Random Points about Panorama

  • The pieces played were typically arrangements of calypso and soca tunes; some do use originals now, but these are not favored by judges or the public
  • Panorama includes performances in the street and on the track leading to the judges stand
  • Pieces are introduced by playing a commercial version of the song while the steel band sets up for the judges
  • More to come…

Music Education in Trinidad

Below is a picture of a youth (junior) steel band associated with the steel band Exodus. Many kids learn music by ear through these groups, which also serve as feeder programs to the (senior) steel bands.

Beyond this, Birdsong, the group I am playing with has a music program to teach students various instruments, note reading, and music theory. This program occurs after school and in the summer.


More practice

I’ve been in the panyard all day practicing after the masterclass. We had some changes in the music last night. Our arranger, Andy Narell, played them by ear to us and we had to pick them up. We refer to this as rote learning. I’m trying to get this changes settled in my hands today and review my part. Earlier, a tuner adjusted a couple bad notes on my instrument and right now  I’m waiting for our 7:30-11:00 rehearsal.

Lord Relator Masterclass

Lord Relator is a famous calypsonian. Calypso singers have functions that have some similarities to West African griot and American blues singers. The calypso typically provides lyrical commentary about society, government, politics as well as more light hearted topics related to love, scandalous happenings, or comedy. Additionally, many engage in picong (verbal battles) using extempo (improvised lyrics).

Lord Relator performed calypsonian for us from several famous artists including Lord Kitchener and Mighty Sparrow along with his own songs.



Tonight we play for the judges in the Birdsong panyard. We’ve been working to get the music memorized,with the right feel, and up to speed. Andy Narell is explaining his composition to us this morning, breaking it down with theory. This is an unusual aspect that the Birdsong program provides, but a helpful one to understand the music better and for those interested in writing music.

There is much collaborative learning occurring at this point as well as individual practice. We check parts with each other to make sure we have the detail, but we also have sectional rehearsal to ensure everyone is playing uniform parts. More to come . . .


Top Pic: Engine Room- the driving force of a steel band. Consists of iron, congas, drum set,  bells, and scratcher.

Below: evening rehearsal. Rehearsals are at night. Ours go until 11pm. Other bands sometimes go into the morning.