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Pulling no Punches - Andy Narell, Arranger for birdsong Steel Orchestra, Speaks on the 2014 Panorama Season

An exclusive WST interview with Panorama arranger, recording and performing artist Andy Narell

 

Andy Narell“...You ask if I want to win Panorama.  In its present form, I would have to say it doesn’t interest me at all.  I would however like to be able to play my music at the finals, and have always considered that a privilege  worth striving for.  Every year I’ve participated I’ve tried my best to get my band there, and it’s very disappointing to not be invited to the party...”  Andy Narell

Global -  Panorama arranger for birdsong Steel Orchestra Andy Narell  shares his thoughts and speaks candidly about the recently-concluded 2014 Trinidad and Tobago National Panorama in an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks.  The annual Trinidad & Tobago Panorama is the world’s premiere tuned percussion competition.

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Very well argued, Si... I agree with the central theory that the continued subjugation to "the wining formula" is the ongoing bane of Panorama music, and that it compromises the musical richness of Panorama music and thus the potential to go beyond musical theatrics ("gimmicks").  I am no big fan of Narrell's Panorama style, but I do concurr with him (and with Lester Simon) that it is this subjugation to convention that severely stifles creativity.  And I frequently point to Clive Bradley's In My House, or Picture on My Wall, among others, as examples of of how it is possible to push the musical envelope so to speak and yet produce a winning tune full of jam and wine.  If you want to stick to convention,them copy good convention, one that is both proven and musically exquisite.

I fully concurr with the inherent dificulties entailed in arranging for steelband based on a full orchestral score (in which instruments have the advantage of having different and easily distinguishable tones), but that is precisely the challenge to the pan rranger: to utilise creative rhythms and harmonies to achieve the desired effect (interpretation ?)

And Rueben: musicality (a la Bradley) does not turn Pamorama into Festival ... in fact it retains those very "fundamental, unique and defining qualities" (as Si said) which reinforce the essential character of Panorama.  I too would probably prefer to play even panroun-de-neck with dudup and steel rather than artificial or forced pseudomusicality, and I have done both.  So please don't get it twisted ... a winning Panorama tune shoud be highly musical, just as with any other genre.

Peter

 

I'm glad you mentioned Bradley, now that's a man who could use chromatics and leave people swearing he never. Its not about just the music, but how you apply it.

I will take the liberty of answering on Andy's behalf. If we loved and understood music as Andy does, we would understand how music sounds when arranged sensibly.

Andy does not have to win Panorama or even compete in it. He can earn a lot more money by continuing to be an ambassador of our beautiful instrument.

Naurice Baldwin

"If we loved and understood music as Andy does, we would understand how music sounds when arranged sensibly."..... I don't know who "WE" you are referring too.....but I have been around and heard many musicians,composer,players who have earned world wide recognition and awards and acclaim than any one on the Panorama circuit has.....and I am sure there are many others who has likewise experience.....so please speak for yourself,if you have never heard a Bradley,Smooth,Boogsie,Holman,Rodney,Griffith etc.

Naurice  let him go do that then. 

The fact that he comes back shows he needs it either for promotional purposes or as he states in this interview he really wants to be invited to the party.

Also don't be so disrespectful, you're acting like people are stupid. All of us love music.

His problem is the style of arrangement, forget about his petty points about chromatic utilisation because Mozart, Gershwin and others used them for dramatic purposes.

Naurice Baldwin,

Read your comment aloud to yourself and tell us how you sound.

Naurice, quiet as it's kept, he does earn more money than any arranger or pan player in T&T, however he comes back to the Mecca. Why?.With all the music he knows something is missing, and as they say,"Those who can't do, teach, or try to teach".His crowning glory would be a Panorama win, but it takes a certain Je ne c'est qua to achieve that.

I believe that it is high time that Pan Trinbago takes a serious look at Panorama, and forget about Andy Narell for a minute.

Ultimately, Panorama will destroy the Steelband if something is not done soon and sensibly. I just want to put this out there for one to ponder - I don't need any responses, but DO WE HONESTLY BELIEVE THAT ANY BAND IN T & T HAS 120 PLAYERS?. In other words, if all Panorama contests were to take place simultaneously in different parts of the country - including Tobago, would ALL OF THE ORCHESTRAS HAVE A FULL COMPLIMENT?

Everyone knows the answer, so what are we trying to prove. Therein lies one of the fundamental problems in what Panorama has become.

Naurice Baldwin

I have read most of the discussion points to date, and a lot of the views are quite valid, but I think most people, including Mr. Narell, have failed to recognise a very important point. Panorama does not take place on a Sunday evening in Queen's Hall; neither does it take place over an internet feed at home, or on a dvd the week after canival. Panorama exists in the midst of Carib, Stag, rum, pelau, woman wining, man trying to tief a wine, machel, bunji, the truck on the road, kaisonian ponging Kamla, chutney, bacchanal, savannah dust, and mas. I often wonder if some of the people who contribute here were in the savannah for the performances they criticize or listened to it thousands of miles away?

I have several Narell CDs and I love to listen to his music at home or in my car, but All Stars, Phase 2, and Silver Stars have dominated
the last decade of panorama becaue they have consistently fed the masses with the kind of musical food they are hungry for at carnival time. Anybody in the grand stand this last final night will remember how bands 9 and 10 in particular, literally shook up the place, people were spontaneously shrieking, screaming, getting up, then sitting down, then getting up again, disorganized and spontaneously appreciative, mesmerized by the musical feasts produced by these bands.

You cannot lull thousands of people into slumber and expect to win a panorama. It is carnival time. People expect to be moved. People want to be moved. People need to be moved. Clive Bradley understood it, Jit Samaroo understood it, Pouchet understood it, Smooth and Boogsie presently understand it. More importantly, they RESPECT it. Because they respect it, they make sure and honour it in everything from their choice of tune to their approach to arranging it. A fantastic example of this can be found in listening to the music Boogsie added to his piece between the semi final and final this year. While All Stars already had people out of their seats at the semi final stage, Boogsie deliberately went after the jugular, working chromatic runs, sustained notes, crescendoes and an exaggerated 'symphonic' type extended finish in a last ditch grasp to retain the panorama title.

Panorama and carnival are inextricably tied together, like Siamese twins. You cannot enter the carnival arena and leave alive if you do not understand and repect this. Mr. Narell, and all the others who think like him, can pretend that it is not so, and people will continue to give them the polite clap at the end of their performance and reserve the bawling and screaming for those bands that earn it.

Panorama is carnival ting, we ting. Respect it. And it will respect you.

Panorama and carnival are inextricably tied together, like Siamese twins. You cannot enter the carnival arena and leave alive if you do not understand and repect this. Mr. Narell, and all the others who think like him, can pretend that it is not so, and people will continue to give them the polite clap at the end of their performance and reserve the bawling and screaming for those bands that earn it.

BRAVO, DJ.  So excellently put.

Yes , DJ , I completely agree with you .

But I hope you realize that panorama is much more then that .

Panorama affords an arranger a unique opportunity to express his musical vision using a full , panorama size steelband .

It is like presenting a blank canvas to an artist .

That can present an irresistible attracton to an arranger , regardless of monetary or titular awards .

Well said Glenroy R Jospeh.

Indeed, the real pan man war is not between steelbands at all. These are relatively small battles or skirmishes that are won or lost with the ruling of the judges on Panorama night, or semifinal night. 

The real pan man war, like the war for all artistes, is that lifelong fight between self and society to answer the question of what we are doing here. What, as you say, do we put on the blank canvas. 
Thank you.

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