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Young steelband arranger DeJean Cain.

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It was back in the 80s that I was invited by the Barbados Tourist Board and National Cultural Foundation (NCF) to sit as a judge for the first steelband Panorama competition to be staged in Barbados. Accompanied by Major Eduoard Wade and Joycelyn Sealy, it was a memorable experience, sitting in the Barbados National Stadium to adjudicate on the best pannists Barbados had to offer.

That competition, modelled after our Panorama, was titled Pan-a-lang. So, I was equally impressed last week Thursday when I learnt that Barbados-based, Trini panman Nevin Roach came up with a most ingenious virtual pan competition—Panograma.

Actually a soloist contest, Panograma is the brainchild of Nevin Roach, a member of 2020 National Panorama (Small) champion Uptown Fascinators, and a sports co-ordinator at The UWI Cave Hill campus, in Barbados. When the preliminary rounds of competition were held last weekend on Instagram, 11 Trinbago pan players were entered among the 27 participants vying for a place in this week’s semifinals, scheduled for next Thursday and Friday nights.

Their competitors came from across the globe, from as far as USA, Cuba and Jamaica, to closer to home like Antigua/Barbuda, Guyana and Barbados.

Among the T&T preliminary entrants were crackshot pan players Earl Brooks Jnr, DeJean Cain, Kern Sumerville and Kwesi Paul. Of the 11 Trinbagonians participating, ten have made it to the semifinals which will consist of 15 qualifiers.

Tying for first position and leading the pack into the semis are young Roadblock panman and arranger DeJean Cain and US-based Earl Brooks Jnr, son of acclaimed arranger Earl Brooks. They both amassed 91 points of the 100 points, with Cain playing Kees Dieffenthaller’s Savannah Grass and Brooks’ tune of choice being Love is Wicked by Brick & Lace.

One of the youngest steelband arrangers on the planet, Cain’s arrangement of Shadow’s Bassman won Roadblock last year’s 5-a-Side steelband title at WeBeat, St James. A student of the widely-acclaimed Berklee College of Music, Brooks Jnr teamed up with his father to arrange V’ghn’s Trouble in the Morning for Hatters Steel Orchestra.

Securing third place, performing Grover Washington’s Just the Two of Us, was Tyeeesha Alexander. Other Trini pan players in the semis are Keishaun Julien, Kern Sumerville, Kersh Ramsey, Jamel Cadette, Leeandro Noray, Ionaire Joseph and Kwesi Paul.

Other semi-finalists came from the United States, Guyana, Barbados, Antigua Barbuda and St Maarten.

The rules of the competition are quite simple actually. Each soloist was required to perform for a maximum of three minutes for a live audience on Instagram @inev88. Performances should be structured as follows: introductory passage, verse, chorus and, variations/improvisations.

Soloists were also strongly encouraged to ensure the following were secured for their performance: strong WiFi or mobile data connection, well-lit and quiet area for their performance, smartphone with decent quality camera, Instagram account and instrumentals or tracks for accompaniment. The use of traditional pans was also encouraged, but pan players were allowed to use the E-pan under the following conditions: only the steelpan tone will be permitted, striking chords of more than two notes was prohibited and the selected range cannot be changed at any point during the performance.

For Panograma, s​oloists are allowed to make selections from any genre of music for their performance. However, the same selection cannot be used in subsequent rounds of the competition.

​A panel of three judges, based on a set criteria and breakdown, judged soloists. They were Northern Illinois University grad Kenneth Joseph, David “ZigE” Walcott of Barbados and Ojay Richards.

Participants in Panograma 2020 must come with their A-game as they have a stringent array of judging categories to navigate. Ten finalists, each vying for a chance to share the US$1,000 in prize money, would be selected and each would be required to perform a set test piece and a tune of their choice.

The grand finale for Panograma is scheduled for Sunday, at 7 pm, and is available by linking to @iNEV88 on Instagram Live.

For more information on Panograma: www.https://www.pano-grama.com/.