Pan Evolution Junior Steel Orchestra revved up the audience with the tune — “Out and Bad” — putting on a “pan-tastic” performance last Saturday, to capture the overall 1st place win, beating out five other ensembles in that category, at the 10th Annual Carlos Lezama Archives & Caribbean Culture Center (CLACC-C) Children’s Festival & Youth Pan Fest in front of the headquarters on St. John’s Place in Brooklyn.
Judged on Arrangement, General Performance, Quality of Sound and Rhythm, other winners were Metro Steel Orchestra, Black Love Pantonic Steel Orchestra, Harmony Music Makers, Eruption Steel Orchestra, and Genesis Pan Groove Youth Band.
Winners in the Solo competition included Tyler Cohen, Justin Hinds, Damoi Morgan, Fayth Sampson, Nathalie Skeet-Somerszaul, and Justin Lyons.
The youngsters brought a level of skill, showmanship and focus to the competition. After a warm-up, the players went into competitive mode, reveling, as they banged out sweet notes to their selective tunes, inspiring spectators to join the exciting performances.
As the judges moved from orchestra to orchestra, the riveting music got more infectious and the cheers got louder, during the spirited competition.
Yolanda Lezama-Clark, founder of CLACC-C, and daughter of late legend, Carlos Lezama, who worked tirelessly, to keep the Caribbean culture alive, welcomed supporters, noting it has been an opportunity for the organization to give back to “our community with book bags, school supplies and a day filled with cultural entertainment, food, prizes, and lots of fun.”
“This year we are particularly excited as we have been funded by the Creatives Rebuild New York/AEP Project, which is helping us to continue to develop our programs,” she said, adding that the Youth Pan Fest promotion has generated increased interest in the steel pan by growing several younger musicians and potentially future arrangers.
“We have pushed the envelope again this year, by expanding to a Rhythm category in addition to the Ramajay and regular Band performance,” said Lezama-Clarke.
“It takes a village to make this event happen. I want to thank the City of New York, the NYPD, Community Board 8, the CLACC-C – our membership, and all our volunteers.
Lezama-Clarke also acknowledged DYCD, Target, Emblem Health, Sesame Flyers Int. Cypress Hills, and White Castle.
Congresswoman D. Clarke thanked the organization for reaching the decade old milestone, noting that the fest, is one of her favorite activities to attend during carnival season, and applauded the youth competitors, many whom, she said have never been to the Caribbean, yet have the culture and vibe in their blood.
“It is heartwarming to see so many young members of the Caribbean community come out to celebrate each other. She lauded CLACC-C for doing its job, by keeping the youth rooted in their heritage, not only at that event, but during the year.”
All fired up, Deputy Borough President Diana Richardson said “I feel so excited. As you can see from left to right the streets are crowded with people who are proud of their Caribbean heritage and culture and have come out to celebrate the instruments, that have been instrumental in our lives.”
“I want to say thank you to the Carlos Lezama Cultural organization and Yolanda, and every Caribbean country here. We should all wave our flags individually, but never forget that even though we come from various countries, it’s one Caribbean Sea that unites us,” said the DBP, who also brought greetings from Borough President Antonio Reynoso.
Trinidad & Tobago Consul General to New York, Andre Laveau, also thanked CLACC-C for promoting the Caribbean culture and congratulated the organization on its milestone. Dr. Evelyn Castro, special advisor to the President of Medgar Evers College applauded the young pannist and predicted that their future would be successful in various fields of study.
Senator Kevin Parker lauded the event, noting that it is critical for programs like this in the community that is most underfunded, and called for pan yards in schools.
Teaching youth a skill, like playing the steelpan would help them to excel in their field of study, like physics, he said, while thanking Lezama-Clark for keeping community youth engaged.
The Roxborough Folk Performers opened the show with “Taste of Tobago” a rhythmic drumming and dance fusion. Next, was the colorfully dressed Medgar Evers High School dance troupe who put on an energetic choreography, much to the delight of patrons who lined the street.
Co-hosts Valerie McLeod-Katz, and talented, 15-year-old performer Jolly Swag, executed their duties with precision, while NOW Production founder, Natasha Wilson-Jean, and Ziah Lila, interviewed the performers and leaders of the various bands, during the hours-long celebration, that helped to set the tone for the return to in-person Carnival on Eastern Parkway.
The block between Brooklyn Avenue – co-named (Carlos Lezama Way) and Kingston Ave., that were filled with music, smells of Caribbean food, West Indian flags being waved, stilt dancers, and confetti and colored power filling the air, were wonderful reminders of how it used to be before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Sybil Griffith-Chester, Keia Lezama-Clarke, Michelle Gibbs, chairperson of WIADCA, Karen Crawford, Brooklyn DA’s office, and WIADCA’s long-standing director Angela Sealy also attended the event.
CLACC-C is devoted to the development, promotion and preservation of Caribbean culture and history through the collection of archives and Art memorabilia. CLACC-C functions as a learning and resource center. It provides historical, social, and cultural information on the diverse dimensions of Caribbean life.