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July 11, 2005 - Volume 1, No. 1

Greetings Panjumbies, I want to welcome you to the first issue of my newsletter. First, I want to thank my friend Monika Nicoletti from Switzerland who designed the above logo and encouraged me to engage in this endeavor of love for the steelband. Over the years I have been criticizing the various newspapers and writers for not doing a proper job of covering the steelband movement. Now it is time for me to put my money ….. I shall make mistakes but I promise to my readers that I will take every criticism into account and try to respond to such. My intention is to bring you news, analysis, observations and comments about the steelband movement, especially in Brooklyn. This is the first of a series to come.

We are now in a summer mold in Brooklyn, USA and the steelbands are dusting off their pans and getting ready for the Labor Day Carnival. The carnival will be held on September 5, 2005 on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. Every year Brooklyn Caribbean community celebrates their cultural presence in New York by participating in the carnival. The carnival is the largest parade in America. Over two million people from Africa, Europe, Asia and North America gather to witness and participate in the pageantry and color, steelband and calypso and partying. The official name for the labor-day carnival is the West Indian American Day Carnival. This year the carnival was set off by the World Music Steelband Festival held at Madison Square Garden on June 19, 2005 where seven steelbands competed for the championship. The winner was Exodus Steel Orchestra who performed as their tune of choice a European classic, “Semiramide” composed by Giocchino Rossini. The judges found that they outplayed the Skiffle Bunch Steel Orchestra who came second, by playing a better version of the test piece, “Pan in A Minor” composed by Kitchener.

The labor-day carnival is a four day celebration which is run by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) led by Yolanda Lezama-Clark, the daughter of one of its founders Carlos Lezama. Mr. Lezama was leader of WIADCA since 1967 and retired in 2001. Previously, the carnival was held in Harlem but was moved to Brooklyn in the 1960s by Rufus Goring as the Caribbean community migrated to Brooklyn. The labor-day carnival follows the Trinidad carnival model by having events staring on carnival Friday and with the mas on Eastern Parkway on labor-day. However, months before the actual labor-day carnival there is lots of activity as people come to Brooklyn for vacation.

There are parties and other activities taking place before the labor-day starts on carnival Friday night with the Soca Monarch show. On Saturday night at 8pm it holds the annual Panorama competition where steelbands from Brooklyn and other the metropolitan areas vie for pan supremacy. Sunday morning is the children’s carnival where children from the age of five years to 16 years old participate in their different costumes. The children’s carnival is held at the back of the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway. It starts from 10 am until 5 pm. Sunday night is the Dimarche Gras show featuring the Calypso Monarch and King and Queen of the various mas bands where the adults display their costumes and compete for the King and Queen of carnival prizes. All the competitions are held behind the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway. On Monday morning starting at 2 am through 10 am, the Jouvert celebration is held. Brooklyn Jouvert is different from the one in Trinidad in that only steelbands and mas are permitted on the streets. There are no loud boom speakers to disturb the sweet sounds of our steelbands playing their respective ‘bomb’ tunes.

The Jouvert starts at Grand Army Plaza on Flatbush Avenue and goes to Empire Boulevard into Nostrand Avenue where it ends on Clarkson Avenue. As many as 10 or 12 steelbands go through the streets as their members dance and party on the street. The steelbands compete for the best ‘Bomb’ (See PanABC on pan-jumbie.com) Jouvert steelband and the mas players compete for Jouvert individual of the year. Immediately after the Jouvert the labor-day carnival begins on the Parkway where it starts at Utica Avenue and ends at the Grand Army Plaza at 6pm. After labor- day ends people continue liming on the streets as they try to meet and greet friends for a last lap. (See port of pan ABC on pan-jumbie.com)

The jouvert celebration is not a part of WIADCA but was organized by a few interested Brooklyn panists. But, it is held under the auspices of WIADCA. The steelbands are currently without a representative organization and are unable to negotiate with WIADCA for better conditions and more prize money. A few years ago the United States Steelband Association (USSA) was formed to be the negotiating body with WIADCA. It held its own Panorama for two years but disbanded after some internal disagreements. The steelbands returned to WIADCA.

So once again this year the steelbands will be competing for the panorama championship at the back of the Brooklyn Museum under the auspices of WIADCA. This writer will try to bring you the all the happenings during the coming weeks as we approach the labor-day carnival.

MORE TO COME. Stay Blogged.

P.S. If readers don’t understand any of the carnival or steelband terms used here, please go to the Port of Pan ABC at pan-jumbie-com. Otherwise you may contact this writer. Thanks.

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