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WITCO Desperadoes Steel Orchestra’s arranger Andre White, 21, speaks with Dalton Narine relative to the 2012 Panorama



WITCO Desperadoes’ arranger Andre White, 21, speaks with Dalton Narine
about a few of his competitors in the 2012 Panorama

Sunday January 15:


I visited the Renegades pan yard when I first came [from New York] to Trinidad at 15. It was an exciting moment. I didn’t know it was like that, hearing it live. It was a clear, full sound. I’ve always admired Jit Samaroo, from the Panorama videos I saw of the band. He brought more excitement than I can remember. A roller-coaster ride is the best way to describe his music.

Each arranger has a distinctive sound. For example, I’m impressed by Len “Boogsie” Sharpe’s motivic development. It’s more unconventional, even with him soloing. He turned me on to jazz and bebop lines when I played with Phase II in 2007. The pan yard was an atmosphere of pure vibes, which carried you away like ecstasy. It was a natural high.

When I think of Leon “Smooth” Edwards, Trinidad All Stars’ arranger, the image is of him commanding the band with attention and respect. I met him in 2009. I saw the discipline up close. He stays consistent within himself. He’s true to himself.

I know the history of Desperadoes and its arrangers. What I learned from Clive Bradley was how he structured his harmonies and the way he orchestrated the music. Bradley made people dance. And feel sad. He did what he wanted. He paved the way for the art form along with Jit, Boogsie, Smooth and others in the Panorama. I distinctly remember his lines in In My House, Mind Yuh Business and Picture on My Wall. But Horn is a special song to me. He took a three-note ostinato (a motif or phrase that is persistently repeated at the same pitch) and manipulated it through the whole eight minutes of the Panorama song. When he changed harmonies the bass line went with him. Like a horn thing in a kinda way. He actually had you chipping to three notes.

I’ve got to put Edwin Pouchet of Silver Stars up there, too. He changed the game as far as the entertainment aspect of the competition. Kept you entertained all through his band’s performance. Yes, he pushed it in that direction. Others may have done it, too, but he pushed it in a different direction.

After I put down the first song for the band, Pan in We Soul by Johnny King, I was satisfied with the quality of the sound. It’s Despers, you know. Later, I overhead a player telling another that the band’s in good hands with the young fella. “He know what he’s doing.” It was my first day (six days ago). You know, Rudolph Charles was the ideal manager. He treated the community with respect and he got respect. I have to draw a line in the pan yard. I don’t push my weight around. I’m not the one playing. So I have to show them respect. It’s a give and take. It’s not necessary to be leading to be a leader.

Auntie Jean (of ADLIB) worries about my diet in Trinidad. I don’t eat meat or dairy products. But I’m good and I’m up to the challenge of taking the band where it wants to go.




WITCO Desperadoes’ Arranger Andre White speaks with Dalton Narine

Wednesday January 18:


A few days ago, I started laying down the music for our Panorama song, Prophet of Pan, and already we've got five and a half minutes of the 8-minute performance humming on Cadiz Road.

Visitors to the pan yard even dance along to the piece. A good sign because my intention is to touch people with ecstasy.

Auntie Jean can sleep well because I eat well and feel good about my daily experience here.

My day begins about 2 p.m., when I’m putting down music for the day crew. They admire how well I fit in with the band. My style - the approach I take with the music - has brought feedback from the band's elders, too. All positive vibes. They embrace the work, and it’s a love so far.

Expectations are high. Everybody wants to compare me to the band’s pioneers. With Bradley, for example. That’s their guy. Bradley’s a big influence on me. But I cannot be Bradley. Just as I cannot work with other arrangers. The last time I did that our band came in 10th.

Could you wake up in the night and share your dream with someone? You could describe it. But two people will never have the same story - or the same dream, for that matter. But all of that had been pre-arranged with management before the season started, and I’m happy about the resolution.

Just as I’m pleased about the way things have been going during our nightly practice sessions. Last week, we had a small side, about 20 players, and this week we’re up to 80 to 90 musicians. More and more are floating in, some from New York and London (ADLIB and Mangrove, mostly). So we'll have our complement of 120, maybe exceed that. But management says only the best will play.

