WITH THEIR win in the Panorama finals, their 12th, Desperadoes have cemented their place in steel pan history, becoming the band with the most wins in the competition. But more important than the number of victories is the band’s twin legacy of community and perseverance.
In good times and in bad, this is a band that has consistently remained close to the pulse of the nation. In a long history stretching back to the 1940s, it has gifted us memorable renditions of diverse songs, from Sparrow’s Obeah Wedding in 1966 to 5 Star Akil’s Different Me in 2016.
In the process, it has showcased arrangers like Beverly Griffith, Robert Greenidge and Clive Bradley, and it has mobilised youth and social forces in Laventille. It has also collaborated with musicians like the late Pat Bishop, showing an equal flair for Mozart and Tchaikovsky alongside its expert handling of material by Nailah Blackman.
Its excellence has been recognised by such prestigious institutions like the BBC in London which facilitated the production of a special concert which aired in the United Kingdom and beyond. More Sokah is what the band promised on Saturday and it delivered resoundingly, with Carlton Alexander’s arrangement earning 286 points.
We also congratulate BP Renegades and Massy Trinidad All-Stars who tied for second place with 282 points. With 11 wins under its belt going into the finals like Despers, Renegades was in an all-out battle to surpass its fiercest rival. All Stars, which has ten wins, is not far behind and the jostling for pan dominance looks set to remain exciting in coming years.
For now, Despers can take comfort in the fact that, according to some statisticians, they have, on average, at least one victory every five years – a mark of their dominance.
In sharp contrast to the indelible mark made by the band on our culture has been its search for a new home. Famously tied to Laventille, it was forced to flee due to crime. Thereafter, a series of temporary practice spaces, most recently on Tragarete Road, have never quite lived up to the band’s legendary status.
This is a band that lured figures like pan tuner Bertie Marshall, and which has performed at Carnegie Hall. Steel pan innovators like Rudolph Charles and Kenneth Collis are also names associated with it. And has given it the attention it needs to soldier on in the name of TT’s culture.
Like band captain Adrian Glasgow, we express optimism about the designation of a new home in downtown Port of Spain. The new facility will be at the corner of George Street and Independence Square, near the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
It’s heartwarming to see this plan come in the context of an overall vision to reinvigorate the city. However, with a recent spike in criminal activity in this very same portion of East Port of Spain, it’s important for all arrangements to be carefully thought out and implemented in order to safeguard the players while simultaneously acting as a much-needed boost to our beleaguered capital. Wherever located, Despers’ new home must befit its legacy.