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Sonatas Steel Orchestra Repeats as Panorama Champions for 2010 - And Owns New York

Epic musical fight in the ‘Battle Zone’ for Steelpan music supremacy

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Sonatas' get ready for their winning 2010 New York Panorama performance

New York, USA - Field Marshall Yohan Popwell - otherwise known as the panorama arranger for champion Sonatas Steel Orchestra - pointed to the far left and right, and instantaneously the quads camouflaged as small armored mobile vehicles rattled off a series of musical volleys over the heads of the audience that were so sharp it seem to cut a part in the hair of one patron, giving him a reverse Mohawk hairstyle.  We will not mention what it did to the women in the audience. 

He, Popwell, then pointed to the sky and then to the floor and the frontline (made up of whistling master tuner Birch Kelman tenors and seconds) immediately executed a chromatic dive bomb maneuver at a rapid-fire pace that had folks diving for cover - only to have them, his players,  skillfully pull up at the last moment into a fascinating shrill crescendo; yes, there were spilled drinks everywhere, mouths wide open and men looking to hide under chairs.  And then the final blow was this Latin movement - a very disciplined Sonatas percussive special unit began to rock the house.  Powell did a ‘cha cha’ move - he indeed loves to dance while his troops are meting out musical punishment to his opponents, and there was a loud boom from a secret drum Sonatas had built; everything came to a full stop- the Field Marshall Popwell and his band saluted the audience and judges - everyone exhaled and for all intents and purposes - it was over.  Goodnight!  Sonatas owned New York for another year.  And they also owned the championship trophy and reported first prize of $25,000.00.

General Mack Scott, the president of Sonatas and otherwise affectionately known as ‘Mr. Mack’ and ‘Uncle Mack’ to his brilliant young musical army, with arms crossed and a twinkle in his eye, appropriately seem to call off the attack as the musical genius of Sonatas shined through, victorious once again.

For Panorama 2010 there were some great performances as they, the challengers, endeavored to take the crown from the defending champion Sonatas. In this year’s ‘battle zone’ you were quickly exposed as a contender or pretender.

Ah, but let us review how we came to another classic moment in the annals of New York steelband panorama history.

Yes - it was an epic event.  Earlier in the week after a scorching heatwave parched the Big Apple for a number of days, the city that never sleeps braced itself for Hurricane Earl.  For a moment it looked like this storm was going to collide smack into the Empire State right before the New York panorama, and wreck havoc on the ‘Battle Zone.’

Un-phased by the elements - heat and/or impending hurricane, the New York steelband generals who have a history of being NOT afraid of anything when it comes to panorama music wars, issued orders to their steelpan troops “all systems go - man your posts” (WST intercepted these coded messages on Facebook).   Moreover, live music ammo in the form of sweet steelpan music was continually handed out to shoot Hurricane Earl out of the sky on sight.  The pan folks relished the idea of doing battle with Earl as a warm up to the impending panorama war.  In addition, to be caught not behind your pan, was indeed a serious offense at this time of the year, that could result in immediate banishment.  Anyway, we watched pan folks consisting of people and little people arrive at their yards in SUV’s, on bicycles and feet. And of course there were many who arrived on scooters with backpacks carrying their pan sticks and water, ready to practice and do battle with anyone, anything.

For whatever reason - you be the judge - Earl turned up the east coast but essentially stayed out to sea and clear of New York.

Four bands (Sonatas, Pantonic, Dem Stars and Harmony) entered this musical struggle with “Battle Zone” as their tune of choice.  Three others (D’Radoes, Sesame and Harmony) would choose “Pan Army”  as their call to musical arms.  Despers USA chose to go with the “De Last Band.”  While CASYM chose “Tell Dem” as its musical declaration that the band would not go away quietly, CrossFire heated things up with “Pan on Fire,” and Boston Metro stayed patriotic all the way with “Ah Love Meh Pan.”

  • Pantonic on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaPantonic entered the panorama with the unenviable task of playing in position one.  ‘Position one’ is known as the sound check position for obvious reasons - and none of them good.  Their tune of choice was “Battle Zone.”  Again, size matters in New York’s panorama to offset the negative effects of the sound system.  Pantonic was served up a triple whammy - playing first, small in size (their smallest ever), and braving a bad sound system.

