‘Band of the Year 2014’
By ANDRE BAGOO Friday, March 7 2014
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BAND OF THE YEAR: First place Trinidad All Stars steelband at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain on Carnival Tuesday....
TRINIDAD All Stars Steel Orchestra of Duke Street, Port of Spain, was yesterday announced as the “Band of the Year”, becoming the second band driven by steel-pan music to win the title in fifty-one years. The first steelband to win such a title was Silver Stars with their portrayal of “Gulliver’s Travel” in 1963.
All Stars scored 2,365 points, according to official results released by the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) late Wednesday night.
Second place in the large band category was awarded to Paparazzi Carnival’s “Centrestage” with 2,048 points. Third place was Legacy’s “Nature’s Touch” with 1,976 points.
Trini Revellers’s “The Sultan’s Palace” managed only fourth place. Downtown band of the day on Carnival Tuesday, Ronnie and Caro’s “De River Come Down”, did not feature in the results. Neither did another crowd favourite, K2K Alliance & Partners “Vie: The Rise of the Sanctuary”.
All Stars joined Silver Stars, which took the crown in 1963 with “Gulliver’s Travels”. That band was produced by Russell Charter and was designed by Pat Chu Foon. Some avid steelpan followers yesterday said the Charter band saw Silver Stars merely hired to perform for that presentation, while the All Stars presentation was authentically a production of the steelband itself, and its members.
All Stars band manager Beresford Hunte yesterday expressed elation at the victory and celebrated with some members of the band at the panyard on Duke Street. He said the band catered for persons who want to play mas, but cannot spend thousands on a costume. “I am elated,” Hunte told Newsday. “We have been knocking on this door for some time. We came third last year with ‘Fleet’s In’.”
Hunte said this year the band – which comprised about 1,200 revellers – was an amalgamation of two elements: uniform-clad sailors and sections of persons at a “tropical fiesta”. These sections were administered by various band members.
All participants paid an $80 band fee, and had the option to buy costumes, or make their own. Sections included: “From Sunrise to Sunset” ($750); “Tropical Fiesta” ($300) “A Trini Luau”; “Rainbow Isle”; and “Hawaii in Bloom”.
He said in contrast to the high cost of playing mas in some bands, All Stars seeks to open up its band to those who might not be able to play.
“We are catering for the lower-income bracket,” Hunte said. “You can make your clothes and come, look on the board at the drawings, see if you have a shirt that looks similar and come with that. We are catering for the lower end, not the upper where costs are higher.”
All Stars also placed first in the creative category for bands. The band’s victory in the coveted Band of the Year competition comes in what has been regarded by some as a particularly lackluster year for mas, and for soca.
The victory was hailed by Pan Trinbago President, Keith Diaz, as a sign of a possible new trend in Carnival: a return to pan and to the slower, groovy tempos of years gone past. But some mas bandleaders complained about the results, stating they did not know what went wrong. “We in Pan trinbago are elated about the news and want to compliment the band,” Pan Trinbago President Diaz said. “It’s a victory not only for all, but for the steel-pan movement. Steelbands have been making an effort to come into the Carnival mas arena very silently over the last few years; a lot of steel-pan bands have been doing this.” He suggested a new trend – seeing a return to pan on the road, and to groovy songs more amenable to pan arrangements – could be about to break to the surface. “This is a new trend,” Diaz said. “Everything has to go back in a cycle. This move will encourage people who played mas in pan to come back. It is a signal to them and we welcome this move.”
Diaz said pan bands started a trend of playing groovy soca on the roads.
“We started with the groovy soca on the road,” Diaz said. “It has a more structured basis than the high-speed songs of the power soca. So we have traditionally taken a line with groovy soca, and I think this is the music young people are going to be drawn to in the pan. We have gone in that direction.”
Band manager Hunte said he was not surprised by All Stars victory. He said the band normally played two presentations: one on Carnival Monday and another on Carnival Tuesday, but this year had to merge both into one band. He said the band stood out from other bands because persons were clothed.
“With us, spectators are seeing people in clothes and then they are seeing bands where what they see is people in less clothes than us,” he said. “And we have different clothes for the two days. that could be part of the appeal.” He said while Silver Stars won in 1963, a distinction could be made.
“To my knowing, I think Silver Stars was hired to supply music for Gulliver’s Travels,” he said. “But we actually produce the mas.” The band hired Laventille Sound Specialists and two rhythms sections to play alongside the steel-pan. Hunte said the use of live music was also a key aspect of the band.
“We are trying to keep the live music mode alive, or if not, we are going down fighting,” Hunte said. “It is quite expensive, but when you have people performing it gives out a certain energy. The fact that we won speaks volumes in terms of what has happened. It shows that instead of DJs, live steelpan bands may be preferred.”
Pan trinbago president Diaz noted several steel-bands have a second incarnation as a mas band on the road. These include: All Stars; Starlift; Phase Two; Invaders; Woodbrook Playboyz; Exodus; Sound Specialists; Renegades, among others.
“A lot of people have not been taking on the idea of steel-band mas,” Diaz said. “All our efforts in the past went in vain. Until now.”
(See results on Page 13A)