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So why did the judges reject Boogsie Sharpe and Phase II Twice

The mighty Phase II is a card-carrying member of the Big 5. Rarely do members of the esteemed group get a "hell no" from the judges. This year the Phase II got it in both the semi finals and finals. Why? Could it be that Boogsie's music simply went over the head of the judges? Or this was not a year for unknown original Pan tunes? Or the judges were right, it wasn't happening this year?

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It's more political than anything else. That's one reason. The choice of Panorama songs have definately changed to the now soca artistes songs of 21st century carnival. This started from last year with Despers choice. I guess its a return in some ways to unite the carnival fete songs and Monday and Tuesday road days songs played by DJs. The pan songs of the past were really out of carnival and they presented a picture that the pan bands couldn't play the soca songs for they did not contain any long melodic music as the pan songs did. Just two or three chords for the most with a heavy refrain in the soca songs. If the steelbands have to make it back into the 21st century carnivals it is a good idea to step up to the challenge and play hit soca songs. It is obvious Boogsie didn't catch on to this relevant change and the judges obviously agrees with the younger generation of pan players and supporters that if the pan bands were to continue to mean any thing from now on and to have perpetual existence in the 21st century carnival, they must play the hit carnival songs of the day and this is especially so with the large bands category. Where as the small and medium sized bands have mostly gone back to the past carnival hits. If Phase ll and Len Boogsie Sharpe have to re-enter the 1,2,3 ever again, they must do this from now on. (1) Boogsie needs to refrain from commenting politically on Pan Trinbago. He should leave that to others in the band. There are enough pan players from all the bands to do this. Panorama is not only a pan band competition but by extention it is also an arranger's competition. Arrangers get to "write" their versions of a song in the form of the arrangements of the song in question. So its also more important to play a relevant soca 21st century popular hit song which can earn royalties, air play, party play in Carnival and outside of carnival and in other world carnivals and international fetes and of course carnival days on the road. (2) Boogsie will have to consider a very popular soca artiste to work with. Boogsie can write a simple melody line or two with just the use of three chords, either in major or minor keys and have the popular soca artise write the lyrics and the rhythm tracks and have the complete song written by the name of the soca artiste with musical "inputs" by Len 'Boogsie" Sharpe. The artiste in question should be allowed to also input his or her musical inputs so that by dint of the artiste reputation of popularity he or she be allowed to do this. It should be a special type of contract arrangement. For instance you cannot ask an artiste like say Bungi Garlin or Montano just to write lyrics. They are also superb musicians with good ears. So it is an amalgamation/collaboration of genius proven writers. Then pan bands can make the choice of choosing the song to play at Panorama. It is not a Panorama "pan song". It should be a full fledge soca party song. It should be extremely popular. It should not be pushed as a song for Panorama. Boogsie's name should not be mentioned but the internal contract is more important. Royalties should be split in half.Another way to do it is to simply hire a very poupular soca artises to come up with a soca song for Phase ll and Boogsie Sharpe without publishing this contract and purpose. But this all depends on the very big ego of Boogsie which may need to change. It's also what the now generation of young pan players wishes to play.Boogsie has proven the arranger can make his own song but that era is also passing and that is the absolute truth.

Sidd you know that is wishful thinking...

Hey bro, that's a lot of words there (like yuh have ink like we have oil). But yuh talking SHIT!

Steve, you are asking Boogsie to dumb down himself and play other peoples music, you of all people should know that ain't happening. As for the days of the pan song over, why go back to square one where pan people play other peoples music? we should be encouraging pan people to do their own music. Other artiste still ain't composing music for the pan, few will be pan friendly.

Well part of this is already true. Boogsie comes up with the original tune and then gives it to a lyricist to come up with lyrics and then to a singer to do the final song, but of course it is not usually a very popular singer although of course some of the lesser lights have made their contribution very well.

