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Boogsie Out Front
Posted By: News
Date: Tuesday, 18 February 2003, at 9:40 p.m.
By Terry Joseph
Some 15 hours after a scheduled 11 am start-time, patrons who survived Sunday's Panorama semifinal marathon learnt Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove had topped the standings and by a whopping 16-point lead over arch-rival Witco Desperadoes.
Widely viewed as The Mother of all Panorama Battles, the 41st annual Queen's Park Savannah playoff was not without its share of grouse and grievance but, happily, nowhere near the level of protest that scuttled the 1979 edition, that event aborted with Starlift leading the preliminary round, after pannists staged a boycott to press demands for increased revenues.
Sunday's change of the direction by which bands came to the stage brought stout arguments from vendors, who rented booth locations basing business expectations on traditional routing. In the same cause, pannists complained about consequent unavailability of refreshments during the long wait to go onstage.
But once there, some 2,850 pannists comprising 31 orchestras played their finest notes, all but those attached to defending champion Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars visibly aspiring to advance their bands to the March 1 final.
The late start, attributed by Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold to clearing the venue of garbage left by Saturday night's army fete, plus painful delays in setting up each next orchestra caused the event to run well past its promised length, the last band (Parry's Pan School) mounting the stage shortly after 1 am.
But in the end, it was Phase II Pan Groove, under the baton of Len "Boogsie" Sharpe, that amassed a winning 466 points for a flawless rendition of his composition "Music in We Blood", trouncing an attempt at the same song by Desperadoes; that one-on-one battle the semifinal's focal point for a large number of pan fans.
In the middle of the top three was Exodus, last week crowned east-zone champs for the 14th time, the Tunapuna band earning 461 points for its work at Pelham Goddard's arrangement of De Fosto's "Pandora"; a performance that ranked them a full 11 points ahead of Despers and shifted the primary joust to a skills battle between Sharpe and Goddard.
Speaking yesterday to The Express, Sharpe was elated. "The effort I put into that musical arrangement was not only for the band or me," Sharpe said, adding he told players from the start of rehearsals that this one was personal, dedicated to the memory of his late mother Grace (who died on December 19) and new baby girl Ashleigh, now five months old.
"Now, with these results, we will be working non-stop over the next two weeks to maintain and if possible stretch that lead on final night," he said. "It has been a long time knocking at the door. We have lost by half a point and one point on occasions and probably have the most second places in Panorama. I was actually beginning to believe the talk that it was not 'my time'.
"Other arrangers, especially those who played my song were going all over the place boasting about beating me at my own creation but that only made me work harder. Especially when Desperadoes decided to play 'Music in We Blood - no disrespect to the others - but this meant I was coming up against Bradley, who is among the most competent in the history of the thing.
"In fact, they all made me work harder but I was fighting smart, not loud, smart. It gave me a fresh energy and the inspiration to do a different style, because they would feel I was coming 'normal', so I had to make some radical changes if I wanted to beat them.
"I used a stop in the tune, a long silence because, as Pat Bishop always says, there can be no noise without silence. Now this is a difficult thing in a steelband with 100 players, you understand, but I was determined to make it work and it did and I have to thank the players for their patience with me on this one.
"Don't get me wrong, it is an honour to have the other bands and, as I said, the famous Desperadoes play my tune but I not taking licks on my own song. I real respect but I cannot allow he nor anyone else to beat me with 'Music in We Blood'. That continues to be one of my other driving forces," he said.
Asked what he plans to do to erase the five-point lead Phase II Pan Groove enjoyed over Exodus Sunday, Goddard said he had not yet thought about it. "Sometimes you have to think about these things for a while and not just get paranoid or react to a problem that is not really there," he said, invoking the old adage: "If it ain't break, don't fix it."
Remarking upon the number of songs musical arrangers have to prepare for their bands this season, Goddard saw the increased workload as a determinant. "Apart from the Panorama tune we have to on work the Dimanche Gras ole-time kaiso competition, pan-mas pieces, a bomb-tune and the Bertie Marshall and Highlanders music as well," he said, "so going to confuse players with some complex addition could be buying trouble.
"Sometimes, instead of just tightening up what you have you could go and put in something or take out a passage because you feel it would improve your chances and sometimes that is where the trouble comes, but to tell the truth, I really would have to answer that question in a couple of days' time," he said.
But Bradley is the one with best-defined need to pull a few tricks out of the drums. His arrangement of "Music in We Blood" was audibly less than we have come to expect from the maestro, with distance from the melodic line perilously extended on occasion and infusion of "The Sound of Music" opening phrase bordering on cavalier, given the chord context at the time of its intervention.
Mark you, it was Bradley who, in an interview last week with New York's Pan4Us Website, said: "The arranger normally doesn't get to hear other people's work until the bands meet in the semi-final and then you know what you have to do," adding that none among them can predict outcome, as major changes are often made during the two-week interim until final night. It is something he has been known to do and on each occasion with astonishing result.
Of course, Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars was not scored on Sunday but nonetheless sounded warning with its performance of "Pandora", thrilling the huge crowd in the Grand and North stands with the Leon "Smooth" Edwards arrangement.
In the current standings, there is a relatively slim 14-point difference between positions four (Excellent Stores Silver Stars - 441) and the Nu Tones/ TCL Group Skiffle Bunch tie at 427, increasing likelihood of a possible shuffle on final night.
Because of that tie, 12 orchestras will, on the basis of merit, advance from Sunday's semifinal to join Trinidad All Stars in the final night musical battle for not just the $200,000 first prize but the prestigious title of Panorama Champs 2003.
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