Historic 12th win for Despers

Finbar Fletcher (right), chairman of Despers' management team, holds the first-place trophy moments after tha band was announced Panorama 2020 champions at the Queen's Park Savannah on Saturday.  - VIDYA THURAB
Finbar Fletcher (right), chairman of Despers' management team, holds the first-place trophy moments after tha band was announced Panorama 2020 champions at the Queen's Park Savannah on Saturday. - VIDYA THURAB

Desperadoes steel orchestra, on Saturday, created history by becoming the first large band to win 12 Panorama titles. In so doing, they stopped defending champions BP Renegades from achieving their second hat-trick and their 12th win.

The results were announced shortly after midnight at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain. The victory follows an announcement by the Prime Minister on Thursday that the band, originally from Laventille Road and now resident at Tragarete Road, would move to a new home at the corner of George Street and Independence Square, near the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Playing in position seven, Despers brought on stage Sheldon Blackman, son of the late Garfield “Ras Shorty I” Blackman who is reputed as the creator of soca music. Sheldon passed Despers’ flag to his niece Nailah Blackman whose song More Sokah was the band’s tune of choice. The song was arranged by Carlton “Zanda” Alexander.

On Sunday, the band’s manager Dr Finbar Fletcher said, “For some reason, Zanda was low-keyed. He said to me that after a long and hard season he was relieved. One thing I remembered is that he insisted the band pray before the performance and he did pray with the band. Then he said, ‘To God be the Glory!’. He was spiritual about the whole thing.”

Soca star Nailah Blackman shows off her flag-waving skills as Despers plays her song More Sokah to take the 2020 Panorama title.  - Vidya Thurab

Despers previously won in 1966, 1970, 1976, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1994, 1999, 2000 and 2016. The band amassed 286 points on Saturday earning them the trophy and the $1 million first prize, while Renegades and Massy Trinidad All Stars received 282 points to tie for second place. Renegades’ supporters were left in shock.

Playing the very popular Wrong Again by Grenadian Shirlan “Skinny Banton” George, Renegades delivered a very polished and spirited performance of the arrangement by Duvone Stewart, but could not repeat what the did in 2018 with Year for Love and in 2019 with Hookin Meh.

The performance ended with a phrase from Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus while pyrotechnics, fireworks and confetti filled the air accompanied by thunderous applause from the audience in the Grand Stand and the Pan City (formerly the north stand).

It was the first time in several years that the Savannah was packed to capacity for a Panorama final.

Speaking with Newsday on Sunday, Stewart congratulated Despers saying, “The judges had a job to do and the decision is final.”

Asked if he was disappointed about not completing the trilogy as planned, Stewart responded, “No, I was very pleased with my band’s performance. I was very appreciative of what I did with my song, what I did with my band and what the band delivered for me.”

Arranger Duvone Stewart leads BP Renegades in their performance of Wrong Again which earned them a second place tie with Massy Trinidad All Stars. PHOTO BY WARREN LE PLATTE -

All Stars also played More Sokah, arranged by Leon “Smooth” Edwards. They played with a determination which kept the crowd riveted to the action on stage, with a greatly-improved arrangement reminiscent of the band’s vintage days. They leapt from fifth position in the semi final to second.

Edwards told Newsday afterwards, “I was very impressed with All Stars’ performance and we probably expected a better placing, but you know how these things happen. We are thankful nevertheless, that is part of life.”

Early favourite HADCO Phase II Pan Groove put down a solid performance of 2020 Vision composed and arranged by Len “Boogsie” Sharpe and sung by Olatunji Yearwood.

As the pans were rolled on stage, one could have hardly missed, atop the racks, a creation of a facade associated with the band’s Woodbrook hometown.

That aside, band members were smartly dressed in Hawaiian shirts, white pants and light brown soft hats, while the flag and banner women had on floor-length wrap skirts over white shorts and red tops.

Boogsie led his charges from the very first note to deliver an exciting arrangement, with a spectacular ending. The crowd roared with approval.

Massy Trinidad All Stars players give a sterling performance of More Sokah to tie for second place with BP Renegades. PHOTO BY VIDYA THURAB

Boogsie said: “The band’s performance was great and the judge’s word is final. I congratulate Desperadoes. I say it was between me and them.”

First Citizens Supernovas, playing Dear Promoter arranged by Amrit Samaroo, and T&TEC Tropical Angel Harps with More Sokah arranged by Clarence Morris, also greatly impressed the crowd.

Judges for the final were Lambert Phillip, Michele Dowrich, Richard Pierre, Roger Sardinha, Bernadette Roberts and Tommy Critchlow.

Earlier, a minute of silence was observed for pan pioneers Neville Jules and Hugh Borde, and Ken Piper who spent 30-plus years doing stage work, after which Beverly Ramsey-Moore, Pan Trinbago president, welcomed all to the final.

She said, “It (pan) is the greatest invention and a gift that TT gave to the world. May God bless us as we continue to celebrate the pan.”

Special awards were also presented to people for their contribution to pan.

Among the awardees were one of the longest serving female pannists, Ursula Tudor (Despers), Daisy James McClean – one of the first women to play pan in a band (Casablanca), Roland Harrigan – who has been tuning pans for the last 30 years, and Mark Loquan – who has composed a number of songs for Panorama in his 20 years in the business. (With additional reporting by Ryan Hamilton-Davis)

The full results are as follows:

1. Desperadoes – More Sokah – 286

2. Bp Renegades – Wrong Again – 282

2. Massy Trinidad All Stars – More Sokah – 282

4. HADCO Phase II – 2020 Vision – 281

5. Shell Invaders – Feeling It – 279

6. CAL Skiffle – Wrong Again – 277

7. First Citizens Supernovas – Dear Promoter – 276

7. Republic Bank Exodus – Dear Promoter – 276

9. Tropical Angel Harps, More Sokah – 274

10. RBC Redemption Sound Setters – Wrong Again – 273

11. NLCB Fonclaire – Dear Promoter – 268


"Historic 12th win for Despers"

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