Panorama Steelband Competition

In 1963, the government of Trinidad and Tobago in conjunction with the National Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen (NATTS) launched a new steelband competition called Panorama.

The preliminary round of the competition was judged while the bands were in motion. The instruments were hung on racks and pushed past the judges while the panmen played an arrangement of a current calypso. However, the final round of competition was judged while the bands were stationary and positioned directly in front of the judges.

Crowds of supporters religiously followed their favorite Panorama band every year. Corporate sponsors seized this excellent publicity opportunity and began to pump money into steelbands. Sponsorship money meant the steelbands could now offer reasonable compensation to their arrangers and pan players.

Sponsorship also allowed the bands to purchase more equipment. Larger bands had a competitive edge as they could produce a more powerful and impressive sound. Steelbands grew larger and larger and by the late 1960’s steelbands were entering Panorama with 100 members.

Panorama also demanded a new approach to arranging calypsos. The arrangements done previously for fetes and street parades were now too simple for the competition. Complex introductions and key modulations began to be used in the arrangements, and this is still a key feature of Panorama music today.

There is also a Junior Panorama for school age children and it is just as competitive as the senior competition. It is seen as an important training ground for the adult Panorama competition and for the steelband movement on a whole.

Panorama type competitions are now held all over the English speaking Caribbean, the USA, and in some European and Asian countries. They are planned by local steelband organizations and the structure and adjudication is usually based on that of the Trinidadian Panorama.

However, the Trinidadian Panorama competition remains the pre-eminent steelband competition in the world.

Structure of Panorama

Panorama is open to both conventional and single pan steelbands

Currently, there are three rounds of competition

  • Preliminary round
  • Semi-final round
  • Final round

All rounds are now done while the band is stationary and positioned directly in front of the judges.

The preliminary round takes place in the respective panyards while up until reccently, the other rounds are held at the Queens Park Savannah, Port of Spain, fondly called the ‘Big Yard’.

There are four main steelband categories in the Panorama competition.

  • Large Conventional Steelbands - minimum of 95 and a maximum of 120 players. 
  • Medium Conventional Steelbands - minimum of 60 and a maximum of 90 players. 
  • Small Conventional Steelbands - minimum of 35 and a maximum of 55 players. 
  • Single Pan Bands - minimum of 25 and a maximum of 45 players.

Conventional bands play an arrangement of a calypso for a maximum of 8 minutes.

Single pan bands (which are harder to arrange for) play an arrangement of a calypso for a maximum of six minutes.

Points are awarded for:

  • Arrangement
  • General Performance
  • Tone
  • Rhythm

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