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The Big Five - Legendary Steelbands - Are they that good?

Global: The Trinidad and Tobago large band Panorama category is the most prestigious (rightfully so), respected, and accomplished steel orchestra assemblage in all the world. Their panorama music masterpieces are nothing short of remarkable; moreover these music creations can rival any music works from any genre, and any time period. Indeed, and as legendary jazz drummer Max Roach told When Steel Talks after experiencing the event first-hand - “Panorama belongs on a world stage.”

This year, 2013, marks 50 years of music excellence generated from the phenomenon known as “Panorama.” Contributing in no small part to its success, is what has now become known as the “Big Five.”  These five steel orchestras have demonstrated a success rate and musical dominance over the event which only bolster the folklore and historic tales associated with these fabled organizations.

So are they that good? Is it myth, perception or reality? The ‘Big Five’ are Exodus, Trinidad All Stars, Phase II, Renegades and Desperadoes.

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Yes and without doubt!!!

Thanks Pan Times. Can you please adjust the typo; 14 is the correct number. 1963, 64, 65, 67, 68, 69, 71, 72, 74, 75, 78, 98, 2009 and 2010 are the years that the other 7 Steel Steel Orchestras were the "Fab Seven" (lol)

For you trivia fans, I have released a new book, "50 Years of Panorama Finals From 1963." The "Fab Five" have now won 36 and the "Fab Seven" have 14. This year All Stars broke a record that Desperadoes held since 1977. What is he talking about you might be saying! (lol) OKAY, the record is, Most Top-Three.  North Stars had 3 in 1965, Desperadoes had 4 in 1967, Harmonites had 6 in 1974, Desperadoes had 7 in 1977, which lasted until All Stars got 23 in 2013.

All Stars has 8-9-6, Desperdoes has 10-4-8, Phase II has 6-12-4, Exodus has 4-6-6 and Renegades has 9-3-4.

As always, Love Peace and Pan

Mr. Franklin,

When Steel Talks will keep the number 15, as there was a tie in 1971 between Starlift and Harmonites. Neither one of these orchestras are listed in the Big Five.

Is there a Criteria used to identify the "Big 5" or is it Panorama winners only?

Mr. Cooper,

In this specific case, as a continuation of the 50 years of panorama, WST is only talking about Panorama winners.

Thank u Ian for the information & yur knowledge of the steelband movement and to all who r members of When Steel Talks I think we should purchase Mr Ian books he has a vast knowledge & a deep love for pan so please buy his books

Absolutely. Now, let's make it the BIG 6 ... please include INVADERS.

Only recently, I told a friend of mine that by now, at least one band should have received a GRAMMY

On my job at the airport I am known as the Steelband and Calypso man just trying to promote the art, singing a calypso or playing a tune on the web to Cubans and other clueless people. We have a long way to go..........

If I may make one response ...back in the days of blockos [primarily the 1070s], when players from different steelbands played with various other bands, it was not uncommon to have Phase II fellas (for example) playing in Tropical Angel Harps, or vice versa (or Solo players in Scherzando and vice versa).

My point is that the players were excellent, rather than the particular steelbands, as the ultimate outcome for a band depended on having the best cadres of players.

That said, Panorama is still the greatest show on earth, even given its problems of adminstration, infrastructure and plain old execution.




Silver Stars seemed to be threatening to make it the "BIG SIX"...but they have a long way to go still...having said that, the "BIG FIVE" IS the "BIG FIVE"...no doubt about that...and even beyond Panorama too...these five bands have historically had the best of everything...players, financial support (sponsors), arrangers, music...you name it. When you consider too the long years that these five bands have stood out above the rest it is indeed quite remarkable. They have all proven to be human too. All of them have tasted defeat or ill-luck at Panorama at least, and have all bounced right back. Hats off to dem fellas!

Very well said bigmacttwi.

I guess that would depend on the way one defines "Legendary". These are definitely the most successful Panorama steelbands of all times and deserving of all accolades.

But most legendary?

The way I define 'legendary" is to suggest a name of a band or person who has made such a mark on history that the name is instantly recognizable and evokes specific historic images.

For instance, I think Pan Am North Stars is legendary. Tony Williams is a legend

I think Hylanders is a legendary steelband, based on their innovations, and Bertie Marshall is definitely a legend. 

Invaders Steel Orchestra is legendary. Anyone who knows about the steelband worldwide knows about Invaders Steel Orchestra and their legendary leader Ellie Mannette.

The impact that Guinness Cavaliers made on the steelband world in the sixties are indisputable to anyone who was around in that era. They changed the sound ot the steelband.

That band has to be considered a legend.

This is not to diminish any of the five bands mentioned.

We all know who we are and their histories. But I would hate for the memories of these other players not to be recognized.

I think we have to be careful when we use Panorama championships as the only criterion for assessing  the contributions of steelbands and arrangers and pan pioneers, and their places in history.




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