No road music as yet. Perhaps after the preliminaries. And as for the Bomb [tune], that’s already been arranged by Andre Robley.

My focus is on the Panorama music. Incidentally, I’m arranging for Sforzata, also.




WITCO Desperadoes’ Arranger Andre White speaks with Dalton Narine

Wednesday January 25


We’re getting there, coming close to the end of Prophet of Pan. We should wrap it by tonight or early tomorrow. I’ll put down the introduction by Friday.

The vibes in the pan yard are real nice. Guys who have been Despers players for many years are real excited. And that moves me.

The song is a good choice by management, considering my first encounter with the band. It’s a perfect start-off for a marriage.

Regarding my creative process, in the beginning, I wasn’t getting enough of me in the sound. Now, I get the right approach. The band may sound like Despers, but it really sounds like Andre White with Despers. So, in a word, the creative process is feelings. I’m painting a picture. It’s the image of what the song portrays. I’m trying to create a story.

But not in the sense of the lyrics per se. The harmonic process is creating the story for me.

The yard is packed every night. The people of Belmont are so supportive. And supporters from Laventille, too. Supporters from everywhere, they all crowd the yard. It’s difficult for spectators to get parking, especially around 10:30-11 p.m. when I return from a three-hour session at Sforzata. Even though I’m in the Despers yard from 11 a.m., the day is really not a strain




Re: WITCO Desperadoes and arranger Andre White: by Dalton Narine

Tuesday January 31


Note: Andre White is resting today following Desperadoes’ performance for the Panorama judges last night (Monday, Jan. 30) in the pan yard at Cadiz Road, Belmont, which looks out to the Savannah. The event was mostly a head count of band members and cryptic comments by the adjudicators. I spoke with Kirt Gordon, captain of Desperadoes, who has a symbiotic relationship with Andre White, having championed the appointment of White along with a nine-member committee that oversaw the search for a new arranger for the band in November 2011. Here’s Capt. Gordon’s blog about the band’s performance of its Panorama selection, Prophet of Pan.


The judges praised Desperadoes’ introduction, but thought the jam was a trifle long. Overall, it was a great performance.

The yard was the most crowded in years. The people (and the judges) put full attention on Andre and Desperadoes.

Our intention is to win the semifinals on Sunday. We plan to keep the vibes going to get to the top. The adrenaline is pumping and we’re looking for a jump start in terms of points when the gate opens. Music from the get-go, without let up.

The arrangement is new. Sounds new. Fresh. Andre knows our style. He did a good job, which would account for success in the semis.

We have no fear. The crowd is back. Desperadoes is back.




WITCO Desperadoes’ Arranger Andre White talks to Dalton Narine

February 5


When you hear Prophet of Pan on the stage tonight, the arrangement should come across as what I would sound like with a great band such as Desperadoes.

[A man sipping from a beverage interrupts, intent on making plans to resume a conversation they had together earlier. Another walks up to tell how him how grateful the band is to have him play such wonderful lines - the ecstasy that abounds in Laventille over the vibes he’s brought to the band. White is gracious to the fan, acknowledging his “feelings.”]

Is it difficult to put together music where the chorus is kind of a jam? I’ve never come across a song that’s difficult to work with. As long as the song has a motif to take the sound through phases, moods, emotions. For example, I didn’t emphasize the Prophet of Pan as Boogsie, though as the subject he is a prophet in his own right. The story is not to reframe him as a great artist - rather, it’s about the trials and tribulations of his art and what it takes to produce great stuff.

In a sense, I have a picture of any musical giant. The prophet I was thinking about was [deceased jazz trumpeter] Miles Davis.

As you see, I’m having a great experience. Who doesn’t want to hear their music with Desperadoes? But I’m not starstruck. It’s almost as if I was SUPPOSED to be here. This is family. It’s great to interact with members of the band, elders and all. Very nice to get to know them. They respect you. You respect them. And once they accept you, it seems you’re in this thing for life. A Desper.