The signature of a well rounded musician is someone who composes and plays their own music. Check the Beatles for example. Although they did do other people's music it was not the major part of their repertoire and most accomplished musicians prefer to make their own music,

Yes there are singers with great voices that sing other music composed for them and  instrumentalists who play another's music, but a music composer who also performs will hardly ever play another's music.

However most or all pan music is originally heard through some singer releasing the song before the band picks it up. The more popular that singer the better the response to the music.

The fact that Phase II won so many times with unknown music is testament to the quality of the compositions, arrangements and player ability.

Looking back, I think All Stars was sixth last year. The "hell no" came because they were not deserving of anything better. The judges got it right this year.
Too many groupies in pan. They support a band because "town say." We shouldn't even be talking about Phase 2. Duvonne achievers beavertrick with Pan Elders last night. I don't think that's ever happened before. We have new rising stars. See, God bless more than one man.

Keith, I like the line "it's a strategy that failed" for the past two years Boogsie has been talking about "new music" well the new music was not successful now it's back to the drawing board. the man is a musical genius, these people don't follow, others follow them, I have no doubt Sharpe will bring it again. Everybody trying to quarterback the man, no one shine everyday.

I'm with you, Cecil. We know the man up close so we know the story. New music is No music to me. I cannot give a rousing performance after 10 days of practice (and we never get a full 10 days either). I recall one year wailing on the tune at semis, by finals, I had to stand in place and concentrate, because he revised the tune so extensively, it was "New music". All those slow jams went down the toilet. But yes, this man sweats music so have no fear, more excellent music to come.


Boogsie's arrangement started off well enough. But then somehow it went off the rails in the middle passages. He tried to fix it after the semis, but the result was even worse than before. It had neither the sweetness of a good pudding, nor the spiciness of a great stew.

Except for the quality of the introduction and the first verse and chorus, he could have been placed even lower. This is Boogsie's failure as arranger, not the band's. The musicianship of the players is first class, and the tonal quality of the pans is not an issue. The arrangement did not succeed, and Boogsie's placement reflected that. IMO the judges were not making a statement as such; they fairly judged the music on offer.

Still, it is right to raise an issue. Boogsie insists on taking the artform off-centre. He has succeeded brilliantly in the past with that, "More Love" being one still recent example. T&T perhaps needed that message of sweetness and light then, and so he was well rewarded. But to go off centre like that the absolute requirement is that the music and the arrangement itself must soar. If that doesn't happen, the judges must give the nod to the on-spot, on-centre elements of the genre. This is a carnival event after all.

I say that as one that is more a fan of Phase II down the years than a critic, btw.

It is unusual for Boogsie, but he had an off year. And it had nothing to do with airplay as someone already opined. Nor the quality of production of the calypso. That tune is still potentially the basis of a great panorama arrangement. Just not in the direction that Boogsie thought he could take it.

There may have been a disconnect between the lyrics and the music as Boogsie conceived it. The lyrics are party lyrics. But the music seemed to be searching for something deeper... Hence he may have been in two minds, hence the arrangement fell between the stools.

The choice was whether to go bouncy as a party tune, or go sweet as a beautiful piece of music. In the indecision, his muse deserted him, and the arrangement ended up being neither pudding nor stew. It started off spicy, tried to go sweet, and in the end was just a pointless mush.

The same question will recur for Boogsie as he dusts himself off and comes back again. Obviously it will be a harder task in general to create a beautiful piece of original music every time, as opposed to recycling a well-worn formula, like Smooth, to produce a great bouncy party arrangement.

On another note, the quality of the Panorama was in general quite high. The judges had a hard job, but I think they got it more or less right. I would have rewarded Ardinn with a higher placement. Otherwise, I have no problem.

