Written by: Tamoy Ashman
Edited by: Jaydene Thomas
Trinidad & Tobago’s Keishaun Julien was crowned the NLCB PanoGrama Champion for 2021 after he blew away fellow competitors on Saturday, May 22, dethroning his fellow countryman and reigning champion Earl Brooks Jr. He played his way to victory with a rendition of Pan by Storm, that was entertainingly supported by the ambiance of his storm themed presentation, whilst being cheered on by his many fans online.
Julien secured the top spot with a total of 93.2 points, followed by Dejean Cain in 2nd with 92.4 points and Tyeesha Alexander in 3rd with 92.2 points, both also hailing from Trinidad & Tobago. Despite leading in the prelims and the semifinals, France’s Mathieu Borgne had to settle for 5th place on the penultimate night.
The event started promptly at 7:45 pm AST with the now established 15-minute musical interlude from Penthouse 2.0. Viewers of the virtual event took this time to stock up on drinks and food, whilst anxiously awaiting their favourite performer and performances. As the 10 second countdown began, spectators flooded the chat with flags, the names of their favourite pannists as well as their predictions on who they think will take the crown at the end of the night.
The competition featured many surprises, one being a performance of the PanoGrama Anthem by writer and composer Mark Forde. The anthem was also mixed and mastered by Tracy Thornton of the USA and marked the official beginning of each event. This was followed by a heart-warming speech from the President of Pan Trinbago, Mrs. Beverley Ramsey-Moore, who highlighted how COVID-19 has affected the steelpan industry and lauded Mr. Nevin Roach, CEO of PanoGrama Entertainment, for his continued efforts and contributions to steelpan. She praised all the participants in the competition for the amazing job they each did and invited all attendees to have a good night.
Professor Liam Teague, an adjudicator for the event, was up next to express his gratitude for being a part of the event as he lamented on how difficult the competition was to judge with so many talented pannists. He congratulated all the participants and encouraged them to continue following their dreams, before closing his remarks with a few lines on the steelpan.
Teague was among David ZigE Walcott, Victor Provost, Ojay Richards, Andy Chichester and Kenrick Noel (substitute) on the adjudication panel for the competition.
As the competition got under way, viewers were treated to the high standard that they have now become accustomed to, as the performers once again, did not disappoint. The moment spectators were waiting for began with a performance from Hanif Goodridge (T&T) whose execution of Caribe by Michel Camilo set the tone for the event. Goodridge complimented his song choice with a tropical themed background, attire and flashing colourful lights which spectators believed elevated his performance. He was followed by the sole female competitor in the finals, Tyeesha Alexander who, outside of claiming 3rd, also copped the People’s Choice (an award she also won last year) and Best Dressed awards. This is a feat she accomplished after over 2,000 votes were cast and counted.
Other notable performances of the night came from Andre Forde who performed Give It to Ya by Marzville. Forde of Barbados caught many viewers completely off guard with a jazz-blues fusion of the popular soca hit. Viewers were left in awe at how beautifully he arranged the song to present it with a smooth and melodic feel. David Yundi of the USA added to the wow factor when he opened his performance blindfolded. Each finalist showed their musical prowess and creativity, but it was Julien who blew spectators away with his storm themed performance.
Julien, who finished 8th in the semi-finals, made what many describe as a remarkable comeback with his rendition of Pan by Storm by Designer, complimented the title of his piece with a creative backdrop depicting the events of a storm in which he was the lone survivor among his 9 other competitors, foreshadowing his win. The storm was so powerful that it left Host Nevin Roach and Co-host Aundrea Wharton ducking for cover under a shared umbrella.
As the main performances came to an end, special guest performances by singer and musician Lady Red and Saxophonist Ricardo Seales entertained spectators with musical renditions while they waited anxiously to hear the results.
Julien walks away with a trip to Canada where he will perform at the Sons of Steel Concert. He was also awarded USD$1,000, a virtual session with world renowned pannist Victor Provost, an Augustus Peter Steelpans Chrome Low C Tenor Pan package and an appearance fee.
Dejean Cain who copped second place will receive USD$800 cash and a virtual session with Provost, while the third-place winner Tyeesha Alexander will receive USD$500 cash as well as a virtual session with Provost. All finalists will receive an appearance fee partly sponsored by Pan Trinbago.
The virtual competition continues to generate much interest and tracking on social media as it features pannists from around the world. At the beginning of the competition there were 30 pannists, but over time that number was reduced by 10 following each round of the competition. The finals featured 10 pannists.
Over the course of the competition, the NLCB PanoGrama has attracted a massive viewership of over 10,000 international spectators, from the beginning of the event on May 7 to the end on May 22. For the finals, a total of 5,000 spectators viewed the event across Facebook and YouTube.
In an interview, a smiling Roach indicated how happy he was to cross the finish line with this year’s edition of PanoGrama. He thanked his team for the hard work they put in to make this year’s event a resounding success. “To everyone who played a role and supported, thank you. My team and I look forward to more improvements, growth and increased participation next year. Live, love, play and enjoy!”
Final Standings for the Finals
1. Keishaun Julien (T&T) -93.2 points
2. Dejean Cain (T&T) – 92.4 points
3. Tyeesha Alexander (T&T) – 92.2 points
4. Earl Brooks Jr. (T&T) – 91.6 points
5. Mathieu Borgne (France) – 89.6 points
6. Andre Forde (Barbados) – 89.2 points
7. Hanif Goodridge (T&T) – 84.6 points
8. Charlton Alfonso (T&T) – 77.8 points
9. Jamel Cadette (T&T) – 76.4 points
10. David Yundi (USA) 75. 8 points
Best Dressed - Tyeesha Alexander (T&T)
People’s Choice – Tyeesha Alexander (T&T)
Sponsors – National Lotteries Control Board of T&T, Pan Trinbago, Sons of Steel, Augustus Peters Steelpans, R Smith Creations, #1 Steelpan App GOLD, E-Pan, Emineo Caribbean, Co-operators General Insurance Ltd., Music Jym, Pan Podium, EnSoul Music Designs, Perfect Steel, Mallet Man, Run246, Penthouse 2.0 and Leetech Media Ltd.