PERHAPS egged-on, energised and motivated by the promise from the Prime Minister of a new home to be completed in time for the next Carnival season, the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra established a new record at the Panorama finals on Saturday evening.
The boys from “Up the Hill” kept on their steady march from the preliminaries through the semi-finals to take the coveted title for the 12th time. Playing Nailah Blackman’s popular 2020 hit “More Sokah” the Desperadoes edged out long time- arch-rivals BP Renegades and Massy All Stars for the championship title. They both tied for second in a thrilling night of pan in front of a capacity crowd at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
Arranger Carlton “Zanda” Alexander, from Siparia, also put another notch on his belt, having led this iconic steel orchestra to winners’ row in 2016, when he took over the baton.
Their performance was enriched by the presence of the soca artiste herself, and one of her uncles, who came on stage, dressed to resemble his late father, reputed soca inventor Ras Shorty I. Nailah, daughter of Abby Blackman, was delighted to be the signature flag waver for the band during their performance, as she did later on for the “Stars,” who played the same tune.
With word having previously been given that the side was going to get a permanent new home, members of the band, which had been led for years by the late Rudolph Charles, the pan icon popularised in song by David Rudder as “the man with the hammer,” were thrilled on Thursday night that finalisation of those arrangements had been completed.
It was in fact during a visit to their latest temporary home on Tragarete Road in Port of Spain that Dr Keith Rowley, made the announcement, saying the decision was part of a broader government plan for redevelopment in the city.
This new permanent home will be located on George Street in the lower east Port of Spain district. It will comprise a theatre complex, with easy access, and with space for business operations as well. Construction is set to begin in April, and is expected to be completed in six months. This will be one element in the government’s intention to provide entertainment and “exposure of the country’s culture to citizens and tourists,” the Prime Minister announced.
Since 2015, the band had moved house, so to speak, from its home turf because of what its leading figures described as problems regarding “space and security issues.” During this period, it had to pitch tent in several locations, apart from the current space it occupies.
As one of the signature steelbands, one that has built up an impressive reputation for quality music from the instrument which this country has given to the world, this new home is a fitting tribute to both its pioneers and to its loyal members.
This notwithstanding, as band member Brian Charles said on Thursday night, “Despers has not left Laventille, and Laventille has not left Despers.” He spoke about plans to continue making use of the space “on the hill” for community youth programmes.
But “coming to town” in this way adds to the sweet rewards and recognition richly earned of an institution that has helped tremendously in showcasing the talents of our people and bringing a sense of purpose to our young people.