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A gruesome twosome

By Terry Joseph
March 01, 2003

PAN TRINBAGO executive member Richard Forteau is among those touting a widely held view that tonight's National Steelband Panorama final will carve a special space in pan history.

Speaking yesterday, Forteau said: "I more than suspect we are going to have the best Panorama climax in the history of this competition.

"We have done everything on our end to ensure the patrons are secure and comfortable and I think everyone agrees the orchestras are outdoing themselves with the music this time around.

"It has also been a mix of nostalgia and the future. Public response to judging of the preliminary round in the panyards has been overwhelming and points the way forward and at the same time provided a kind of nostalgia for those who love going to panyards.

"We anticipate keen competition and systems have been put in place to ensure it runs smoothly," Forteau said. "The event will begin promptly at 7 p.m., once the Junior Carnival Parade gets done in time for us to clean and prepare the venue.

"As far as seating is concerned, we have instituted very stringent controls on the numbers in each section of the stands and colour-coded the tickets, using different identifiers for the Grand Stand boxes, forecourt and general admission tickets; at prices of $250, $150 and $100 respectively. It is as much as we can do before showtime," Forteau said.

And the public seems more than ready for tonight's joust. Conversations this past week suggest everyone but the seven-member panel of official adjudicators has already selected a winner.

While conceding so-called "power bands" have no monopoly on what calypsonian David "Happy" Williams called "The Prize", pan pundits almost invariably selected one of the past decade's top three.

Others argue that the two-week interim since the semi-final stage allowed bands to do so much work on their selections that an upset could result. In 1998, Arima's Nutones cut through the ten-year stranglehold on the title shared by Desperadoes, BP Renegades and Exodus.

Desperadoes is, well, desperate to win again and for a number of reasons.

Firstly for the prestige. Their return to winners' row in 1999 was after playing second fiddle to Renegades and Nutones since 1994 and concomitant with the band's re-engagement of arranger Clive Bradley.

They repeated the victory in 2000 but lost to Exodus the following year. A win tonight would also enhance their record ten victories and not just in sheer numbers, but provide them with a more comfortable distance from nine-time winners Renegades.

Exodus is equally intent on maintaining its position in the ranking. Band manager Ainsworth Mohammed spoke of a special presentation for tonight's final, using the "Pandora" theme taken from their song. Indeed, Exodus has been practising as if it is playing in the last Panorama ever, turning down engagements in pursuit of The Prize.

Because defending champion Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars was not scored at the semi-final stage (quite unlike other defending champions who merely wished to know their standing at that level of the contest), the band remains, literally, an unknown quantity in the present joust, except that the band's historically unquestionable excellence remains intact.

To date, what is known is that Trinidad All Stars already has the north zone title (jointly with Phase II) under its belt, a victory it had not tasted since 1981 with Blue Boy's "Unknown Band". The band is currently enjoying broad support for its rendition of de Fosto's "Pandora". Already several pan gurus have accorded the Duke Street band victory.

Alas, the prophets are not the official judges.

Phase II Pan Groove has been working night and day on Len "Boogsie" Sharpe's "Music in We Blood", hoping to regain the top spot, a feat last achieved in 1988. Even more determined to carve its first notch on the coveted prize is Owen Serrette's Solo Pan Knights, whose resident arranger Robert Greenidge copped it twice when he worked for Desperadoes.

Renegades has been drilling its players into a finer version of "Iron Band", while bands from the south/central region, Tropical Angel Harps (zonal winners), TCL Group Skiffle Bunch and NLCB Fonclaire, would certainly like to be responsible for bringing the title back to that region, breaking a jinx that has beset the zone since Hatters last won in 1975. Tobago's Redemption Sound Setters is eager to create history by taking the title to the sister isle.

Those then are the theories. Tonight's judges will deal with the practical.

Now for the real surprise: Both this headline and column were originally published on February 9 last year. Only the song-titles and references to placings or playing positions in the 2002 contest have been altered, while a single paragraph that mentioned InnCogen Pamberi and PCS Starlift has been deleted.

In the relevant paragraph, "Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars" replaced "the band" and those words are used today to describe "Exodus"; given the shifting of positions between the original time of writing this column and today. Of course, the quotations came from conversations held in 2002.

Clearly, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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