By Carlena Knight
While he was unable to clench the title in Saturday’s large conventional Panorama finals in Trinidad, musical arranger and Antigua and Barbuda’s Director of Culture Khan Cordice’s impact on the musical scene down in the ‘soca island’ could very well be bigger than any first-place trophy.
This was certainly the view of college professor and pan researcher Dr Andrew Martin.
Cordice, working alongside arranger Terrence “BJ” Marcelle, pushed Republic Bank Exodus to a second-place finish with a rendition of fellow Antiguan great King Short Shirt’s 1976 hit, Tourist Leggo.
They earned 280 points while Renegades was first with 283 points playing the late Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste’s 1991 massive hit, Feeling to Party.
Nutrien Silver Stars placed third playing the popular 2023 song, Engine Room, sung by Olatunji. The band scored 276 points.
Despite missing out on the top spot, Dr Martin believes that the impact Cordice had as a driller on Trinidad pan music will open doors for his fellow countrymen to work alongside other bands there in the future.
“I think that’s the key here, that he validated everything that they had thought and hoped about what he could bring to the band.
“I can only imagine that this will resonate in the future with other Antiguan arrangers and players. I can’t have enough good things to say about the job Khan did this year and I am hearing the same from my people in Trinidad as well,” Dr Martin said.
Cordice’s musical involvement began shortly after writing his Common Entrance Exams in 2002, having joined the Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra and National Youth Pan Orchestra.
In 2008, he arranged his first piece for the National Youth Pan Orchestra in the Gemonites Moods of Pan competition.
A year later, he got his first opportunity to arrange for Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra resulting in his first national Panorama championship.
He holds the record as the youngest arranger to have won a Panorama in Antigua and Barbuda at 19 years old and ties with the late Victor ‘Babu’ Samuel for the most wins with eight.
Cordice’s most recent accomplishment is placing first runner-up in the International Pan Ramajay in 2020.
The father-of-two spoke highly of not only his time with Exodus but the other bands as well.
“Man! What a season. To my team Republic Bank Exodus Steelband, thank you for the opportunity to share a bit of what I do with you. Marvellous job this season,” Cordice wrote on social media.
“I am deeply humbled and honoured to have worked with you and alongside the veteran and dynamic BJ Marcelle in the execution of this year’s contribution to Panorama 2023.
“Pan won again! Steelpan has returned in all of its splendour. Let’s work together to build this art form. To see the amount of visitors being a part of bands is great for the growth of the art form and the potential reach. We will see what the future holds,” Cordice added.
Dr Martin shared that it was a great move on Exodus’ part to bring in Cordice.
“When you bring in Khan, somebody who is no slouch as an arranger, as your driller, he is really going to help in working down sections because when he is drilling down a section and let’s say BJ arranged part of the flat tune, Khan is going to know already that this lower part in the double seconds is going to get lost, you need to bolster it with your cellos and your guitars right here.
“To have somebody of Khan’s achievement and abilities there to drill, then take BJ’s vision of how the tune could go, and then to pair it with somebody that intimately knows the tune and also knows the instrument and how to arrange and so on, I think you saw the results themselves.
“He is able to take that band and take them from a consistent five to six band and bring them up to being consistently second to Renegades the entire season.”
Dr Martin continued, “I don’t think that we can celebrate this enough and I don’t think we can appreciate it enough because I think it made a huge difference.
“I also think it is very important for a major band in Trinidad to say we are looking for an expert and if we are doing an Antiguan tune and they are acknowledging and appreciating Khan for, of course, what he is which is a world-class arranger, and saying we want this person to come in and help us and not only did they say that but Khan came in and delivered,” Dr Martin said.
An alumnus of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Dr Martin has a PhD in Musicology/Ethnomusicology, an MA in Musicology and an MM in Percussion Performance.
He has lectured and presented all over the world and his research has appeared in several prestigious peer journals.