I’ve been thinking of my most memorable Panorama experiences and the performance by Solo Harmonites in the Panorama preliminaries of 1968 certainly ranks high on that list.
The decade of the 1960’s saw the greatest advances in the steelband world, and we saw the steelbands grow from the single pan “pan ’round neck” era of the fifties to the large racks and chariot like structures used to give mobility to the bands from the mid sixties, onward .
By 1968, the bands had gotten much larger, and one of the largest and most powerful of the steelbands was the Solo Harmonites Steel orchestra.
For the youth in those days, Panorama was more about the preliminaries, and the finals was almost anticlimactic.
And the place to be was on the drag, since the bands started playing their tunes near the Savannah entrance, and went down the “drag”, across the staging area, to the exit, in full “pan on the move ” mode.
I remember going down the drag behind my tenor bass pans with my band Wasa Silvertones, playing Lord Kitchener’s “Miss Tourist” arranged by Kenrick “Kicker” George.
After playing, I took a seat in the Grand Stand to watch some of the other bands coming down the “drag”, and then Solo Harmonites came down , and what an impression they made!
The band was so large, it seemed to fill the whole of the track, and it looked as if half the people in the Savannah was coming down the track with them.
And those colorful canopies !
it was the first time we saw them in full display over an entire steelband , and what an impact they had!
And above all , how sweet the band sounded.
The pans tuned by the late great tuner Alan Gervais sounded sweet and clear, and Earl Rodney’s arrangement of Lord Kitchener’s “The Wrecker” had the Grand Stand rocking.
I recall that as the music swept over us the crowd started chanting along with the music (at 02:20) Solo, Solo …..Solo Solo. That performance has stayed with me since that day, and after the performance Solo Harmonites was the talk of pan lovers.
Their finals victory was a foregone conclusion.
The Solo Harmonites Steel Orchestra – Lord Kitchener’s “The Wrecker” (1968)
I must also mention that in the following year , Solo Harmonites added to their string of outstanding performances , with this rousing version of Sparrow’s “Bongo”, also arranged by Earl Rodney.
Here there are , recorded live at Panorama 1969 in the Queens Park Savannah , Port of Spain , Trinidad.