After visiting Trinidad for Carnival, I am officially a Steel Pan snob. From now on, I’m not going to be completely happy until I’m dancing along to 100 drums along with fireworks, Moko jumbies, and dance routines. Oh boy, is this a fun time!
I have to admit, it wasn’t until I was standing in line, waiting to get into the Large Band Finals that I realized the name “Panorama” doesn’t refer to a lovely scenic view, but to a celebration of Steel Pan 🤣 Large bands have between 90 and 120 musicians – can you believe it?!? Most musicians play a single drum, but some of the bass and percussion players play 6 or 8 drums. It’s amazing!
Each band has their fans and supporters who cheer them just like a sports team. The week before the competition, we visited several of the pan yards on a Friday night to check out the practice. It’s fun to watch the players in a more casual atmosphere, and food trucks and pop-up bars surround the yard. It’s a local and inexpensive way to get a taste of steel pan by hanging out with the locals. And it’s a chance to pick the band you’re going to cheer for at the finals. Capt. Mike is a Renegades supporter. Me, I love Phase II. They actually write a new song for each Carnival season, rather than covering a classic, and I can’t get this year’s “We come out to party … Everybody happy” out of my head 🎵🎶🎼
It’s also fascinating to see how the bands perform on the big stage. The steel pans are loaded onto metal trailers with roofs. The roof protects the pannists when they are playing outdoors in the sun or rain, and they also make for better acoustics by bouncing the sound toward the audience. All the trailers are staged in a field outside the stadium, and when it’s a band’s turn, they have a strict time limit to move all of those trailers and musicians and support staff onto the stage. Each band only plays one song – one! But they put their all into it, matching costumes, dancing, decorations, and sometimes pyrotechnics. Then they have a strict time allowed to leave the stage before a literal SWAT team crosses the stage in body armor shoulder to shoulder walking any stragglers off the stage. A crew with brooms sweeps all the confetti and other potentially slippery stuff off the stage. And it starts all over again for the next band. Does this all sound very time consuming? Well we caught our bus from the boatyard at 4pm, and we got home around 3:00 in the morning. This so so not our usual cruiser schedule!