Thoughts on the Panorama by Andy Narell

Thoughts on the Panorama
Symposium tackles the Panorama question: Is there a need to revisit the Steel Band Panorama Format?

by Andy Narell

Brooklyn, New York - Let me make something clear right from the start - I love Panorama. It is one of the truly unique and exciting musical and cultural events in the world. Let’s not forget that. Like the pan itself, we should appreciate what we have. For a country of 1.3 million (not counting Brooklyn and the rest of the Trini diaspora) to mount a festival of this magnitude - several thousand players, 70 or 80 huge bands, pan round de neck - everybody somehow making it to the savannah for the big musical fete, the atmosphere on the track, the north stand, the motivation of the players, the tension and the debates about ‘who go win’ - it’s one of the great spectacles of world music. It brings communities together in a personal and tangible way - more so even than sports - and it invites participation. You can play in the band, push the pans, be a supporter, listen to the music, or wine with your sweetheart. And nowadays with pan players coming from all over the world to participate, Panorama maintains its essentially Trini character. So why do we spend so much time debating what’s wrong with Panorama, how Panorama killin’ pan? Why this symposium? Why do I take the time to write a letter to throw in my two cents? My answer is that it all starts and ends with the music, but let me digress for a few minutes and speak about a few of my own experiences.
read more

You need to be a member of When Steel Talks to add comments!

Join When Steel Talks

Votes: 0
Email me when people reply –


  • The link leads to an interview by Dalton Narine with Raf Robertson, musician and arranger. I think that the views expressed add greta value to this ongoing debate.Some will already have seen it I think.






    You are a very optimistic person.  I believe the time for young people playing “big” mas with steelbands has past.  Everybody has his or her time, and when it is gone, we try to relive it.   I recall in the middle 1960s, one of my uncles saying that Sparrow was not singing real calypsoes.  My uncle grew up in the era of 1930s and 1950s, and the calypsoes of his time, he saw as the period of true calypso. 


    Yesterday, I had a discussion with my older brother, who was a serious mas man in the 1960s.  He used to play character mas.  I asked him if he felt that young people would play “big” mas with steelbands again.  He said that as much as he would like to see it occur, he just could not envision it happening.  Like me, he brought up the issue of mobility of steelband.  To lure the return of steelband into Carnival, he suggested that there should be attractive financial competitions for pan, and that bands should be judged at various points.  In order to be eligible, at each stage, a band must play a different tune.  I thought it was a good idea, but I would like to add that to participate, you must have a certain amount (maybe 100) of costumed masqueraders.


    Question – Is there still an official Bomb competition?


    I appreciate the discussion.  I think we are really brainstorming the idea of getting pan back into Carnival.

    • I also appreciate the discussion.

      You're right about me being optimistic, and I really can't guarantee any of this will work, but something needs to be done.

      I like the idea of financial incentive for the road.

      Since the purpose of my proposals would also be to improve the Carnival, the current funds used as Panorama prize money could be used instead to finance the return to the road as prize money, assistance to the bands, etc..

      The Panorama itself should be able to generate enough funds to pay the prize money, and then some.

      Anyway, I'm just tossing out ideas for consideration and discussion.

      It is very encouraging to see that many more knowledgable people than myself are also thinking about these issues, and hopefully a concensus can be reached that would ensure the continued growth and development of the steelband in T&T, and around the world.



    Glenroy, I understand your point, but I just have difficulty in taking Panorama away from the Carnival season.  It is too much of an imbedded tradition.  If Panorama were to be held in a different time of the year, around what month would you suggest?  Furthermore, times have changed.  Do you believe the young people would play with a steelband on Carnival Tuesday? 

    • Trevor, you ask an excellent question about support.

      I have faith in the steelband, and I believe that the reason why the steelbands are losing support of the young at carnival time is because classical arrangements of obscure calypsos appeal to hard core pan fans like us, but not to the party people.

      Apart from the classical type arrangements, look at the tunes that the steelbands are playing for panorama, and compare them to what the party people are listening to, and you'd see what I mean.

      This is why so many go to panorama as an occasion to party, not to listen to and enjoy the music.

      If instead the bands were to play a repertoire of fairly straightforward arrangements of popular tunes of the day at Carnival time, they would have wider appeal.

      I think the steelband has a built in fan base in T&T, but it will take time and work to re-energise them.

      Because times have changed, it will take an effort to convince the revelers that a steelband could meet their partying needs, but I believe it can be done.

      There would then be ample time after Carnival for the bands to prepare for the big Panorama festival I envision.

      As to the time of year, some people believe August (with independence) would be a fine time.

      Personally, I would consider October after Labor day, so that , as time goes by,champion bands from Europe and North America could be invited to participate before they shut down for the winter.

      Incidentally I would definitely invite bands from the other islands to participate.

      This would also serve to keep the bands busy for most of the year.

      One thing, though.

      To make such drastic changes won't be easy.


