Bavina Sookdeo
“We are one of the top steel orchestras and we are prepared for the friendly rivalry and to defend the title.” These were the words of the BP Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra’s Band Coordinator, Edmund Willis, when questioned on how prepared the band was to face competition at the National Junior Panorama finals. Welcoming the friendly rivalry, Willis stated that while the band was prepared to win, if they lose, he knows it will be to a better band.
On Sunday, the BP Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra emerged, yet again, as winners of the competition. The band entered the competition as defending champion in the 21 and under category and now has under its belt nine Junior Panorama titles.
According to Pan Trinbago, the youthful Renegades top scored in the under 21 (non-schools) category of the contest coming out of the preliminary round. Nine points separated the band from its second place challenger in the prelims while the Renegades won by eight points in the finals.
As for the band’s tune-of-choice, Music by David Rudder, Willis explained that it was chosen by the arranger because he wanted “to challenge the band from the Calypso perspective”.
In existence since 1999, the youth steel orchestra was launched in 2000 and first entered the competition in 2002. The youth band holds three hat tricks and in its first three years at Junior Panorama, under the arrangement of Amrit Samaroo, son of the late arranger Jit Samaroo, the orchestra won the competition.
Under arranger Shelton Besson, the band won the competition three times and then placed second in 2011. Next came Sheldon Peters’ who got the band to third and second place. Now, under the current arranger, Andrew Charles, who was a former member of the youth orchestra, the band has added three wins for the years 2014 to 2016.
With so many wins, one may wonder what is the band’s secret to success. “We are not just a Panorama band” explained its Coordinator, “We practice every week and we do gigs throughout the year.” The band has also done four tours overseas.
Willis explained that the BP Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra was started with the aim of harnessing youths and getting them to do something positive while also grooming them to be a feeder for the large bands. Has the band stuck to its original aim? “Yes. The senior band has at least 80 percent of the players who passed through the junior band,” Willis revealed.
He said the late Jit Samaroo was instrumental in the establishment and development of the youth steel orchestra but, since his passing earlier this year, has the band been able to maintain the values he laid down? Willis believes they have. “Most of the values like the discipline, the respect for the instrument and the camaraderie are still there and evident in the band.”
And while the players are known for their skill of playing pan, it is important to note that many are professionals. Coming out of BP Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra are doctors, police officers, soldiers and even lawyers.
Willis indicated that the band, located on Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain, is one that holds on to its original values and thus remains committed to its community. “When we started the band, one of the things we tried to put in place was that 50 percent of the players MUST come from the community.” He confirmed that currently 50 percent of the players are from Port-of-Spain.

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