History-making PanoGrama breathes life and love into the body of pan

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

Sandra L Blood - Trinidad & Tobago Guardian

“If music is the food of love, play on,” says the late English actor, playwright and poet William Shakespeare in the first line of his play written in 1601, Twelfth Night. His dream was to act, write and influence the world positively--and music, in all forms and fashion is being played on.

And who can forget the late American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr back in 1963, he too, had a dream.

He had a dream to end racialism in America, and unwarlike, fight for jobs and freedom for blacks, so, on August 28, 1963, he delivered his speech, I Have a Dream. Jobs and freedom materialised.

But, like the song The Impossible Dream (The Quest), written by Joe Darion, composed by Mitch Leigh, and made famous by legendary singer, actor and producer, the late Franklin “Frank” Sinatra: at times we will “dream the impossible dream; fight the unbeatable foe; bear the unbearable sorrow,” and “run where the brave dare not go,” until the dream is brought to life--the kind of dream we want children to dream and make noble history.

“To right the unrightable wrong” that pan competition has outlived its potential, and to unravel the impossible dream came to light when Barbados-based T&T pannist Nevin Roach set forth his initiative--the first viral pan competition as hosted on Instagram by @IVEN88.

Panograma 2020, a solo-edition event, saw its live preliminary rounds streamed on April 24to 25 with 22 pannists, where judges David “ZigE” Walcott of Barbados, Kenneth Joseph, graduate of Northern Illinois University, and Ojay Richards, T&T, had the task of narrowing down the field to 17 semi-finalists on the 30, to the top ten finalists on May 3.

The scheduled 7pm final commenced ten minutes later owing to technical difficulties, as somewhat expected during live productions, but an apologetic Roach invited the audience to stand (in their living rooms), put their right hand across their chest to sing the official anthem for the virtual show.

In a bitter-sweet moment, however, Roach extended birthday greetings subsequently, to Carlton “Xanda” Alexander, distinguished musical arranger and director of the 2020 National Panorama large-band champion Desperadoes whose birthday was on the date of the finals while, in same breath, advised that the competition turned out to be in honour of the recent Covid-19-deceased US steelbands’ supporter, Martin “Dougie’ Douglas, who would have been 72 years on said date.

It being “a pleasure to bring greetings on behalf of the Pan Trinbago Central and general executive,” president Beverly Ramsey-Moore says she’s very pleased and happy for the efforts…congratulating Roach for his creativity and initiative.

“Oh how you’ll miss the panyard and socialising together, but we all must wait on the government further advice. We are working on a plan on how to move forward.”

She wished all the finalists the best, with an additional sweet note that Pan Trinbago will sponsor each finalist of that night, to the tune of US$100.

Total to be amassed was 110 points categorised for competitors’ Tune of Choice, and a Random Tune selected by Roach.

Nine-year old tenor pannist of Tobago’s Katzenjammers Steel Orchestra Jadon Phillip; 2019 Ragga Soca Monarch, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Hance John and his accompaniment DJ and pannist, Rodney Small; and Barbadian dancer Nandi Yard, supplied special entertainment.

Roach reminds that key objectives of Panograma are to help pannists and the world keep focused, and to raise funds to assist pannists in need during this Covid-19 pandemic as many are unable to work.

He implores even if it’s US$1 or $2, they add up, advising that payments are to be made by way of PayPal.

Roach showered appreciation on Courts Sounds Specialists of Laventille, and other steelbands for having started to assist other pannists, and on his assistants who worked in the background.

He thanked the sponsors and all others who made the final product a success; attracting the 1,000-plus viewing audience and Instagram.

Noble history made: Panograma breathed life and love into the body of pan; that this COVID-19 pandemic cannot kill the performing arts.

Prizes included: cash (winner Earl Brooks Jnr receiving US$500), complimentary designer hats, pan sticks, and online sessions with world renowned musician Liam Teague.