Thoughts on the Panorama
Symposium tackles the Panorama question: Is there a need to revisit the Steel Band Panorama Format?
by Andy Narell
Brooklyn, New York - Let me make something clear right from the start - I love Panorama. It is one of the truly unique and exciting musical and cultural events in the world. Let’s not forget that. Like the pan itself, we should appreciate what we have. For a country of 1.3 million (not counting Brooklyn and the rest of the Trini diaspora) to mount a festival of this magnitude - several thousand players, 70 or 80 huge bands, pan round de neck - everybody somehow making it to the savannah for the big musical fete, the atmosphere on the track, the north stand, the motivation of the players, the tension and the debates about ‘who go win’ - it’s one of the great spectacles of world music. It brings communities together in a personal and tangible way - more so even than sports - and it invites participation. You can play in the band, push the pans, be a supporter, listen to the music, or wine with your sweetheart. And nowadays with pan players coming from all over the world to participate, Panorama maintains its essentially Trini character. So why do we spend so much time debating what’s wrong with Panorama, how Panorama killin’ pan? Why this symposium? Why do I take the time to write a letter to throw in my two cents? My answer is that it all starts and ends with the music, but let me digress for a few minutes and speak about a few of my own experiences.
Read Dalton Narine's presentation and you will see some drastic proposals for change ... SANS the government.
Very Interesting article Andy, rightly so Panorama starts with and ends with the Music. 'How much of the music that's happening at Panorama these days wiil be remembered the year after, or 20 years down the road ?' ....I will say this uncompromisingly that a unique style of music is no longer heard in panorama competition with the demise of Clive Bradley. whether you were a Bradley fan or not. Everyone looked forward to hearing ' what is Bradley doing this year' It did not matter what band he arranged for, or in any country....one thing that was certain is that you could have expected interesting music and Clive Bradley always delivered. How many of his arranged songs that you can still sing and remember after all these years. Almost every arranger ( if not all) has taken a page or a chapter or a verse or a line out of Bradley's book. I have had the great pleasure of Playing with Despers in !983 & 1984 ( Rebecca & The Jammer) It was literally one of my most fulfilling experience in a panorama competition. The innovation of Clive Bradley never confined him to being in the Box.
Trinidad's Panorama competition ( which has spread all over the world today) has been responsible for many innovative ideas and developments of the Steelpan in terms of styles of pans and quality of tuning ..again with demise of that great innovator the General Rudolph Charles we certainly have lost that striving for more in Pan innovation. How many Steelbands today could produce a concept of Four of the best Pan tuners for a band ...the same Rebecca years Despers had ( Rudolph Charles, Bertie Marshall, Lincoln Noel, and Wallace Austin) think about the quality of tone of the Pans. This is what the panorama competition motivated Despers to produce.
Panorama competition had brought out the best in innovation and musical arrangements back then....today It is more difficult to ascertain the same. Perharps the rules & regulations ( and big money) have confined arrangers to stay within the box ...' to satisfy the judges ..so that in itself is a compromise ...There are also other factors and variables that are not contributing to the progress and development of the Panorama so I do agree that we should revisit the Panorama subject from a 21st century prospctive.
Thank you Mr. Narell for your comment. However, we have hopefully placed competent salaried executives in their various capacities to ensure that this, as you so wisely put it, "unique and exciting musical and cultural event" is executed flawlessly. There are other magnanimous events all over this universe. The Rose Bowl, Brazil Carnival, the Macy's Parade, to name a few. They all involve thousands of players and entertains a much larger crowd with minimal errors.
Let me remind you Sir, that our Carnival Festival binds itself to the same level as these international events. Yes we all want to have a good time and enjoy this great spectacle. Nevertheless, we should strive to maintain this level and reserve the right to comment on our appreciation or disappointment to the powers that be, and not become complacent as is our general tendency. After all Sir, this is ours. Isn't it?
By the way, why are the Panorama Winners and the King and Queen of the bands with their selected members of the band sections not appearing in the Rose Bowl Parade? Food for thought!!!
I must agree with Andy on this point. There are several arrangers that have aimed not only to arrange from the heart, but to do so with the goal of gently moving the art of steel band arranging forward, and, if they are not "punished" for their vision, they are certainly not rewarded for it. He mentions a couple of these arrangers; I could probably add another half-dozen or more to that list.
Yes, the formulas are getting old. Hemiola and chormatic runs and similar techniques only carry an arrangement so far. And every time these clichés are used, they lose their punch, which is why we are having this conversation.
