Published on November 12th, 2017 | by Robbie Joseph0
History of the UK Steelband Panorama ‘Champions of Steel’ Competition.
Following the impact of TASPO – Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra’s performance at the Festival of Britain in 1951 the steel pan has become an important and respected element of British music culture. So much so that it is an important ingredient in the fabric of multi-cultural Britain.
In 1963, the government of Trinidad and Tobago in partnership with the National Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen set up a new steelband competition called Panorama. With the championship title at stake the event demanded a more complex approach to arranging calypsos for the large bands of up to one hundred players who are judged on detailed elements of the arrangement, musical ability and performance.
The Panorama steelband competition was inaugurated as an annual pre-carnival event. The grand final of the competition, Champions of Steel, is held on the Saturday before the Carnival procession, heralding in Sunday’s British Association of Steelbands (BAS) Jouvert celebration and Bomb tune competition at daybreak followed by the Children’s carnival and the largest street carnival in Europe on the UK August Bank Holiday Monday.
Panorama steel band competitions are now held all over the English speaking Caribbean, including London’s Notting Hill Panorama, Brooklyn’s Panorama in New York, USA, and in some European and Asian countries. They are planned by local steel band organisations and the structure and adjudication is usually based on that of the Trinidadian Panorama.
In the UK the first Panorama took place in 1978 and was won by the Paddington Youth Steel Orchestra led by Zack Herbert, the hotly contested Panorama steel band competition has been a precursor to the Notting Hill Carnival for 39 years, with the cream of UK talent battling it out. Up to ten steel bands from towns and cities across the UK rehearse daily for many weeks to learn a performance piece.
This event has been hosted at many London venues from Scrubbs Lane to Hyde Park. For many years the event took place at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance Park in West London’s Kensal Road but in 2007, the competition moved to Hyde Park for three years before returning to Kensal Road in 2010.
Thirty to a hundred plus players work with the best steelband musical arrangers to interpret a ten-minute rendition of a popular calypso/pan song arranged into a piece for the orchestra with introductions and variations over the theme. The bands are judged on harmonisation, motivic and melodic development, dynamics and effective use of the rhythm section – known as the ‘Engine Room’ as well as player performance.
Panorama also demanded a new approach to arranging the chosen songs. The arrangements done previously for parties, fetes and street parades were now considered too simple for the competition. Complex introductions and key modulations began to be used in the arrangements, and this is still a key feature of Panorama music today.
The steelband’s performance with quality harmonic embellishments, balance, tone and the finest rhythmic variations of the melody has the best chance of becoming the UK National Champions of Steel.
The late 70s and 80s saw various steelbands achieving the title of UK Champions of Steel – Paddington Youth, Metronomes, London All Stars, Mangrove, Ebony and Phase 1 from Coventry. Ebony Steelband Trust and their celebrated musical arranger, Anise ‘Halfers’ Hadeed, dominated the 1990s winning the competition from 1991 – 1999. Ebony and Hadeed have won the ‘UK Champions of Steel’ Panorama competition nineteen times. This phenomenal feat sees both Ebony and Hadeed holding the iconic global titles of the World Champion Panorama Steelband and Musical Arranger.
In 2000, the renowned steelband arranger, Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe led Mangrove steelband to the UK Panorama winner’s podium precisely ten years after their previous victory in 1990. This interjection brought a fresh breath of life into the competition.
Ebony returned to their winning ways in 2001 before Mangrove and North Stars shared the winners’ podium in 2002. Mangrove achieved the UK ‘Champions of Steel’ accolade for 2003 and 2004 before the magnificent Ebony again returned to the podium for the period 2005 – 2010. In 2011, Mangrove led by Andre White recaptured the coveted title only to be ousted by Real Steel with their young and gifted musical arranger, Leroy Clarke, in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Once again the juggernaut of UK Steel bands, Ebony, returned to their wining ways capturing the coveted title from 2015 – 2017 completing yet another hat trick of victories. This means that Ebony holds the global title of winning the most national steelband panorama competitions with twenty- two (22) victories.
The UK Panorama competition has certainly given a developmental platform to numerous young and talented musical arrangers who have progressed from players to arrangers in the likes of Kyron Akal, Samuel Du Bois, Leroy Clarke, Brent Holder, Robert Clarke, Paul Dowie, Andre White and David Ijaduola to name a few.
