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UK

Published on August 28th, 2013 | by WST

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Real Steel Orchestra retains their ‘UK Champions of Steel’ Steelband Panorama 2013 Title.

Almost one year to the day (the 2012 Panorama was August 25) UK steel orchestra ‘Real Steel’ repeated their winning ways when they held on to their championship title for the second year in a row. As defending champs the band came out, taking no prisoners in this musical war. Even through the distortion of the online feed, the effectiveness of Leroy Clarke’s arrangement of their tune of choice ‘Hammer Time’ and its execution by the orchestra, left little doubt that the Real Steel musicians were set on keeping their Panorama crown. The music pulled on ageless Afro-Caribbean musical idioms, connecting directly with the crowd, and ultimately the judges. Since rain was a weather factor umbrellas were up in the air, as the steelband lovers danced through it all. The 2013 steelband Panorama champions literally ‘played up a storm’ even as many present were drenched.

Indeed, the rain remained in play for the better part of the event, which got off to a late start.  CSI Steel Orchestra executing Brent Holder’s arrangement of Fantastic Friday was first out of the block in the 2013 music competition.

Playing in the second position as drawn was Metronomes Steel Orchestra, celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2013. While they did not clinch the championship they definitely surged upward this year to second place, having come in fifth in 2012. Interestingly Annise “Halfers” Hadeed who was one of the judges in the 2012 Panorama, returned to the Panorama arena again in 2013, this time as an arranger for Metronomes. His arrangement of ‘Shock Attack’ had, in turn, been judged by his peers.

Following was Ebony Steel Band, which last captured the UK’s “Champion of Steel” title—as the UK Panorama winner is officially known—back in 2010.  Playing Samuel du Bois’ arrangement of Tell Dem Ebony had to settle for a second year in fourth place.  But expect this orchestra to be back – after all, that 2010 championship was their nineteenth – yes, 19th – win in this competition!

Playing in the fourth berth Mangrove Steel Band was “Ready for the Road” and ready for the “Rama” – the 2013 UK Panorama, that is. As they belted out their tune of choice, Bunji Garlin’s monster music anthem ‘Differentology’ as arranged by André White – Mangrove players sang the refrain lustily as they blazed a musical trail on their instruments. The rain certainly did not dampen their fiery performance in a delivery that must have lit a fire in the bellies of steelband music lovers in attendance, especially their avid supporters. White, based in New York, has worked with Mangrove Steel Band since 2008, in that period garnering the orchestra three ‘first runner-up’ positions (2009, 2010 and 2012), and the championship itself in 2011.  His interpretation of ‘Differentology’ and Mangrove’s performance elicited a third-place nod from the judges.  But don’t tell that to the crowd who had simply gone wild at the end as the band finished playing.

Croydon Steel Orchestra which took centre stage in the sixth place, also placed sixth in the final outcome, the same position as last year.  Croydon chose Ray Holman’s beautiful and unifying 2013 composition of ‘Sapna’ (The Dream) as their tune of choice and determinedly threw their hat in the musical ring with Paul Dowie’s arrangement of the song.  The band struck their last notes at exactly 10:15 p.m. local time.

Oh boy – who on earth was the idiot on SocaFM.uk who kept commenting during the bands as they played? Several times during bands’ actual performances, the “DJ” kept interjecting over the steel orchestras – just as he would normally, when he was “on air” during regular music rotation – Lord help us – what next!

Authorities working with the UK Panorama usually run a tight ship, time-wise, and it was a mere fourteen minutes after Croydon Steel Orchestra wrapped up at the Kensal Road, London-venue when results were announced. In the short interim, music lovers were reminded that once again the six orchestras had gathered, essentially out of pure love and passion for the steelpan instrument, art form and community – as bragging rights were all that were at stake – literally.  For first-timers, and those who needed a reminder, the crowd heard that the steel orchestras had to literally pay their own way to be able to perform at the competition, with no financial assistance coming their way – and most pointedly – that there were no financial prizes – no money for anyone in the competition, including the “winner.”  Lamenting that this situation had been on-going for several years, the speaker wished pan lovers would keep these circumstances in mind generally; that with no money coming in and expenses being borne out of pocket, that the bands usually could not afford the extra financial outlay – when for example, they requested and expected from the bands – free T-Shirts, as supporters.

As said, time-management was key, and by 10:30 p.m., it was all over for another year.  Results were announced, and those happy, and not-so-happy, turned their attention to the annual J’Ouvert and Notting Hill Carnival celebrations.


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