The choice was between Farmer Nappy’s “Big People Party” and Superblue’s “Spanking”.
In the end, Pan Fantasy’s arranger Al Foster enticed the local band to settle for “Big People Party”, which was one of the most popular hits in this year’s Trinidad & Tobago carnival road march.
The rendition and presentation resonated with the judges at the annual Pan Alive steelpan competition at Lamport Stadium last Friday night as Pan Fantasy captured its third straight title.
“This is an old-fashioned style (of) music with big people holding each other and doing steps,” said the winning band’s leader, Wendy Jones. “It’s not just for young people. It’s a bacchanal song with sweet music. ‘Spanking’ is a nice song, but it doesn’t jive musically.”
The bands are judged on arrangement, general performance, tone and rhythm.
With 88 members, Pan Fantasy was the largest contingent in the 13-band competition. The youngest member is 13-years-old.
“We have a youth-led band and I am extremely happy with the way they have performed on a big stage in the last three years,” said Jones.
While Afropan had to settle for second place, veteran member Tony Pierre was pleased with the growing emergence of young people in the bands.
“Pan is attracting a lot of young people and that’s very good,” said Pierre, who played with Silver Stars in Trinidad in 1967 before migrating to the Greater Toronto Area later that year. “They love what they do because it’s more than just playing the instrument. As you see here tonight, they are moving the drums around into position before going on stage to perform for the judges. They are very involved.”
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute Grade 12 student, Brandon Mingo, was one of the many young pannists in the competition. A graduate of the Nativity Steel Angels, he was a first-time Pan Alive contestant.
“I enjoy the rhythms of the steelpan,” said the Panatics Steelpan Network base player. “I had fun and this was a great experience.”
For the sixth straight year, youths from the Birdsong Academy in Tunapuna, Trinidad were part of the Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra (HYSO) group that took part in the Pan Alive contest.
From his T & T base, arranger Terrence Sealey helps HYSO prepare for the annual competition through Skype and Internet.
“I send them the music by e-mail, they go through the score and every week I would fix whatever needs to be done before I come up for the final rehearsals and the competition,” he said. “It’s an arrangement that works well.”
Founded a decade ago, Birdsong offers free music education to young people in Tunapuna and the wider Caribbean Diaspora. Several of its members are enrolled in the University of Trinidad & Tobago and the University of the West Indies music programs and two are in the T & T Police Band.
“We have over 100 young people in our program,” said Sealey. “As a reward for good behaviour and their ability to play music, we select a couple of them each year to come to Canada to take part in Pan Alive. Some of them have come more than once and they have returned home fully enriched.”
This year’s representatives were Neisha Smith, Deyonte Samuel, Fayola Thompson, Richelle Seenath and Rochelle McKain.
The other Pan Alive contestants were Brampton Golden Harps International, New Dimensions, Oakville/Halton Community Band, Symphonyx, St. Jamestown Youth Centre Steel Orchestra, JK Pan Vibrations, Silhouettes, Salah’s Steelpan Academy and Pan Masters.