Panfest 2008 fuses movement, music

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Panfest 2008 closed with not so much a bang as a helluva blast to a near full house, which was very vocal in its appreciation of the music and movement of the steelpan players, at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts on Sunday evening.

Presented in HD (with a TV guide-style programme to boot), a radio on-stage to the audience's right jumping through channels to often humorous effects and a television on the left 'projecting' highlights of the university's 60th anniversary between numbers, the members of the UWI Panoridim Steel Orchestra not only played music well.

Stepping Out

From 'Stepping Out' to Steel Pulse, after a spotlight hit, the unco-operative radio and its jolly airwave meanderings preceded the opening of the curtain on glinting pans and gleaming teeth especially from the players in the front row, the orchestra moved. They played with obvious joy and controlled abandon in a well-orchestrated presentation, the expected coordination of their arms as they played combined with in sync total body movement at points.

So while Marley was hot on the box in the jam of Stevie Wonder's Master Blaster after the 'pulsating' opening before the tempo cooled into DeMarco's Fallen Soldiers, during the concert there was a Wacky Dip from the second row of players and a Matrix style movement by the two bass players anchoring either side of the last row. And during Toto's Africa in the latter stages, the front row dropped to one knee, still playing, and rose slowly in time with the increasing volume of the music, players and music hitting a peak simultaneously.

El Shaddai

The audience cheered, as they did at many points on Sunday night, not only for the mass music presentation, which dominated the concert, but also the quieter segment of smaller groups of players. So the Polish Mazurka was done by two women and El Shaddai also by a smaller unit, the night's only overtly religious piece having a huge impact before the Latin jam Mi Tierra, brought up intermission.

The concert resumed with its weakest part, guest performer Mario Evon who, despite a very pleasant demeanour and earnest about his art in doing Sitting and Watching and Too Experienced before a supportive home crowd, needs more vocal work.

Request for Pandora

In the second segment the fusion of technology and music peaked as greetings from the Cave Hill campus projected on big screen ended with the request to play Pandora, those on-screen clapping and singing. The orchestra overlapped with the recording and they were off into the glorious, extended jam.

And, in the end, the reason for the disturbance in the airwaves was revealed, 'reporters' speaking of aliens landing at UWI, Mona, and the orchestra's members came out in muted lighting with luminous face masks and sticks to play and glow in the dark as the audience went wild.

The jam continued as the lights came up and, when it was finished, no one moved as rhythmic handclaps and foot stomps resounded and the curtain opened again for a genuine, glorious encore to close concert and season.

(Read more: Jamaica Gleaner)