It was vibes in the session as the Mayaro Cadenza Steel Orchestra pounded all their energy into an intense rendition of Olatunji’s ‘Engine Room’ to book their spot in the 2024 Panorama National Small Band Semi-Finals.
As the last stop in the preliminary panyard judging, the band that produced an inspired performance for the Pan Trinbago judges at Mayaro Junction on Sunday (17 December). Dozens of residents embodied the theme of ‘Come Home to the Rhythm of Steel’, converging at the Mayaro Market to show full support for their hometown heroes.
When it was announced on Monday (18 December) that Cadenza had secured their place among the 30 bands selected for the semis, it represented their return to Panorama after 36 years. It was a tremendous moment for the band, led by founder and manager, Charles ‘Charlo’ Hills.
“This year makes it 40 years since we started this journey, and I could not think of a better way to celebrate this milestone. Our band is mostly comprised of youths from across the community, and it is their energy and enthusiasm that will take us forward. As young as they are, they are inspiring other young people to take part and take our national instrument into the future. We also have a cadre of experienced players who offer guidance and instil a sense of tradition and discipline. Overall, it is unity and a shared purpose that will take us to victory,” Hills explained.
He added, “I really have to thank every single member of the orchestra with special gratitude to our arranger, Aquil Arrindell; our tuner, Rodney Stowe; the band’s captain, Virgil Hills; and energy company bpTT for their stalwart support for over 25 years.” Hills explained that this year, bpTT had given them tremendous support which facilitated the purchase of new steelpans, paying their arranger, tuning the instruments, and purchasing new uniforms. He also noted that the Member of Parliament for Mayaro, Rushton Paray, had spearheaded the refurbishment of their panyard following a fire last year.
While the judges deliberated, entertainment was provided with a Christmas-themed performance by Mayaro’s Panhandle Steel Orchestra, which features many talented youths including the 2023 Scouting for Talent winner, Daniel Hagley.
Among the representatives of Pan Trinbago on hand to experience the Mayaro vibes was the organisation’s Vice-President, Keith Simpson, their General Secretary, Denise L. Hernandez; and Chairman of the South-Central Executive, Philip Barker.
Simpson reflected that the panyard judging and creation of the various band divisions had to be credited to the organisation’s former President, Patrick Arnold – a luminary that the pan fraternity lost earlier this year.
According to Simpson, “This was a great experience being in Mayaro and feeling the energy of the band and their supporters. This community has a long and proud history of steelpan talent. We are building on the past, and with the dynamic vision of our President, Beverley Ramsey-Moore, we are trying to make the panyard a focal point in each community and demonstrate that there is prosperity in pan, both financially and culturally.
“It was especially encouraging to see so many young people playing with Cadenza, and we also need young people to support steelpan. There has been a notable reduction in the number of sponsors over the years, so we each must do our part to uplift our national culture. On that note, we must recognise bpTT’s enduring support for the Renegades and Cadenza Steel Orchestras – they have set an example for other corporations to follow.”
With the band focused on preparing for the semifinals at Victoria Square, Port of Spain on January 6th, their players are energised, including ten-year-old Kaleem Modeste, “It took a lot of hard work and practice, but it was all worth it knowing that we qualified. I learn a lot from the other members, and being a part of the band also helps me focus and perform better in school. I know that if we do our best, we can win and make Mayaro proud.”