Skiffle Wins The Bunch

Celebration time!

Skiffle Bunch
MEMBERS of TCL Skiffle Bunch celebrate after emerging champion band
at the World Steelband Music festival which was held at the Jean Pierre Complex on Saturday.

October 23, 2000
By Terry Joseph

A TOTALLY LOCAL presentation by the TCL Group Skiffle Bunch on Saturday night copped the prestigious title of Best Conventional Orchestra, as the 12-day World Steelband Music Festival came to a close before a cheering crowd; at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain.

Skiffle Bunch, whose medieval name literally means “a group of itinerant musicians or troubadours” dropped that concept to singularly identify with Trinidad and Tobago and according to the band’s captain and manager, Junia Regrello and arranger Len “Boogsie” Sharpe; came out to secure the title for country.

Even the red, white and black uniforms worn by Skiffle Bunch players, representing this country’s national colours, were hurriedly commissioned on Thursday, after the band stunned all competitors and the public alike with its spectacular showing at the mid-week semi-final round.

A special hoarding was also drummed up, done in the same colours and with the words “Skiffle Bunch—representing Trinidad and Tobago” emblazoned on the front. The band was the only orchestra whose two selections (classic and calypso) were entirely local compositions.

The tune of choice for bands, invariably a classical selection, was written by Sharpe for Skiffle Bunch, who began the piece in 1990, then abandoned it for a while, when an attempted coup scuttled that year’s edition of the music festival. Titled “Rain Forest,” the piece sought to capture and interpret all aspects of the environment from which it gleaned its name.

Regrello said yesterday: “We wanted a total-local effort...We decided to represent T&T with all home-grown products and with hindsight, we feel that if we had not maintained that radical kind of approach of using entirely indigenous music, we may not have done as well as we did.”

And indeed the band did well. Scoring 576.5 points, Skiffle Bunch was 25 points ahead of their nearest rival, the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Steel Orchestra, who were separated from third placed Exodus by less than two points.

NIU again thrilled the crowd with the only other 20th century classical piece performed at the festival, Robert Chapell’s “Wood and Steel,” in which they incorporated a Ugandan instrument, the amadinda, to complete a riveting rhythm.

For Saturday’s final, Exodus replaced conductor Desmond Waithe with Venezuelan percussionist Jesus Acosta; whose work on the test-piece took the band to victory in that category at the preliminary stage of the competition. They played Tchaikovsky’s “Capricio Italian” and Andre Tanker’s “Steelband Times.”

The two BWIA sponsored orchestras, homespun Invaders and Ebony from England, finished fifth and fourth (respectively) and Switzerland’s Panch 2000 who created quite a stir by topping the preliminary round, were forced to settle for sixth place.

But the Skiffle Bunch success on Saturday was rendered even more significant than however great a triumph it represents and the US$22,500 it secured for the win.

Assisted by the First Lady of Pan, Pat Bishop, Lindy-Ann Bodden Ritch, Kareem Brown and conductor Ben Jackson, Sharpe’s arrangement of both “Rain Forest” and Ken “Professor” Philmore’s “Pan By Storm” for Skiffle Bunch was a clear crowd favourite. The band had earlier refused an offering from its Panorama arranger and composer Andy Narell, opting for Sharpe’s work instead as part of its total-local philosophy in the World Festival.

After the results were announced, Skiffle Bunch players and officials, led by a flag-waving Patsy Calliste (wife of calypsonian Black Stalin) whose daughter Keina played with the band, roared onto the court, some rolling on the ground in delight, to receive congratulations from other players.

The band then played a victory “lap” before the audience dispersed, finally leaving the arena shortly after 1.30 a.m.

Boogsie Sharpe
PAN Arranger/Composer Len Boogsie Sharpe plays
the final notes of his composition “In The Rain Forest”
with the TCL Skiffle Bunch at the World Steelband Music Festival 2000 final,
at the Jean Pierre Complex. SuperBlue is at right.

Sharpe and Skiffle winning since 1984

THE team of management and musical direction that took Saturday night’s top title at the World Steelband Music Festival, the Skiffle Bunch captain/manager Junia Regrello and musical director, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe; have been scoring successes at music festivals for nearly two decades with local music.

“That’s one of the things I like most about Junia. He takes chances with talent and youth,” Sharpe said yesterday. “He also understands that you cannot beat experience and the importance of academic skills, so he combined all of those forces and it paid off.”

For the festival Skiffle Bunch brought in the musical expertise of Pat Bishop, assisted by Lindy-Ann Bodden-Ritch and Kareem Brown, Eddie Wade who scored the music and the youngest conductor in the competition, Ben Jackson.

The formula has again taken the band to winners’ row.