    Glenroy, I understand your point, but I just have difficulty in taking Panorama away from the Carnival season.  It is too much of an imbedded tradition.  If Panorama were to be held in a different time of the year, around what month would you suggest?  Furthermore, times have changed.  Do you believe the young people would play with a steelband on Carnival Tuesday? 




    Thanks!  Panorama is such a major tradition at Carnival time.  It will be like moving horse racing from the Savannah to Arima.  Horse racing was such a tradition at Christmas time that the Yule Tide season seems to be missing something.  Moreover, it may like having Panorama in San Fernando instead of the Savannah.  However, I understand your point.


    • Trevor, as a fan of Panorama I can relate to your position. However, as a Trinidadian , I love all aspects of Trinidad culture.

      Over the years many have referred to to the Trinidad Carnival as possibly the best and most unique in the world.

      What made the carnival unique was the combination of calypso, steelband and "mas". Many of our best calypso hits sang praises to the steelband in this context.

      in my opinion, the Trinidad Carnival has deteriorated in direct proportion to the decline of the steelband's participation in the carnival parade.

      I remember even before the advent of the DJ's, as the Panorama got bigger,carnival revelers started drifting away from the steelband, complaining about the "one tune".

      There may be other reasons, but I think that the primary reason for this decline is the steelband's focus on Panorama, instead of preparing to make a presentation on the road on Carnival days.

      Moving the Panorama away from Carnival would allow the steelband organizations ample opportunity to create strategies for greater participation in Trinidad's signature festival.

      I do not deny that there are obstacles to overcome in returning the steelband to the road. Problems of power,mobility, the ability to present popular music in a way to appeal to the casual fan, etc.

      But I think this deserves strong consideration, and is critical for growth of the culture, the carnival and the steelband in Trinidad and Tobago.


  • As a youngster, I remember how excited some of my friends and I were when we heard that there was going to be a steelband competition called “Panorama” in 1963.   At that time, pan was “it.”  For the road, pan competed with brass bands, which did not have much volume; musicians of some brass bands actually walked along the street blowing their horns and beating drums.  

    In those days, most steelbands played “big” mas.  I could vividly see bands like Silver Stars, Starlift, and Desperadoes, presenting their large portrayals.  As the technological age entered, steelbands began to contend against more powerful brass bands and DJs.  At the same time, calypso also was changing; a more up-tempo calypso evolved and soca entered the scene in the early 1970s.   

    Due to new technology, gradually many people started playing mas with brass bands and DJs.  Thus, Panorama should not only take the criticism for the demise of pan in Carnival, especially on Tuesday.  As can been seen, other happenings were occurring. 

    Although Panorama is not prominent on Carnival Tuesdays, it plays a large part in the Carnival season.  Panorama attracts one of the largest crowds for the entire Carnival season.  So what could be done to bring back pan into Carnival?  Let me throw out some ideas.


    •  Scrap Panorama - Do you think that would bring back steelbands playing mas on Tuesdays?  I do not believe so.


    • Keep Panorama - From a financial standpoint, it is a big income maker (or should be) for Pan Trinbago, and steelbands are now earning large monetary prizes.  Further, Panorama generates so much argument, ole talk, and picong.  It also heightens the spirit of the communities.


    • Panorama is now a significant part of our culture.  However, in its present form, it is too difficult to put a full-large steelband on the road.  I believe that the steelband fraternity has to start thinking out the box.  Maybe smaller pans would have to be developed.  Maybe a lighter material could be used to make the pans.  The “G” pan and other advanced technological pans with louder sounds may be great contributing factors.


    • Is it more important to have the prominence of pan on Tuesdays than Panorama?  Is it the other way around?  Pan controls Jouvert morning, and it is quite visible on Monday afternoons.  The major problem is Tuesdays.  Some years ago, a friend said to me that Panorama is the best thing and worst thing for pan.


    • The issue of moving a steelband along the road has to be examined.  This is so critical.  Neal and Massy and other engineering companies need to do research on vehicles that are specifically designed for this.   What about adding singers to the steelband?  Sparrow and others have done this successfully in concerts.  What about mixing pan and brass? 


    In conclusion, I say, “leave meh Panorama alone.”  I love it!  Instead of talking about abolishing Panorama, we should be trying to figure out ways of improving it.  We also should be looking for creative means of it having a prominent role on Carnival Tuesday.

    • Excellent post, Trevor obviously gave this issue some thought.

      I still maintain however, that moving the Panorama away from Carnival as a separate, month long festival would benefit the Panorama and the Carnival.

      I still think that had the steelbands focused on their Carnival presentations instead of on Panorama, the steelband would have made the necessary adjustments to remain a viable music force on the road.

      i would like to see Pan Trinbage take Panorama away from Carnival, and create a separate, new Panorama festival for and by the panmen and their supporters.

      This would free up the steelbands to concentrate on finding ways they can return to the road in force, and reclaim their place on in the Carnival parade.
This reply was deleted.