The plan is always to win.





WITCO Desperadoes’ Arranger Andre White talks to Dalton Narine

Tuesday February 7


I was in the pan yard when the decision reached me from across the Savannah through the PA system.

It shocked me. It shocked a lot of pan people in Trinidad and Tobago.

I refuse to sell myself short of what I know is real music.

I did what I was accustomed doing, but with Desperadoes behind it. That song is embedded in Desperadoes.

For those of you who stood with me and had my back over the past few weeks, I thank you for your support.


Again, I'm grateful for your comments.



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Comment by Neville T. Francis on April 3, 2012 at 11:11am

I trust that I can believe all the things that I have heard and read about...  All I can say is all the best next year for you and the best Steel Band in the world, Desperadoes!!!!

Comment by Reuben Campbell on February 22, 2012 at 8:17pm

Andre, as I've said to you before your music is good. Don't let haters get you down.
The other thing is the judges expect the preliminary round tune to be different from the semis tune and so on even if as was in the case of your arrangement perfectly structured melodies and harmonies and the bass line, no one dared to utilize them in the manner you did!
If it was down to me the judicial system would need shaking up because even without despers in the final they still effed it up!
So keep yuh head up Simeon you know Rasta always get held back wid politrix.

Comment by Joel Aaron on February 22, 2012 at 1:36pm

My guess is in some strange perhaps twisted kind of way they maybe wanted you to pay your so called 'dues' in Trinidad before elevating you to their perceived heights of panorama arranging stardom in the land of the steelband. This is just my bit of sarcasm concerning this, since what I heard coming out of Despers was as good as any and way better than many of some who made it to the finals. Welcome to Trinidad and Tobago panorama Andre, you have gotten your baptism of fire hold on and enjoy the rest of the ride of what I believe will be a long and successful run.

Comment by Raffique Shah on February 20, 2012 at 8:58am

Andre, your lesson in this year's Panorama is: never judge the judges--and their word is final (pun intended). A great piece of music...you did very well. Keep on doing what you do best. I sense from your comments that you know and understand music. That will take you, and any band you work with, a long way. And Despers will always be one of the greatest steelbands ever.

Comment by Roderick M. Aqui on February 9, 2012 at 6:23am
Ok Andre,we accept that you brought good/great music to the Panorama.Next time pay more attention to setting up your instruments so that the judges can hear ALL of the music from their vantage point,especially those famous Desperadoes' tenors!
Comment by C. Dalrymple on February 8, 2012 at 11:37pm

Greetings to all, the good book states that everthing happens for a reason.not all the time WE can see the reason. Stay strong and keep on playing SWEET MUSIC.

Comment by Mercer Ramdoo on February 8, 2012 at 11:21pm

If panorama was about "music", Despers would have been chosen.

Comment by Brian Patino on February 8, 2012 at 3:11pm

This will be a hard one to overcome -  worse than a good horn!! This arrangement is so compelling and sweet that I find myself singing bits of it over and over - and I don't even try to stop myself.

Comment by Ayesha Mohammed on February 8, 2012 at 1:30pm

The People's Choice Vote would have put Despers much higher, I am sure! I was thrilled at the sound and the arrangement. AW, we are sure you did your best!  Look fwd to Friday night just as if it was a win.

Comment by Hassan C. on February 8, 2012 at 12:50pm

Dont Worry.....DESPERADOES remember the last time we were knocked out WE came back to WIN two years back to back......Andre you will succeed without compromising your music just like a few arrangers before you.....CLIVE BRADLEY......RAY HOLMAN......SHARPE to some extent and PRO......the younger arrangers will come into their own if given a chance  to settle with bands.....Dr Andre you gave DESPERS a new lease on life with your music it was very heartening to see Robbie playing............and DESPERADOES start to discipline oneself from now and not wait for next year we will have to work all that much harder to rescue the competition called "PANORAMA" from certain bands and put it beyond the decision of the judges.It is like scoring a goal where all the REF HAS TO DO IS BLOW AND POINT TO THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD....

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