When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

by Dr. Kenyon Williams

Reprinted at the request of Dr. Williams


Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - In the spring of 2012, Andy was invited by the band to come down and play in their June benefit concert at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), which raises funds for both the Academy and for music scholarships for Academy graduates. After working with the students and performing in the benefit, Dennis Phillip asked Andy if he would be interested in serving as the band’s arranger for Panorama 2013. “I jumped at it!” Narell recalls.


But the vision of the board was much more than just bringing a new arranger to the panyard. “One of the reasons we talked to Andy was because of his network [of pan players],” states Dennis. “That wasn’t an accident, it was a strategy.”


birdsong invited Andy to bring international pan players with him. “They told me to go ahead, tell everybody, and not just tell everybody, but try to bring the Paris band,” said Andy. For over ten years, Narell has been working with a band of 25 to 30 players, which are a part of the Calypsociation School of Steelpan in Paris. Using this core group as his test vehicle, Andy began to write the music for birdsong’s Panorama composition in August and then began to teach it to the members of the band. Almost everyone who learned the piece wanted to come, and 22 soon made the commitment to travel to Trinidad.

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Glenroy Andy can never be Trinidadian. We all know that. Andy needs to stop disparaging the way we do things and do his thing. And if we like what he does, cool. And if don't, so be it.


My point is , you don't have to like or even appreciate anyone. I'm simply saying that an artist of Andy's caliber will have his own style , and if a band hires him as arranger that's what they should expect.

And his style is based on his background and influences.

And Charlene Lusk, I don't know if you really listened to jazz or is just name dropping, else you would know there  has been a strong Caribbean influence in jazz 

Ever listened to Eric Gale? Ralph McDonald?

As a matter of fact, there have been all sorts of musical influences on contemporary jazz, even Indian music.

Glenroy, I am not talking anything about universal panorama,  Any foreigner doing music for a Trini panorama  should have a Trini flavor peroid, otherwise the judges will do what they did to Andy in 2013.

And about your panorama being"classical music for pan" that only came about with Ray, before it was the calypso of the day.


Ain't nobody beating up on Andy. all ah wee cyah hold on the Andy band wagon.

Anybody ever hear a up tempo Andy Narel tune? I rest my case.

WST…allyuh good yes….lol...

I am proud to see my two nieces pictured in this pan organisation. 

Cynthia Edwards, you should be proud of your two nieces they are with one of the best pan organizations on this planet. 

I don’t know where to start, but we must be willing outgrow what no longer fits. The Panorama model no longer fits into where we are going as far as the development of the music and the instrument the steelband orchestra is concern.

We are not the kind of people willing to archive our cultural history, so it’s very hard to learn from our past. If you look at Panorama from its start and during the last five decades, we can see arrangers who today will be considered innovators, they took the steelband orchestra to another level and were rewarded with the Panorama prize.

We can start with Beverly Griffith in 1966 with Despers “Melda”, he’s credited with introducing the Jazz element in the Panorama competition, Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed in 1967 ‘Sixty Seven’ is credited in introducing the Classical element in the competition, Leon “Smooth” Edwards with ‘Curry Tabanca’ the Chutney element and Clive Bradley’s ‘High Mas’ Church and Shango.

We can look at other innovators that continued in the same vain Earl Rodney, Ray Holman, Jit Samaroo, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, all making their mark in taking the steel band music to great heights. The issue of bringing a latin beat into a Panorama competition is debatable as the Panorama history shows.

Here’s a Panorama arrangement 'version'  that has outlived the competition, but continues to showcase the beauty of the steel band orchestra, Birdsong ‘I Love Pan’ composer David ‘Happy’ Williams arranger Rudy ‘Two-Left’ Smith, relax and enjoy.


As the popularity of the steelband grows internationally, there will come a time when gifted steel band arrangers will be created outside of Trinidad and Tobago, with little direct connection to that culture.

This may happen in some of our lifetimes.

Since Panorama type arrangements are considered the heights of steelband music, that arranger will surely attempt to create panorama type arrangements.

I would expect that hypothetical foreign born arranger, say for example from Japan, would  certainly include his cultural and musical influences in that arrangement.

I would much prefer that arranger to test his mettle on the Panorama stage at T&T, arranging for a Trinidad Panorama steelband, than to have him use his local steelband to create a panorama video that goes viral on YouTube to the tune of millions of  hits, and have Trini people saying "dey tief we music".

That way, whatever popularity or bounce comes from that arranger's work, will reflect on Trinidad's Panorama and the steelband artform, not specifically on the foreign born arranger and his foreign steelband.

We will be very naïve if we think such a scenario is impossible.

Besides, we've  already had non traditional panorama type arrangements.

They're called :"Bomb Tunes".

So let me get this straight:

Clive Bradley puts down a slow, mellow arrangement that lacks fire and aggression (i.e. the "Carnival Spirit") and it's brilliant.

Andy Narell puts down a slow, mellow arrangement that lacks fire and aggression (i.e. the "Carnival Spirit") and it's bunk.

The difference is...?


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