By Terry Joseph
March 01, 2003
NLCB Fonclaire opens tonight's musical battle for the $200,000 prize at stake in this year's Steelband Panorama competition, a cash plum whose worth pales against the prestige of being declared the best steelband in Carnival 2003.
Promoted as the 40th anniversary of the contest, this year actually marks the 41st time bands have lined up for competition. In 1979, after the first round, a protest by pannists led to boycott of all subsequent stages of the contest.
For all its tremors en route, this year produced no major rumble except a teacup-sized storm over the direction in which bands will flow to the Queen's Park Savannah stage and even that has been swiftly silenced by Pan Trinbago's magnanimous reversal of the earlier dictum.
So it's on to the grand prize, with the 12 conventional orchestras adjudged best in the land coming up against the formidable Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars, in the hope of dethroning the legendary Port of Spain band.
Among the best-advertised threats to Trinidad All Stars' retention of the trophy are Len "Boogsie" Sharpe's Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove (with whom they tied for the north zone title) and World Steelband Music Festival and two-time Panorama champions Exodus.
Musical arrangers for each of the top three bands are already claiming victory but the Panorama final has been known to throw up some rather rude surprises, depending only on how well the band performs at the crucial time.
Already, the choice of calypso has suffered a severe turnaround, from "Trini to the Bone" being the most popular piece at the preliminary stage of competition, it has now been relegated to just two appearances tonight.
Frontrunners are de Fosto's "Pandora" and Sharpe's "Music in we Blood", making for sideshows between bands that have selected those songs.
Four bands are performing "Music in we Blood" and an equal number doing "Pandora". Pan Knights have selected Iwer's "Ah Home" and Silver Stars are in with Mark Loquan's "Identity", while Renegades will pin their hopes on arranger Jit Samaroo's "Iron Band".
Witco Desperadoes, whose lacklustre showing at the semifinal round left many of the band's fans deeply disappointed, have reportedly reworked the song into a masterpiece and is coming to the Queen's Park Savannah venue intent on shocking other bands out of their aspirations.
But then, no band is going there tonight to run second or down the field.
The task of determining who comes away with the prize, though, is left exclusively to a nine-member panel of judges, from whom seven are selected immediately before the start of the contest.
Any possible tainting of the results by favouritism or prejudice is avoided by dumping the highest and lowest points given each band by the panel, leaving only the five median scores in the reckoning.
Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold yesterday said the organisation expects its best crowd ever and urged patrons to arrive at the venue early, "in the unlikely event we end up with seating problems that we have really tried hard this time to avoid."
Over the years, the event has been plagued by seating problems, much of which results from the purchase of bogus tickets by patrons, with consequent duplication of seat numbers.
Showtime is 7 pm
Tonight's order of appearance for National Panorama Finals
Position - Band Name - Song - Arranger
1 - NLCB Fonclaire - "Music In We Blood" : Darren Shepherd
2 - Nu Tones - "Trini 2 De Bone" : Terrence Marcelle
3 - Witco Desperadoes "Music In We Blood" : Clve Bradley
4 - Solo Pan Knights - "Ah Home" : "Ah Home" : Robbie Greenidge
5 - Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars - "Pandora" : Leon "Smooth" Edwards
6 - Tropical Angel Harps - "Pandora" : Clarence Morris
7 - RBTT Redemption Sound Setters - "Pandora" - Winston Gordon
8 - Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove - "Music In We Blood" : Len "Boogsie" Sharpe
9 - Excellent Stores Silver Stars - "Identity" : Edwin Pouchet
10 - TCL Group Skiffle Bunch - "Trini 2 De Bone" : Lloyd Martin
11 - BP Renegades - "Iron Band" : Jit Samaroo
12 - Birdsong - "Music In We Blood" : Rudy Smith
13 - Exodus - "Pandora" : Pelham Goddard
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