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Etienne Charles - scholar, musician, jazz standout- speaks on Pan, Panorama 2012 and more

Etienne Charles - scholar, musician, jazz standout- speaks on Pan, Panorama 2012 and more

Global - In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, panist, assistant jazz professor, performing and recording artist, Etienne Charles shares his overall thoughts on Panorama - its past, present and future...

“So many people have never set foot in a panyard...why? Because of the stereotype. The steelpan culture is one of the most fascinating subcultures of the Afro-Caribbean experience and should be treated as such. The music is the anthem of the experience, and, on a larger scale it reflects a significant part of our history and artistic growth as a nation. This year we celebrated and mourned, that's what the music will do as well.” ...Etienne Charles
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Firstly, this is a great interview with a great and talented musician. I disagree with him on two major points, though. Firstly, I do not think that an arranger should be allowed to work with more than one band for any competition, including Panorama. Obviously, there would be a conflict of interests; for example, to which band's success would you expect Boogsie to be loyally dedicated, Phaise II, or an arbitrary "employer" who solicited his services? How could ANY arranger cohesively and coherently give their best, in having to put in the hours (both in the panyard, and when doing their "home-work"), if they have to work on more than one test piece? In my opinion, it is humanly impossible, and also unfair, to both arranger and band. (I think that these strains on arrangers' time, are what has ( and may still) cause some to resort to "uppers", such as "No Doz", and, of course, the illegal and extremely dangerous drug - cocaine. Of course, we are all familiar with some of our arrangers' relationship with "freebasing" cocaine, and we MUST cease working them to death. They are, after all, HUMAN. (On that note: Rise In Peace, Clive Bradley!) Further, I think that having an arranger work with more than one band, also robs young and upcoming arrangers, from the opportunity to hone in on their skills, and that is why we have not seen the exponential growth of this specialized field within the pan industry. (When Boogsie can no longer do it, Phase II will have to use another arranger. Why, not be pro-active, by allowing "fresh new blood", the chance to become the next Boogsie? Dozens of pannists graduate from college each year, and should be allowed the opportunity for employment as arrangers, and this "one arranger for many bands" approach, would significantly affect their chances to be hired. There are also numerous young pannists with no college backgrounds, but with the "natural" talent to become arrangers, and we should have scouts within our industry, seeking out our untapped musical prodigies.

Secondly, I disagree with the opinion that the "competition" should be removed from the event. Again, I see Panorama as the "scape-goat", and not the reason for the many problems the pan industry faces. Competition is good, and that is why EVERY industry has them. I used a couple examples in my WST interview, but here's another: African-American actors and directors face numerous issues within the motion picture industry in Hollywood, yet NONE of them advocate for the elimination of their competitions (Academy Awards, Emmys, etc.) If competitions are so damaging, then why is the entire world moving toward 'reality" shows like American Idol, America's Got Talent, and the upcoming Canada's Got Talent? Should Salmon Cupid pull his group from the show because it's a "competition", or is Panorama the world's ONLY bad competition? No. This is the ONLY industry that makes the claim that "competition" kills the industry, for EVERYONE else, realizes that is not so. I guarantee that 1000 years from today, the "competitions" of World Cup and Miss Universe, will still be running. As competitions. Granted, competition or not, many will still follow football and beautiful women in bikinis. Likewise, competition or not, many will follow pan.

Obviously, Etienne, again, a great musician, ambassador, and (in my opinion) a national icon, has great intentions, as do most of us, however, I would caution ALL to think these things through, as many of the changes, to date, have done more to harm Panorama, than help. A perfect example of this is the judging at pan yards. I am surprised that, from an acoustical point of view, Etienne did not point out how different venues affect the "sound", and as such, become variables to be considered when judging (how a band sounds). For a competition to be "fair", ALL variables must be considered, and common to ALL participants, including location. I sincerely hope that we end this attack on the pan competition known as Panorama, and focus our attention, not on what, but on whom is "killing pan". But again, great interview. Keep up the great work, Etienne Charles. We ALL owe you a great amount of honor, respect, and gratitude for representing our culture with grace and dignity. Hotep (Peace).


Great interview. Insightful perspectives on the art form and the culture.

I agree with most of the things that Mr. Etienne had to say, except his take on the Competition. Panorama must, I mean must remain a Competition. Its the only way that it will survive. There is nothing wrong with Competition. Life is a Competition, We compete to survive. Taking away the Competion from Panorama, will cause it to lose its soul, the driving force that keeps it alive.The most interest that Pan generates is for Panorama, and without Panorama to sustain interest, Pan will become terminally ill. '''Panorama and its Competition is the best thing that has happened to Pan!

While I agree that in the realm of high art competition should not exist, an exception must be made in the case of Panorama.

Competition and the desire to win is what I believe drives the arrangers to put out their best arrangements and the players to spend countless hours mastering the performance of these arrangements. Removing the competition aspect will kill Panorama, in my view.

What I would LOVE to see is the marketing of the scores for the musical arrangements of the tunes for the panorama finalists. This would help "immortalize" the music and the arrangers.


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