Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
THEY TIEF WE
Well that is usually the cry when your band loses the Panorama finals, the big steelpan festival during Trinidad and Tobago carnival. Especially if the band was favoured to win or at least give a good account of themselves.
Phase II Pangroove is regarded as one of the big three or big five, that dominate the competitions every year.
This time a lot of people felt that Phase II did not bring it.
The judges placed the mighty Phase in seventh place during the semi-finals of the competition, prompting arranger Len “Boogsie” Sharpe to change the entire arrangement in the short time between the semis and the finals.
The new version of the music was a complex arrangement of the song with the band going through extremely complicated and challenging passages, drawing on different genres of music, including some very sweet jazz riffs and an extended ending that kept the listener wondering if and when the song would end. The new direction, although admired by the faithful following, brought questions to many as to whether or not the music was appropriate for the Panorama competition.
For one thing the music might have been 'over the heads' of the judges or maybe just too far off centre.
Everybody acknowledges that there is a Panorama formula and it changes from time to time. Andy Narell, the US born and based pan composer, would not compromise his style to fit the Panorama mould when he took the band Birdsong to the finals and look what they did to him. Although the composition and performance were solid, the band did not place, ostensibly because the arrangement was too slow and did not fit into the expectations of the Panorama judges.
Boogsie may have gone too far out in left field, but the long ending was not doing him any favours. To accommodate it, the tune had to be played very fast since there is a strict time limit and in the finals it was played much too fast, falling quite short of the allotted time, so it seemed that the long ending was added to make up time, when in fact it took too much time and spoiled the music by forcing the band to play too fast.
There was just too much stuff going on in there for the judges to catch at that speed. They eventually placed the band in sixth position, drawing a loud response from the crowd that had given their performance a rousing round of applause during the competition. Even the television announcers had Phase II in at least second position.
All Stars, the eventual winner, got the nod because they had popular support of hundreds of their fans accompanying the band, not because the arrangement was so much better, if it even was better, but having a very popular song means that the work is already half done and the judges ruled accordingly.
For Phase II, changing the music completely in the week that it took did not help of course, since a lot of the music was being composed in the last hours before the competition and not every pan player can keep up that kind of effort, no matter how willing they are, but that was not the big problem, as no obvious mistakes were made during the performance.
In fact, the word performance should not have been used to describe one of the main criteria for judging the bands. It should properly be termed execution, since performance conjures up the image of a spectacle rather than a solid execution of the music. So a band that performs well, meaning jumping around, dressing snazzily, adding visual distractions or smoke and mirrors, could well be given more points than a band that simply executed the music well. Moreover, there should be consideration given to degree of difficulty as is done in other competitions, both sporting and musical.
If the judges considered only the musical aspects of the composition, nothing was a good as Boogsie's music and the Phase II execution, but obviously it is not strictly a musical competition. Popular support counts.
In any case maybe it's time the Panorama format was revised
Wayne Cezair, Phase 11 was not 6th,but 8th, tied with Starlift.
Gerard, I believe this is a first, maybe next year allyuh go cut Phase ll backside.
Sorry Gerard. Sixth, seventh or eight doesn't matter. Anything outside the top three is an also ran.
There can be no denying that the technique of miking and reproduction of steel orchestra music is far from perfection. Because of the unique nature of steelband music (very highly resonant sound from rubber on tempered steel) it could sometimes be a challenge to even the familiar ears. The demand on the listener is perhaps greatest for the much more rythmnic and up-tempo Panorama music. At this point, clarity and tonal quality of a band's instruments does give an edge. Most pan heads will agree that All Stars and Renegades have the best sounding instruments in the land along with very seasoned and expert players. These (undisputed?) facts explain why these two bands have been and will continue to ALWAYS be in the money. Personally, I believe that Skiffle is maybe the best executing and innovative steel orchestras in the land but they continue to be overlooked; tonal quality issues. Meanwhile, the master of harmonics, Mr.Sharpe, continues his project of redefining the our musical appreciation. Those who have ears to hear; let them hear.
Actually Boogsie arranged for the medium band Western Stars last year and this year. I believe he reduced his workload to two bands to concentrate more on Phase II. The small bands probably cannot afford him as well.