|Steel pan "trolly" used to move the pans|
If you will remember back previously we have done some pan yard liming - visiting various pan yards to hear them performing or having a friendly little competition with a few other orchestras. We went pan yard liming again this week but what we found was very different. Since it is the week leading up to the finals, everyone was in full practice mode. In some cases we didn't even get to hear full songs but instead certain sections of a song practiced over and over and over. They were also many more players - nearly the full orchestras practicing. In the past, we only got to see a small fraction of these groups. They were also using the special built pan "trollies" that would be used in the final competition. These were interesting to see in use. It didn't seem to matter that these orchestras were in practice mode, many people still showed up to the pan yards to listen and see how their favorite orchestra was doing and how it would fare against others. This seemed to be a very popular past time with older Trini's.
|It's quite a work out playing steel pan|
Young, old, male, female, big, small, pan orchestras have all types of players.
|12 pans - one player!|
I know you are thinking "Hey, we heard a pan band when we were on holiday in Jamaica. They were playing in the hotel bar." I am sorry but no......that was not real pan. Okay.....yes it was but not Trinidad pan, where pan was invented! Here they are not bands but orchestras with sounds that resemble more of an orchestra vs a band.
One of the yards we went to was that of the Invaders. The T-Shirt was just too kewl so I bought one for Tom. Below is their Mission Statement if you will. It says "We, the members of this incredible Steel Orchestra, take enormous pride in being a peace-loving cohort of fun-filled musicians who invade the minds, hearts and souls of our willing listeners and charm them, mesmerize them, intoxicate them and captivate them with our melodious weapons of mass entertainment."
Actually, the pan orchestras of the past in many cases used to be violent gangs as well. The groups often fought other orchestras. Some of the names of these bands of men were "Hell's Gate", "Invaders", "Desperadoes". However, eventually over time the violence gave way to the music. The focus became beating the competition on the stage vs in the streets. The history is rich and fascinating.
|Phase II Groove - practice|
On Saturday February 6th 2016 we saw the National Panorama Finals - 10 medium and 10 large orchestras. It started just after 7pm and the last orchestra finished at 2:15AM to packed stands. Medium Pan has maximum of 90 players for finals and large has a maximum of 120. Many of those are playing multiple pans. That is a lot of pans! The stadium is a purpose built pan stadium. There are stands on both sides of the stage. The area in between (the stage) is probably the width of say 1000 ft total. There are ramps on both ends so the pan "trollies" can be pulled/pushed up onto the stage.
|Finals night - on the move toward "De Stage"|
|Making their way toward "De Stage"|
|Getting set up|
|A large orchestra getting set up|
|Presenting their piece|
|Tenor pan in detail|
The road to the finals is long. Besides practicing, the regional competitions start in early January with many, many orchestras trying to make their way through to the finals. We only saw the top ten in both medium and large categories. Are you getting a sense of how big this is and how much Trini's love their pan! The National Panorama Finals was broadcast live on TV with commentators if that gives you any sense of it.
Below is the winning performance in the large orchestra category. Desperados is from one of the toughest, roughest neighborhoods in Port of Spain - Laventille. The have a long history of winning with the most wins of any pan orchestra. Their last win however was 2000 until this year.
Below is the official video for the song "Different Me"