Trials Of A Pan Woman
Alexander D Great's Trials Of A Pan Woman, with Debra 'Pan Diva' Romain, currently is a special limited edition single that was produced specifically for sale at the recent Artists For East African Famine Relief gig in additional support of UNICEF, the charity chosen for the event. As such, it was a first mix of the recording, although I have now been provided with a later mix (which you will hear on this page, until the tweaked final mix becomes available some time after the current Notting Hill Carnival season). Hence, in this review I have used my experience and judgment to make allowance for this circumstance.
There is always a first time for everything, and thus this review represents several firsts. It is the first time that I have reviewed a single, and a single track one at that, as well as one that is only an early mix.
What is it that compelled - yes, compelled! - me to do so? Having heard Alexander D Great perform this calypso with Debra 'Pan Diva' Romain (on pan and backing vocals) at the above charity event, and subsequently the special edition CD and later mix, I was simply so impressed, if not overwhelmed, by the quality of Trials Of A Pan Woman and its performance that a review was not only justified but mandatory.
Alexander, a born Trinidadian living in London since childhood, is the reigning British Calypso Monarch, and Trials Of A Pan Woman is his new song, co-written with Debra Romain, with which he will be defending his crown on 25th August. Since he came onto the UK calypso scene in the late 1980s, he has consistently impressed as probably the finest UK-based calypsonian, and moreover a calypsonian in true Trinidadian mould who could actually hold his own on the TnT scene. His sobriquet of Alexander D Great has a lovely, traditional - perhaps even old-fashioned - flavour. (Think Attila The Hun.) Debra Romain is a fine pannist, of Trini origins, who seems quite exceptional, and who plays with Phase II Pan Groove when in Trinidad. (But nobody who's not a Phase II supporter will hold that against her!)
Trials Of A Pan Woman is an exceptionally finely crafted song that could be seen as a tribute to the late Grandmaster, Lord Kitchener. It's a classic, old-school soca groove in the Kitchener vein. The lyrics are superb and strong, well constructed, in praise of panwomen everywhere. And the tune? Like one of Kitch's own, it's just perfect for pan and would be a dream to arrange, whether for Panorama or 'on de road.' (There's just a hint of Pan In A Minor in there, if you listen carefully.) It sweet! I can only urge all pansides and arrangers in TnT to listen to this and give it serious thought (though it would be out for Panorama even after all the recent rule changes, if I'm not mistaken).
In his interpretation, Alexander D Great also reminds of Kitch. A true, seasoned pro who pulls all the right strings. An exceptional, even extraordinary performer. Debra 'Pan Diva' Romain's backing vocals are perfection, too, and the call and response exchanges with Alexander are amazing. And of course, Ms. Romain's pan 'sweet fuh so' - IOW, it's just great, beautiful. (Even if it still needs more lifting out than in the current early mix.)
All in all, Alexander D Great and Debra Romain's Trials Of A Pan Woman is a killer and a thriller of a kaiso. This song is hot! Jump up and wine! And as soon as it becomes available, do yourself a huge favour, if you love good kaiso at all, and buy it! This is way past essential for your calypso collection and bound to become a classic.
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