applaud. 3) The others might well have gotten a little stuck in a rut. 4) We've had one golden age in pan already ('80s and '90s), we might well have another, with the creative tussle once again involving Boogsie and his new directions veering out of folk-music crease, but perhaps now involving a "re-harmonization" :), through Zanda, with a deep musical folk-music past.
The judges, in their collective wisdom, may have a great say in how the tussle unfolds. I honour Boogsie, his art and his genius, but musically and culturally, I have to lean in favour of the folk-music, especially in the context of Panorama. Outside of that context, I welcome andynarization. (Andy has done some great work with Calypsociation and others, and I applaud what is happening elsewhere with the pan. Every culture must put some of its own blood and musical tradition into the pan when they embrace it as their own. That's a topic on its own.) It would be interesting to see how Boogsie responds if the judges find in Zanda's favour, as they're now leaning. In any case, music, sweet music, is the winner.
- Big Sid
I'll bet the next time we hear Phase ll the tune it will be a different,
but why do you say so... for all the usual reasons of the competition... or something else...?
S.F. because he goes to win, but I'm afraid politics is a factor this year because he was in the fore- front calling for the removal of Pan Trinbago executive.
CH; it would matter,,or make a difference, the "Judges" has already spoken / made their decission...