Crowds of supporters religiously follow their favourite steelband every year at Panorama similarly to the dedication paid to football teams. Corporate sponsors seized this excellent publicity opportunity and began to pump money into steelbands. Sponsorship money meant the steelbands could grow as larger bands had a competitive edge producing a more powerful and impressive sound and musical arrangers and pannists could be reasonably paid. Steelbands grew larger and larger and by the 1990s steelbands in the UK were entering Panorama with their full complement of players.
There is also a Junior Panorama for school age children and it is just as competitive as the senior competition. It is seen as an important training ground for the adult Panorama competition and a feeder for pannists for the adult orchestras and for the steelband movement on a whole.
However, the Trinidadian Panorama competition remains the pre-eminent steelband competition in the world.
By Robbie Joseph
Previous Winners of the Notting Hill ‘Champions of Steel’ Panorama
|UK PANORAMA WINNERS|
|2017||Ebony Steel Band||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Mangrove Steel Band|
|2016||Ebony Steel Band||Mangrove Steel Band||Metronomes Steel Orchestra|
|2015||Ebony Steel Band||Real Steel Orchestra||Mangrove Steel Band|
|2014||Real Steel Orchestra||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Mangrove Steel Band|
|2013||Real Steel Orchestra||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Mangrove Steel Band|
|2012||Real Steel Orchestra||Mangrove Steel Band||CSI Steel Band|
|2011||Mangrove Steel Band||Ebony Steel Band||CSI Steel Band|
|2010||Ebony Steel Band||Mangrove Steel Band||Real Steel Orchestra|
|2009||Ebony Steel Band||Mangrove Steel Band||CSI Steel Band/Real Steel|
|2008||Ebony Steel Band||Real Steel Orchestra||Southside Harmonics Steel Orchestra|
|2007||Ebony Steel Band||Stardust Steel Orchestra||Mangrove Steel Band|
|2006||Ebony Steel Band||Stardust Steel Orchestra||Southside Harmonics|
|2005||Ebony Steel Band||Stardust Steel Orchestra||Southside Harmonics|
|2004||Mangrove Steel Band||Ebony Steel Band||Glissando Steel Band|
|2003||Mangrove Steel Band||Ebony Steel Band||Glissando Steel Band|
|2002||Mangrove/North Stars||Real Steel Orchestra|
|2001||Ebony Steel Band||Mangrove Steel Band||Metronomes Steel Orchestra|
|2000||Mangrove Steel Band||Ebony Steel Band||Glissando Steel Band|
|1999||Ebony Steel Band||Mangrove Steel Band||Glissando Steel Band|
|1998||Ebony Steel Band||Southside Harmonics Steel Orchestra||Eclipse Steel Orchestra|
|1997||Ebony Steel Band||Glissando Steel Band||Eclipse Steel Orchestra|
|1996||Ebony Steel Band||Eclipse Steel Orchestra||Mangrove Steel Band|
|1995||Ebony Steel Band||Pantonic Steel Orchestra||Lambeth Youth Steel Orchestra|
|1994||Ebony Steel Band||Pantonic Steel Orchestra||Lambeth Youth Steel Orchestra|
|1993||Ebony Steel Band||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Mangrove Steel Band|
|1992||Ebony Steel Band||Mangrove/Metronomes||Pantonic|
|1991||Ebony Steel Band||Mangrove Steel Band||London All Stars/North Stars|
|1990||Mangrove Steel Band||Ebony Steel Band||Metronomes Steel Orchestra|
|1989||Ebony Steel Band||Mangrove Steel Band||Metronomes (held in Isaac Newton School)|
|1989||London All Stars Steel Orchestra||Stardust Steel Orchestra||Held in Bromyard Centre|
|1988||Ebony Steel Band||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Mangrove|
|1987||Phase 1 Steel Orchestra||London All Stars Steel Orchestra||Stardust Steel Orchestra|
|1986||Mangrove Steel Band||Ebony Steel Band||Stardust Steel Orchestra|
|1985||London All Stars Steel Orchestra||Mangrove||Ebony Steel Band|
|1984||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Ebony Steel Band||Mangrove Steel Band|
|1983||Ebony Steel Band||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Mangrove Steel Band|
|1982||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Ebony Steel Band||London All Stars Steel Orchestra|
|1981||Mangrove/Metronomes||London All Stars Steel Orchestra|
|1980||London All Stars Steel Orchestra||Ebony Steel Band||Metronomes|
|1979||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Paddington Youth Steel Orchestra||Ebony Steel Band|
|1978||Paddington Youth Steel Orchestra||Metronomes Steel Orchestra||Glissando Steel Orchestra|