Since 1984, Skiffle Bunch (then as a single-pan band) had been working with Sharpe for festival music.

In that year, they played Sharpe’s “Dance of the Douens” to win their category.

Sharpe himself baulked at the prospect initially and the band’s vice-captain resigned, saying that Boogsie was not musically literate and would not be able to produce a winning piece of classical music.

In 1986, Sharpe wrote another winning piece, “Saga of the San Fernando Hill” for the south-based band and in 1988 “The Three Seasons”, securing the same level of success.

In 1998, at the local qualifying round of the World Steelband Music Festival 2000 as a conventional orchestra, Skiffle Bunch finished fourth, behind joint-winners Exodus and Defence Force and third placed Solo Pan Knights.

“I certainly want to thank Junia for giving me the opportunity to do this and I want to thank all the musicians who assisted to make sure the band did justice to the music,” Sharpe said.

“Just before we went on stage on Saturday night, I told them that we have worked well with this combination before and it could work again if they put their minds to it,” Sharpe said. It’s nice that the foreign bands came here and played so well, because it actually made us play better, but we have to hold that title at this historic festival.

“And it was tough this time,” he said. “Since the preliminaries, the pans never went back to San Fernando. We practised at the stadium and at the Success Composite School in Laventille, so the children and their parents had to be going back home by maxi-taxi sometimes at 3 a.m, to get up to go to school next morning or the older players to go to work.

“A couple of parents even wanted to take their children out of the band because it was becoming a kind of burden to be there with them so late and then have to ride another 30 miles to get home, only to come again on the following night.

“The vice-captain actually had to hold a meeting with the parents and explain what we were trying to do.

“Then there are people like Pat Bishop and her sister Gillian Bishop, who stayed with us to the end.”

Pat told them, said Sharpe: “This is a world festival. It is down to T&T vs the Rest and we have a kind of disadvantage when it comes to the harder music.”

Said Sharpe: “People reading music have a better chance than us, because we take a longer period to get the notes that they just read off a sheet.

“We were also playing 21st century music, when all the other bands except Northern Illinois were playing older classics.

“But the whole festival brought a shake-up in the pan world and, in fact, I would say in the country.

“I hope that the people who have to deal with pan and pannists now understand the work that we have been doing all the years, which is how these bands from those other countries have been able to come here and put on such a show.

“Junia is a boss leader. After Rudolph Charles (former Desperadoes captain), I would say Junia Regrello is the next best leader the steelband world have seen in the recent time.”

Crowd pleaser

TWO members of the Northern Illinois University
TWO members of the Northern Illinois University beat their sticks together
while performing “Wood and Steel” at the World’s Steelband Music Festival finals
at the Jean Pierre Complex on Saturday night.

Finland-based Steel Pan Lovers
EXUBERANT members of Steel Pan Lovers of Finland perform
during the finals of the World Steelband Music Festival 2000
at the Jean Pierre Complex last Saturday night.

Mannette gets pan award

Ellie Mannette
WORLD renowned pannist Elliot ‘Ellie’ Mannette, left, receives an appreciation award
from Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold at the finals of the World Steelband Music Festival 2000
at the Jean Pierre Complex on Saturday night.

Mannette: What a great show

VISITING pan pioneer, Ellie Mannette gave the recently concluded World Steelband Music Festival a better than 80 per cent mark as a musical exposition.

“It was a very impressive show,” Mannette (who was honoured on Saturday night by Pan Trinbago and given pride of place seating for the event) said yesterday.

“I was very impressed with the performances by all the bands and particularly with regard to their ability to play the instruments. Some of them were not exactly what I would like to hear, in terms of the sustaining of notes, blend of the instruments and their harmonic relations, some of them were not all the way dear to my ear.

“But that did not take away from the players’ performances,” Mannette said.

“Some of those arrangements were wonderful, although a few were a little bit long overall. I would give it better than an ‘eight’. The event was well put together. The conducting, even the control of photographers showed a certain discipline and I appreciated that.

“I don’t want anyone to think that I am saying I am the best tuner or have the best instruments. I am different in my approach and would like to remain that way. I would certainly appreciate the opportunity to come down here and conduct a few seminars and a symposium, probably on the basis of a technical exchange with the University of the West Indies; to show the kind of approach that has been successful for me.

“Perhaps somewhere down the road this could lead to the standardisation of the instruments, if we have regular exchanges and that could also lead to easier movement of the drums, but all those matters are a little way off and hopefully, some of them would be discussed fully before I leave again for he United States,” Mannette said.

“But I would like to congratulate the winners and the organisers and indeed all the bands that took part in the final. It was a wonderful night for pan,” he said.


Terry-J at I-Level

Pantrinbago | Trinicenter home | Trini-News & Views