Changing out even just one judge – having just one judge who grades progressive content favorably – would make a difference, certainly. At least it would get the bands to open up their ears just a bit to new ideas. And getting more outside arrangers involved – bringing with them their fresh ideas – would also breath new life into the competition. Since it is a national event, I realize that there is an interest in having as many Trini natives as possible involved as arrangers, but there are plenty of good arrangers from all over that have been studying Panorama for a long time and have good arranging chops and progressive ideas that could kick the music up a notch...if only they were given the chance. But, of course, the bands want to win, and they won't with progressive arrangements under the current structure, so these arrangers never get the chance.
A nasty cycle of stagnation. Hopefully one that can be broken or circumnavigated at some point!
All the best,
Thank you, Andy. Only from far one can see clearly (Laotse). You named exactly the kind of dilemma between the exiting atmosphere of panorama and the music played by the steelbands. For me Steelband music is still an art form and I am doubtful if it can be judged but must agree, that the panorama competition has helped a lot to make music played on steeldrums worldwide known. Quo vadis? A shorter limit of the maximum playing time and the judging of the arrangement could possibly have a strong influence.
Matthias G. Kauer
Owner of PANORAMA STEELDRUMS
Steelband instruments and music. Since 1984
Editor of SWISS PAN NEWS
Co-founder of STEELPAN EUROPEAN
Zuerich / Switzerland
Hey WST and Andy!
This was my first trip down to T&T to catch the semis. Even had a chance to sit in with Starlift.
One of the things that surprised me most was, in fact, the man on the street talking bout the politics involved. It made it seem like much less about the music and more about favoritism. The 2 most prevalent of course being the controversy surrounding Exodus-which I can only understand if one of the judges actually WAS was Gypsy (I don't know WHO the judges were), and Renegades not making the finals, which really comes down to their competition performance-regardless of what they sound like in the yard---Or does it?
No one I talked to seemed to know how the bands were scored, nor seemed to care. They merely were concerned with who said what about whom and knew that this band wouldn't make it because this guy pissed off that guy. And yet EVERYBODY was enjoying the music regardless of the band.
Obviously there is politics involved and obviously some folks will be upset that their favorite group didn't make it, but even if it was squeaky clean, passion and opinions would still run high. I saw more genuine musicianship in these bands (all of them) than anything I have seen in my life, and as a pan man it was the most life changing experience I've had and can't wait to go back. I've been invited to play in 3 bands next year, and the fact is while I plan on performing with at least one group, I really don't care which one. I'll be there for the music, and it is my hope that everyone else is too...Beat Pan!
To answer your question in a general manner, at the rate we're going these days, there is only one way really and truly to "do something for pan". PanTrinbago, with the support of the Government, Business Sponsors and PanFans the world over must get together to brain-storm to see the scope of pan expanded.
Procrastinating while doing little or worse nothing in T&T and letting the tide-drift-by, we risk seeing it relegated to slow demise where the importance for steelpan could well shift to somewhere else off-shore where it's being embraced, more and more.
We must find our way in T&T so it will remain the Mecca of Pan where I have enjoyed making the pilgrimage many times in my life.
As a youngster, I remember how excited some of my friends and I were when we heard that there was going to be a steelband competition called “Panorama” in 1963. At that time, pan was “it.” For the road, pan competed with brass bands, which did not have much volume; musicians of some brass bands actually walked along the street blowing their horns and beating drums.
In those days, most steelbands played “big” mas. I could vividly see bands like Silver Stars, Starlift, and Desperadoes, presenting their large portrayals. As the technological age entered, steelbands began to contend against more powerful brass bands and DJs. At the same time, calypso also was changing; a more up-tempo calypso evolved and soca entered the scene in the early 1970s.
Due to new technology, gradually many people started playing mas with brass bands and DJs. Thus, Panorama should not only take the criticism for the demise of pan in Carnival, especially on Tuesday. As can been seen, other happenings were occurring.
Although Panorama is not prominent on Carnival Tuesdays, it plays a large part in the Carnival season. Panorama attracts one of the largest crowds for the entire Carnival season. So what could be done to bring back pan into Carnival? Let me throw out some ideas.
In conclusion, I say, “leave meh Panorama alone.” I love it! Instead of talking about abolishing Panorama, we should be trying to figure out ways of improving it. We also should be looking for creative means of it having a prominent role on Carnival Tuesday.