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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Claude, the point I was trying to make is that, in my opinion, certain "elements" of Panorama should be kept the same. So, please educate me as to what changes were made to New Orleans' Mardi Gras. (And I am not trying to be sarcastic.) Ghost.

Yo  BUGS  am glad to see  somebody Knows other arrangers than the runof the mill T&T arrangers. I am talking about  BABU of HALCYON  (Antigua)( a band I have played several panoramas with in the 90's)  and PECK of Grenada.  I would like to mention KHAN CORDICE of Hells Gate Antigua (brilliant arranger) and  Errol  (siah)  Isaacs (both as an arranger and a panist on any pans)  I cannot comment on the Birdsong article and I try not to second guess anybody  in the music business. They have their reasons am sure. paddy corea

I feel like wading in finally.  To me, Panorama and steelpan music are two different things.  Steelpan music is happening worldwide.  How was Panorama described to me as a young Trinbagonian growing up in Canada?  Panorama is not just music, it is a journey and a community statement.

 

I dream about taking a sabbatical from Canadian life to spend six months in the panyard with my cousins... experiencing life, pouring myself into the music and the people I'll be standing beside... preparing for musical warfare.

 

The music at Panorama should feel and sound like the food, drink and people... the passion... the fire... the colours that shine brightly during Carnival... the pepper.

 

That is not to say that Panorama music should stay the same, but it should reflect the heart and soul and fire of the people.

 

I believe that there is room for growth of pan music outside of pan music for international influences to drive home their interpretations, but PLEASE... when my turn comes for TnT Panorama, let me experience TnT.

Corey,

You owe it to your self to play in a panorama, and experience all that you discribe.

I don't quite get the Andy Narell thing.

True, circumstances has placed him in a position to achieve a certain level of success that may not be available to talented Trinidadians, but I never resented him for that.

The very first time I ever heard of Andy Narell was years ago as a bachelor, when I used a Boston jazz radio station as my wake up alarm.

I was a little out of touch with the culture at that time living in Southern New Hampshire, so I was pleasantly surprised one morning to be awakened by the sweet sound of pan.

When the music was over, the radio DJ , after complementing Andy's skills as a jazz panist, said that Andy had gone to Trinidad to learn about the steel pan, but he, the DJ, felt that Andy had nothing to learn there.

Obviously, the DJ wasn't aware of Andy's long relationship with Trinidad pan, which he started as a child.

That was 1986, the year that Andy went to Trinidad and appeared on the Panorama stage with three steelbands.

I think they were Invaders, Renegades and Phase II.

Technically, I think of Andy Narell the same way I think of Boogsie, Ray, Jit or Professor. as a highly skilled panist/arranger.

He is as different from Boogsie as Boogsie is from Jit and  as Jit was from Smooth or Professor.

He also happens to be an internationally renowned jazz performer, whose reputation was established before he participated in the Panorama.

I always thought that his participation in Panorama was out of love and respect for the culture.

He certainly didn't need to participate in Panorama to establish his credibility in the jazz world since he was already an established artist, and I doubt that he needs the Panorama money.

So like I said before, I don't quite get all this negativity towards Andy Narell.

It's very possible that history will remember Andy Narell as a catalyst for the elevation and evolution in the Panorama experience… That the musicianship he brings will touch something in they way other arrangers do things for Panorama.

One thing is certain though… he is already a catalyst for the elevation and evolution of steelpan music… worldwide.

I am not for or against. but the chatter about arrangers coming from all over the world to lead orchestras through Panorama competitions in TnT raises a concern…  Panorama in my mind is a part of Carnival festivities, and is a reflection of TnT culture.  I think the music heard at Panorama should reassure a listener that they are in TnT!  I don't look forward to the day when TnT Panorama becomes like a World Cup of Pan with Japan vs Switzerland vs the U.S. vs England vs Russia vs Canada (and on and on), and none of the arrangements reflect life in TnT.  There must be a time where Calypso and Soca are the emphasis of pan… a musical portrait of TnT.

Corey, firstly, I highly respect you as a young man, who is brave enough to voice his opinions on such a forum as WST. I hope we can encourage more young men and women to come on and voice their opinions, to post editorials in the local newspapers, and to write. MUCH kudos to you, young man!

We definitely agree, that Panorama and Carnival, should reflect a "portrait of Trinidad". The only advise I would give you, is to continue doing more research. I remember you saying that you weren't familiar with Othello Mollineaux. When you mention "catalyst", he should be at the TOP of the list. I would encourage you to do your research into what accomplishments "Tello" already had behind him, when Mr. Narell was now being introduced to the culture.

