Streams

Brooklyn's West Indian Day Carnival: A Panorama of Steel Drums

Friday, September 03, 2010

Steel Drums (Vilseskogen (cc: by-nc)/flickr)

It's often said that the Trinidadian steel pan is the only acoustic instrument invented in the twentieth century. This Saturday, it gets the spotlight at the steel drum "Panorama" competition.

At Panorama, orchestras made up of 75 to 100 musicians will be playing steel drums that come in a variety of shapes and sizes—from little "tenor" drums for playing melodies—to "guitars" and "cellos" designed for background chords. There are even big bass pan sets, which are batteries of four-foot tall drums that engulf their acrobatic players.

Each orchestra competes by playing a virtuosic, ten-minute version of a popular calypso song, and the prize goes to the band with the slickest arrangement. It's like Brooklyn's redux version of Port of Spain's massive carnival steel drum orchestra competition. The drummers' complex orchestrations are even played from memory by Brooklyn teenagers—no sheet music needed.

“They learn by ear, it’s not something they can read music for,” says Jane Alexander, the spokesperson for the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. “So, you have to practice over and over and over until the bandleaders decide that the notes are exactly right for presentation in competition.”

Alexander adds that many of the pan tuners, arrangers, and judges come from Trinidad just to perform at Panorama. “So, it’s really a very high level.”

Seven of the steel drum groups competing rented out empty lots and backyards in Brooklyn for use as impromptu training grounds in the months leading up to the carnival festivities.

Check out the video below from last year's performance by the Caribbean-American Sports and Cultural Youth Movement, one of the best local groups. The group's director and arranger is Arddin Herbert. As a young man in Trinidad, he competed (and won) in steel pan contests and, now, with a music degree from Brooklyn College under his belt, arranges music for carnival orchestras in Trinidad and London as well as for his group at home in Brooklyn.

The Panorama competition, which is part of the annual Brooklyn West Indian Day carnival festivities, will be held on Saturday from 8 P.M. to 2 A.M. at the Brooklyn Museum.

Tags:

More in:

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Comments [2]

dbmetzger from manhattan

Across the pond another carnivale.
Europe's Biggest Street Party Kicks Off
The biggest street party in Europe, the Notting Hill Carnival, kicks off today, bringing with it the usual mix of music, colorful costumes and food to the capital. But, this year, the recession has taken its toll and the festival has had to cut back
http://www.newslook.com/videos/245681-europe-s-biggest-street-party-kicks-off?autoplay=true

Sep. 06 2010 11:35 AM
dbmetzger from manhattan

On a cultural note
Argentina's Campaign to Protect Tango Heritage
The 2010 International Tango Festival has just concluded in Argentina, and it paid special tribute to the instrument that gives the dance its unique sound: the bandoneon. But the distinctive sound of the tango as we know it could be under threat
http://www.newslook.com/videos/247330-argentina-s-campaign-to-protect-tango-heritage?autoplay=true

Sep. 06 2010 11:32 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Sponsored

Feeds

Supported by