Couva Joylanders made history on Sunday when they were crowned Panorama Champions of the medium band category when the historic final was held in Tobago for the first time.
For last year's champions Pan Elders, however, the news may have been a bitter pill to swallow as, for the first time in about eight years, the southern steelband had been eliminated from the competition at the semifinal stage one week before.
The seven-time champion band from Carib Street, San Fernando, had experienced a sudden nose-dive from first to 11th place in the semifinal at the Queens Park Savannah.
Pan Elders enjoyed a winning streak with long-standing arranger Duvone Stewart, but the two parted company after Carnival 2019. Kendall Williams, one of New York’s most respected pan arrangers/composers/performers, who previously arranged for CAL Skiffle, replaced Stewart.
However, Williams’ arrangement failed to advance the band into the finals. It received a score of 264 points, just 10 points short of Curepe Scherzando which topped the semis with 274 points for its performance of My House.
There was a three-way tie for second place among Siparia Deltones playing Festival Song, Katzenjammers which played Caribbean Connection and Couva Joylanders, the eventual champions, with its rendition of Is My Turn. The three bands received 272 points each.
Calls and messages sent to band leader Hollister Smith were not answered or returned. Williams read the list of questions sent via WhatsApp to find out what went wrong, but he did not answer any. The band’s captain was also reluctant to speak about its omission from the competition.
Contacted for comment last week. San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello said Pan Elders was a resilient band and he was certain the leaders would take time to sit and reflect and come back stronger next year.
“I did not hear them play, but panorama is such a touchy thing, many things could go wrong.”
The band has been a fixture in the community reaching out and giving hope to at-risk teenagers who were buoyed by their victory for seven years.
Concerned about what it would do to the players morale, Regrello said that was where the resilience of the band would kick in to motivate the players to work harder.
“Sometimes out of adversity comes strength. It may be a setback for them, but it will allow them to sit back and reflect and come back stronger.
"From a pan perspective this is not a very good year for San Fernando, but we still have two large bands in the finals,” he said in reference to NLCB Fonclaire and Skiffle of which he is CEO.
Regrello added, “This is the fiercest Panorama I ever competed in, it was extremely competitive. What you normally go into a final night with, you got it in the semifinals."
He said when one considered big bands like Silver Stars and Starlift were not in the finals, “It is a great tribute to be among those iconic bands.
“It was a musical war and Skiffle will throw everything it has at them (in the finals).”