STEELPAN arranger Ojay Richards was at a loss for words after Tobago-based steelband Uptown Fascinators retained the Panorama small conventional bands crown after a thrilling, high-energy performance on Saturday night.
Performing Dollar Wine by Colin Lucas at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain, the band edged TT Defence Force by just three points to place first with 281 points.
The band also won the title in 2020, the last time the competition was held owing to the pandemic, with Winston Soso’s I Don’t Mind, also arranged by Richards.
The keen pan competition ended with some of the 16 performing bands being tied over the various placings.
In a Facebook video by Tobago Media, Advertising Services and Solutions taken moments after the results were announced, an overjoyed and drenched Richards said he was still trying to come to terms with the win.
He then added that he was "beyond elated," and described it as an "amazing feeling.
"This time it have no covid (restrictions) so we could actually celebrate the full win this time."
He said his band demonstrated cleanliness, "a little edge," and creativity.
And while more creative tactics and antics could have been added for fun's sake, he preferred to "let the music speak for itself. Just let the music talk.
"We are an extremely clean band. We executed the music clean and we were good to go from there."
Asked what some of the band's trials were, Richards admitted that he was to ecstatic about the win to think of any of the trials.
"Every band will have their different trials but it's how you overcome it. We didn't have anything that we couldn't handle."
He added that he wanted to dedicate the win to a band member whose mother died the night before the final.
In an interview before the results were announced, the band's leader, Salisha James-Martin said their intention was to go on the stage and "put all that we had."
She said integral changes were made from their previous performances of the song and that she was satisfied with the sound.
"We just feed off of the arranger's vibe. He's a very energetic person."
THA's Secretary of Tourism Tashia Burris, also in a Facebook video, congratulated Richards and the band saying from the moment they began playing, she said, "Yes, it's coming home, and you brought it home."
She said she is extremely proud of the band and that "Tobago shows up big."
Within their performance, she said, she saw "precision, execution, creativity beyond words, heart and soul of what steelpan represents.
"The best of what TT has to offer comes from Tobago."
The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts also congratulated the band, saying this win shows its resilience.
Shamfa Cudjoe, who is currently acting as line minister of this ministry, said, “The skills, harmony, and strategy deployed by Uptown Fascinators in showcasing the national instrument undoubtedly inspires immense cultural pride among nationals at home and abroad.”
In a release, the ministry said that the government "continues to invest in the innovation, creativity, and determination of the people of TT at all levels and scales.
"Indeed, the creative capacity of Trinidad and Tobago is a most valued resource in the continued efforts to stimulate recovery and progress. As such, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, in alignment with its mandate to professionalise the arts sector, continues to support the Carnival stakeholders in the production and development of the various festival elements towards the benefit and prosperity of the national community."
The ministry also praised Pan Trinbago for the quality of the competition.
1) Uptown Fascinators - 281 - (Dollar Wine)
2) TT Defence Force - 278 points (Raising Dust)
3) St Margaret's Super Stars - 275 points (Too Young to Soca)
3) T&TEC New Eastside Dimension - 275 points (I Love Being Me)
5) Fascinators Pan Symphony - 270 points (Long Time)
6) Highlanders Steel Orchestra - 267 points (A Better Tomorrow)
7) Arima Golden Symphony - 266 points (This Melody Sweet)
8) Road Block Steel Orchestra - 265 points (Dear Promoter)
9) Tobago Pan Thers - 261 points (Get Up and Dance)
9) Southern Stars - 261 points (Out and Bad)
11) Fusion Steel - 259 points (By Any Means)
12) Alpha Pan Pioneers - 258 points (Cheers to Life)
13) Genesis Pan Groove - 256 points (Bun Dem)
14) C&B Crown Cordaans - 255 points (Mash Meh Up)
15) Panasonic Connections - 252 points (Calling Meh)
16) Westside Symphony - 250 points (Calypso Music)