  • CASYM on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaCASYM followed Pantonic on stage and came ready to take everything, but could do no better than third this year, a repeat of last year.  Their tune of choice was “Tell Dem” which, indeed, was the battle cry of CASYM all season.  It was also the first time they went to panorama with a selection composed by their arranger, Arddin Herbert.  CASYM took the stage with 100 players.  The orchestra has been in the top three, seven out of its last eight panorama competition entries.  They continue to be one of the best bands in North America.

  • Despers USA on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaDespers USA played third for the night, with all eyes upon the band this year.  They came into the 2010 competition with very high expectations.  Indeed, many looked for them to move into one of the top three positions, and possibly even outright win the panorama.  “De Last Band” was an ideal tune for Despers USA.  The band looked exceptionally dapper and well-dressed in white and gold.  Despers USA took the stage with 100 players.

  • Harmony on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaHarmony was up next, and performed “Battle Zone” as their tune of choice. They have now been around for a number of years, but have not figured out how to change their zip code to the contenders’ row.

  • D'Radoes on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaD’Radoes drove into the musical fray in position five for the evening, with Al Foster who hails from Canada, in behind the arranger’s wheel.  Finally D’Radoes seems to have  brought some stability to the position.  This was Foster’s first attempt at bringing home the goods at a New York panorama.  By all accords he did well on his New York maiden voyage which can be brutal on first-timers.  The band’s tune of choice was “Pan Army.”  Foster proved to be a competent arranger with promise.  Moreover he seemed to have bonded well with his ‘troops.’

  • ADLIB on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaADLIB continues to maintain their presence in the ‘high-rent district’ where champions dwell.  Sixth on stage for the competition, their tune of choice was “Pan Army.”  Again their young arranger André White demonstrated that he is here for the long haul.  ADLIB looked great and sounded great.  Their performance brought the crowd to its feet on a few occasions.  ADLIB took the stage with 100 players.

  • Dem Stars performed “Battle Zone” in position seven with Sheldon Elcock at the arranger’s controls.  Elcock was also part the 2010 crew in the freshman class of New York panorama arrangers.  His first outing was unforgiving.  Dem Stars was simply not a factor in this year’s competition.  They suffered from their small size, the sound system and apparent lack of musical connection with the judges and the audience.

  • Sonatas on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaSonatas came into this competition as the defending champions - and left as the champions.  Everyone else was chasing them, and they took the stage confidently in position eight.  This year they chose “Battle Zone” as their war cry.  Their props and uniforms definitely worked.  They hunkered down in the ‘battle zone,’ and looked every part of a great musical military machine with their full arsenal of 100 players.  They remain the talk of the town.

  • CrossFire on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaCrossFire called on the services of arranger Leon “Foster” Thomas to lead them to the next level.  Mr. Thomas’ maiden voyage into the New York panorama scene was indeed a good one.  He is part of that young talented crop of arrangers who can be the new face of pan for the foreseeable future.  On stage in position nine for the competition, CrossFire achieved their highest placement since 2004.  Their tune of choice was “Pan on Fire.”  Dressed as fancy firemen and (women) this presentation definitely worked for the group, visually, and with the band’s name. 

  • Boston Metro on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaBoston Metro’s methodology for the New York panorama is considerably different from that of the local (New York) bands.  Theirs is a laidback approach. Taking the stage as the penultimate band in the competition, their tune of choice “Ah Love Meh Pan” brought a completely different feel to the panorama competition.  Again, however, size matters in the New York arena.

  • Sesame Flyers on stage at the 2010 New York PanoramaSesame Flyers entered this year’s competition with Kareem (Kay) Thompson at the helm. As arranger, Kareem proved quite capable and ready for the task, taking Sesame Flyers, which was the final band on stage, to its highest finish ever in panorama competition.  Their tune of choice was “Pan Army.”  Indeed, Thompson faired the best of this freshman class of New York panorama arrangers.  He settled in and dropped some musical movements that merit serious attention.  The future looks very bright for Thompson. 

click for full Panorama results

We warned everyone last year in our 2009 WST NY panorama report that this could happen when Sonatas Steel Orchestra revealed that they were a bunch of musical marauding Bandoleros and took over the New York.  Remember?

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