NEVIN Roach, CEO and conceptualiser of PanoGrama, is still basking in the success of the steel pan event's second annual staging which saw an encouraging amount of entrants.
“We implemented auditions this year, in anticipation of increased interest. A total of 45 auditions were received from across 13 countries: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Canada, England, France, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, T&T (Trinidad and Tobago), US Virgin Islands, and the USA. This was cut down and only 30 pannists featured in the prelims,” said Nevin, who hails from the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Dubbed the World Cup of Steel Pan, PanoGrama's virtual finals was held on May 22. This year's winner was Keishaun Julien from Trinidad and Tobago. His prizes included US$1000, a trip to the Sons of Steel Concert in Canada, and a virtual session with renowned pannist Victor Provost.
The conceptualiser, who also has 19 years of experience with the instrument, said Jamaica has seen marked improvement in steel pan music.
“From what I've seen, there are some very talented pannists in Jamaica. I know of Irkah Wilson and Samantha Williams who both did well last year in the World Championships of Performing Arts. I know of Romaine Lawrence who has experience as a professional musician working on cruise ships,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
Roach said he launched the competition after the entertainment lockdown halted social gatherings.
“During the restrictions, entertainment for most people was hopping from live to live on social media. I wanted to bring entertainment to social media for the steel pan community in a way that nobody did before. Providing a platform for talented pannists to showcase their talent internationally was also a motivating factor, while the thought of helping pannists through the offer of cash prizes and appearance fees came into play as well. I saw nothing but success when the idea hit me, and my team and I were very pleased to make a sizeable donation to the Social Prosperity Fund of Pan Trinbago (world governing body of steel pan) to assist those facing financial hardships in the steel pan community,” he explained.
This year's staging saw 10,000 viewers for the preliminaries and over 5,000 for the finals with Jamaica ranked third in viewership members on YouTube for the duration of the competition.
Through this year's competition, several students from the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at The University of the West Indies, Mona campus were granted internship opportunities.
“I am passionate about youth development and the offering of internships was set to be implemented from 2022 as part of PanoGrama Entertainment's (PE) youth development drive. However, a conversation with Mr Steffon Campbell, an assistant lecturer at CARIMAC, drove me to offer internships sooner rather than later. CARIMAC students are required to complete an internship to be eligible to graduate and with the growth of PE and the expansion of its communications department, the perfect opportunity presented itself. Students are provided with a hands-on working experience in journalism, where they have the opportunity to demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills obtained at CARIMAC in the assigned job functions…,” Roach added.
Roach's last visit to Jamaica was in 2019 for the UWI games as a manager with the Cave Hill campus. He looks forward to collaborating with more Jamaican pannists.