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Exodus Is Boss

By Terry Joseph
March 03, 2003

Pelham Goddard's musical arrangement of De Fosto's "Pandora", flawlessly executed by the 100-member Exodus Steel Orchestra, yesterday morning added the 2003 National Panorama title to the shelf of the reigning World Steelband Music Festival champions.

Playing in the position superstitious pan jumbies call "unlucky 13", Exodus began its performance at precisely 2 a.m. under a dazzling display of glitter-dust nomenclature, metre-tall letters spelling out the band's name atop its pan racks, to deliver an equally sparkling interpretation of the song.

Clearly, Pat Bishop's drilling of the Tunapuna-based orchestra honed its music to perfection, matching performance with a generally pleasing aesthetic that, in the sum, charmed audience and Panorama judiciary alike.

Led by Ainsworth Mohammed, Exodus carved a third notch on the annual title, having won in 1992 and 2001. Band members couldn't stop jumping at the announcement, as Mohammed collected—on the spot—a $200,000 cheque and the promise of a new vehicle, bringing its winnings to the value of some $350,000.

In fact, all bands received their cash prizes upon announcement of their placings, a welcome innovation from Pan Trinbago, whose president Patrick Arnold and secretary Richard Forteau did the honours onstage shortly before 3 a.m. yesterday.

The final began some 30 minutes after its advertised 7 p.m. start time, even though the National Carnival Commission (NCC), abandoned by experts from the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA), still managed to complete the Junior Carnival Parade in record time (by 2.45 p.m.); removing the annual excuse about delays caused by having to sanitise the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain venue.

At the opening, the first listed band NLCB Fonclaire rendered an orchestral national anthem, then patrons remained standing for a prayer that detailed all but the middle names of players in asking God's guidance, before an audience that included Culture Minister Pennelope Beckles, US Congressman Charles Ranghell and jazz-stars Ralph MacDonald and Jimmy Buffett, was called back to its legs for a minute of silence to mark the passing of Andre Tanker and Ken Brathwaite.

Although quite the opposite was promised by Pan Trinbago, it turned into a long night, perhaps unduly so, given the obvious sloth of far too many bands in getting to the stage, Arima's Nu Tones being first among the delinquents.

Len "Boogsie" Sharpe's Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove was subjected to highly audible audience disapproval in that regard, the Woodbrook-based band taking more than 30 minutes before striking the first note of "Music in We Blood", a performance accompanied by several actors spraying red abeer on each other.

Taking it from the top, Saturday night pedalled along until shortly before 10 p.m. and Solo Pan Knights' performance of Iwer George's "Ah Home", work evidently enhanced by The Laventille Rhythm Section in its engine room. Its musical arrangement a collaboration between first-timer Carlysle "Juiceman" Roberts and Robert Greenidge, that performance brought the Barataria band into Top-5 reckoning, earning "Power Band" status in the bargain.

Greenidge, who had been away for part of the run-up to Panorama, also had to further dilute his talent, having been conscripted at last minute by former charges Witco Desperadoes, after that band fell out with its retained arranger Clive Bradley. The result did not significantly enhance the Laventille band's chances, placing it an uncharacteristic 7th in the final standings.

Defending champions Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars put in an excellent showing with Leon "Smooth" Edwards' arrangement of "Pandora" but alas, it was not enough to scale the eventual five-point difference that pushed the Duke Street stalwarts into second place.

Jit Samaroo's work on the self-composed "Iron Band" crackled in execution but could purchase no better than fourth position for the Charlotte Street behemoth when the final standings were in. In what was a night of scintillating pan overall, other striking performances came from Birdsong's interpretation of Rudy "Two Left" Smith's arrangement of "Music in We Blood" and Tobago's Redemption Sound Setters for its effort at "Pandora", arranged and led by Winston Gordon.

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