MARIGOT--Preparations are well under way for Gunslingers tenth Pan Revolution which will be held for the first time in the Layzy Bay parking lot in Marigot on the evening of Saturday, July 8, 2017, a concert that will be as much about the famous Gunslingers Steel Band legacy as the quality of the other artistes invited.
It promises to be an evening of excellent musicianship and vocal performances. The central performers will be the Junior Gunslingers from the music school, Senior Gunslingers of a certain age and experience, and the Advanced Gunslingers together with invited steel bands FlabeJ from Trinidad and the Nevis Pan Ensemble.
The tremendous line-up for the evening is complemented by featured local artistes Benjamin Bell, Tamillia Chance, Malaïka Maxwell, Shadz, Shakya, Baker Jr, Anjolie Sassy, Shanae Rumer, Royalty, Natisha Hanson, Kenyo Baly, and two surprise acts.
Layzy Bay parking lot will be transformed with a giant tent for the audience, VIP area, dance floor, and a big stage to accommodate 30-40 musicians and equipment.
“This is a Pan Revolution times ten, a culmination of all the concerts that have gone before,” enthuses Gunslingers’ music arranger Aldrich Benjamin. “Our Facebook page has really lit up and our video has had hundreds of views. The concept has changed from the previous years and we believe the Layzy Bay site will uplift it some more.”
Benjamin notes success of the Pan Revolution has been partly attributed to emcee and entertainer Ricky Da Phox who he calls an “indispensable” ingredient for the concerts, helping to build up the hype.
“We can’t do it without him, and the partnership with him makes for one good cup of coffee,” he said. “The groups will be coming in from July 5 and using our pans and practising for two or three days in the lead-up to the concert. The first one to arrive is the group from Trinidad, and then Nevis on Thursday afternoon.”
Also arriving from Trinidad will be Ronald Mathews to tune the pans before the concert, a technique called “blending.”
“The pans are not far off tune but just need a little touching up,” Benjamin explains. “It makes them all come back together as one. We are actually training two people to tune pans and a couple of years from now we will be going into manufacturing. We’re starting to get more involved in the industry, to create jobs etc.”
The pans have a lot of ranges, from the lowest bass sound of CI to the highest treble at C4 and C5.
Rehearsals for the concert are on-going and scheduled to fit in with some 12 students sitting for exams.
“Our motto is always education first,” Benjamin insists. “To play pan in the Gunslingers Band you have to, have to maintain a 62.5 per cent school average. But the exam success rate for the Gunslingers is 99.9 per cent. The majority of our students, over the years, have become pharmacists, engineers, electricians, biologist through our mentorship programme. It works.”
As for the set list on July 8, Benjamin says it will include a number of recognisable hits. The advanced Gunslingers will also be the back-up band for the featured artistes.
“With up to 12 invited artistes, this makes it the biggest and most challenging show to date. Previously the most artistes we had was nine,” he disclosed.
The advanced Gunslingers has a minimum of 30 players, including other instruments. It’s not uncommon for Gunslingers to be travelling abroad for shows with 40-60 players. The goal, Benjamin adds, is to reach 100 musicians, a “work in progress” he admits, to represent St. Martin again at the International Panorama in Trinidad in 2020. Logistically, that’s a plane just for the musicians and equipment.
Benjamin is one of two music arrangers with his brother, and plays at the rear of the band, “calling the shots” as it were, a position out of the limelight that he prefers.
Main sponsors of the event are the Collectivité of St. Martin, St. Martin Tourism Office, Mad Designs, Layzy Bay Parking, SOS Radio, MSR Cable TV, Friendly Island Productions, GBA Photography, Michu Reenis Photography, and Dr. Fire Entertainment.
“Without them there would be no Pan Revolution, so it’s a big thank you to them and to Jacques “Billy D” Hamlet who believed in the vision and agreed to do it in Layzy Bay. I also want to thank the parents of the music students for their cooperation. Without the parents helping us we don’t have an event either.”
Aldrich reflects philosophically about the role of Gunslingers evolving from one generation to another. It has been in existence and prospering ever since his father took it on in 1954, and passed the day-to-day running of the band to his sons.
“It’s very important for us to keep traditional and cultural music alive and pass the skills onto the youth otherwise it would just die out,” he says. “It’s why we want to keep doing the Pan Revolution, so more people get to know us and the music. So we encourage the public to come out and enjoy this concert. Since we started Pan Revolution more and more people have become interested in steel pan, or want the music for their events. It has a ripple effect.”
Ticket prices are US $25 for adults, Children under 12 US $10, and Families US $60. They can be purchased from both Van Dorp outlets, Youth Radio, SOS Radio, or from Gunslingers Band members.