Many may not know, but Othello Molineaux is the person who got Clive Bradley interested in arranging for steelbands, as Mr. Mollineaux was already arranging, and being a pianist (piano player), influenced and convinced Mr. Bradley to give it a try. The rest is steelband history. When we talk about "history", it is important to understand that history does not always accurately record the facts, especially when those who are writing that history, either do not know the facts, or have hidden agendas in distorting or omitting certain facts. Thus, Christopher Columbus discovered America, and Christ was born on December 25th. Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, "History is going to be kind to Britain, because we are the ones to write it".

When the life story of our neglected "catalyst", Orhello Mollineaux is finally recorded in history, then Trinidad and Tobago would come to know what the rest of the jazz music World has known for DECADES UPON DECADES (including Mr. Andy Narell), that all solo lead steel drum/pan players, are on trails that Mr. Molineaux already blazed as a teenager arranging for steelband, when steelband had NOTHING in it but "badjohn". Tello also has MANY other "firsts" relating, not only to music, but to the social impact and impression he made since the (GET THIS) the 1950s. I guess, you can say he way catalyzing a long time ago.

I look forward to the day when we talk about Tello, Boogsie, Prof, and Robbie. This Andy, Andy, Andy, just seems a little suspicious. We get it; he is GREAT, does not care about winning, and when he loses, he will cast the blame on our lack of musical intellect and resistance to "change". His only intention is to make Panorama music "better". I get that, but I am sorry,I cannot buy that. Anyway, young brother, keep contributing your views and comments, as they are very important, and well-respected by us "ole folk". Have a blessed evening.

Ghost.Who Would LOVE To Hear About Someone Else...ANYONE Else! (How about Othello Molineaux?)

Thank you.  Sometimes I feel that it is a risk to express an opinion that is my own, but just maybe my opinion will resonate with someone that helps them relate how they feel… maybe I find the words that unlocks an idea.  There could be gaps in what I understand about an issue, which I cannot have filled if I do not share my ideas in the first place.

I am not fully aware of Mollineaux's role in steelband history, but that nugget of history is greatly appreciated.  I don't think the birdsong topic discredits his (Mollineaux) contributions, but it puts Narell into the spotlight (or crosshairs, depending on where you sit).  I feel I need to support him.  The few interactions I've had with him since I joined WST left a positive impression with me.  What I have learned about him and the criticisms frequently directed at him here just don't all add up in my mind.

How do I offer the support and admiration I have for an artist, and acknowledge his contribution to pan culture in TnT and globally, while at the same time offer an honest critique and validate the concerns that are raised in the topic?  And not just repeat what other people have said?  Why say anything if offering nothing new?

Attend, on my critique that I want Panorama to reflect my idea of Trinidad (and that TnT arrangers have the best advantage to interpret a TnT vibe)… you are at a party, and the DJ is playing songs that people are enjoying dancing to.  Suddenly, a song comes through the speakers, and everybody leaves the dance floor to refill their drinks…  ever known that to happen?

If I'm in the Savannah, soaking in the sights, sounds and sensations of a sunny day turning into a chilly evening, enjoying the groove, yet waiting anxiously for the next band to play, I want my mind to stay in the Savannah, not transported to a concert hall.

Although I love Coffee Street and the work Narell does, and am sure that pan players rise to the challenge to play a Narell song and arrangement, I fear that back on that night, that song was too "concert hall" and not enough "Savannah" in it's quality, and thus less popular in the competition.

Andy, if you are out there, I love what you do… it is worthy of the grandest of stages.  But for Panorama, can you leave a little grit and grunge in the music?  A little less "concert hall" and a little more "Savannah," please?

As an aside, I remember how Boogsie created some controversy when he started writing original songs for Phase II's Panorama entries… it defied convention, and was criticized that the original song wasn't available widely like Kitch's songs year after year… how could judges evaluate his arrangement if they had nothing to compare it to?  BUT he followed Narell's example.  Difference is he seemed to write for and played to the Savannah crowd.

My apologies for standing weak on fact in my expressions in these posts… they are reflections of bits and pieces I've picked up along the way.  I'm sure to realize how little I know very soon.

Thank you, Brenda :)

Corey,

I've used words like "taking a bow and arrow to a gun fight" "mixing up a bomb tune with a panorama tune"  why didn't I think about  A little less concert hall and more savannah? this is the ONLY beef some of us have with Andy.

Glenroy, 

The ONLY negativity about Andy comes because some of us want him to mesmerize the judges in panorama instead of putting them to sleep. 

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