One other point: Duvonne was well deserving in the medium category as to his music. Butttt... I'm not with him as to his comment to an interviewer about the "roots of 'our' culture", somehow identifying that with "Roti and talkaree". What!!? The young panists might better learn about the kind of men (ol' niggas in the best sense of that term) that went with TASPO to England in 1951 (or whenever). No disrespect to the Indian contribution to T&T culture, but in pan that's another matter. And definitely no disrespect to Crazy, who has produced some great music over the years, much of it under-rated, including "Roti and Talkaree".

-Big Sid

Big Sidd

What did you think of Zanda's arrangement? He seem to have made a lot of Desperadoes fans a little quizzy with this arrangement.

And if the playing positions between Desperadoes and All Stars were reversed would the results have been reversed?


Zanda's arrangement was superb. It would take a musicologist to break it down and show us all the bits. I can only give an overall appreciation as a musical "consumer".  

His arrangement had a lot of stuff happening in the lower registers. His music is not off-centre in terms of the art-form, but it seems to somehow reach deeper into what may be ancestral memories. I can't explain it, except to say that it escapes the conscious, but somehow registers with the sub-conscious. Does that make sense? If not, suffice it to say that there is a depth to the music, at the same time that it works at the surface level of an exciting Panorama piece.

Despers fans might be queasy about it because it seems, not avant garde, but so retro as to be the same as if... Whe' he goin' wid dat!? 

Wherever he is going, let him. Despers fans represent the centre of the art-form with that Bradley heritage. So yes, I'm sure there'll be a queasiness. It was the same kind of queasiness that Boogsie brought to the lovers of the art-form. He wasn't *given* any rope with which to metaphorically hang himself. Rather, he had to form a whole new band to do the exploration that was necessary.

The result was that the musical centre of the art-form shifted ... correction, no, expanded ,,, to include what Boogsie brought to the table.  Likewise, Zanda may be somehow deepening the  centre.

Btw, talking about Boogsie and his going off-centre... Arddin used a beautiful line from one of Boogsie's old pieces as Invaders performed "Full extreme". Arddin's arrangement was on-point and on-centre, and as I already opined should have been rated higher. But embedded within that arrangement was a Boogsie riff that took us back to the 80s/90s. So that would be my evidence that Boogsie, after several decades, had somehow succeeded in broadening the centre of the art-form.

But centre-centre is owned by Smooth and Trinidad All Stars. TASSO is true to its name. What other band has "Trinidad" in its name, after all? Everyone else can go off and explore. Smooth stays at the centre. And like Adolphus, who would always  roam, only always to come back home, Trinidad (and Tobago) must somehow always come back  to TASSO. That's where the national spirit is when it comes to pan and Panorama.  That's what 'Woman on the Bass' represents ... the artistic, and perhaps spiritual, centre of the art-form.

Definitely Smooth did not disappoint.  It is  easy to under-rate Smooth as just doing the same-ol' same-ol'. There's truth in that. But it is not easy to take a seemingly simple party song, and wuk it up to where even an analytical musicologist has to just give up and give in to the lure and magic of the music. That's Smooth's genius. It's what he did with 'Woman on the  bass

, 'Curry Tabanca', and any number of other tunes. He gets us to throw our hands in de air, and get on like we just don't  care.... 

On that basis alone, Smooth well deserved to win. He brought us back home to centre-centre. Arddin did well in that same way.  But TASSO is TASSO. They still have the most charismatic front-line in the business. Bar none. No offense to younger and fresher talent in any number of bands. 

So to your question. Would the results have been reversed if playing positions were reversed? Very possibly. At position no. 10, TASSO came to shut down the  competition. Exodus got the graveyard position coming after TASSO, who basically dun' the competition, or as the Americans might say, put a fork in it, it's done! In the same position, I could see Despers basically doing the same. Or Invaders come to think of it, although for whatever reason they've never won a Panorama. (Invaders IMO is the best band never to win Panorama. I think.)

This observation forces me to suggest a change in rule. Let the winner of the semis pick playing position for the Finals. And let the other bands pick in order of semis placement, on down the line.  

For what  it's worth...

-Big Sid


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