'BIG TONY'
- the Iron Man behind the New York-based METRO Steel Orchestra
in an exclusive interview
with
When Steel Talks

 

Ask for Anthony Joseph in the New York steelband world and one stands the chance of being greeted with a blank stare.  Now try to find 'Big Tony' and the 'lights' will go on.  Tony is the mainstay, leader, president, etc. of the most historical band on the New York pan scene, the Metro Steel Orchestra.

 

Sharing the beginnings of Metro, Tony spoke of the Desperadoes (one of Trinidad's most well known steel orchestras) "stage side" (the smaller representation of a steelband which performs at engagements outside of Panorama) journey to New York in the 1970s; their sharing the spotlight with the Rolling Stones, and those stage side members who opted to remain in New York, becoming the founding members of what was then known as the Metropolitan Steel Orchestra their first year out, then shortening the steel orchestra's name to Metro.  He called the names of a few of these 'founding fathers' such as - the now deceased Kenneth 'Colors' Serrano, Joseph 'Franklin' Gerald (now leader of the Caribbean Youth Panoramics), Donna - now with Sonatas Steel Orchestra, Robert Greenidge, Denzel 'Belt' Botus, 'Panther' and others.

Metro's first home was on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, with Colors leading them to multiple victories during the period.  Receiving Colors' anointing to take up Metro's leadership mantle after his passing, Tony immediately did his now-deceased mentor and the band proud by taking them to yet another stunning victory at the New York Panorama.  The next year saw a split in Metro, with Tony departing and keeping the band's name (METRO), but with the band's core membership remaining behind and becoming known once more as Metropolitan Steel Orchestra for that year only, and as Despers USA from the next year onward.

Nostalgia set in as Tony noted that literally most of the bands known today in New York like Pantonic, NY Nutones and Despers USA, are offshoots of the original METRO Steel and that a few of METRO's "founding members" were now founding fathers themselves - such as Ralph Branche in Pantonic Steel Orchestra, Donna in Sonatas and Franklin Gerald in CYP.  He spoke of the immense sense of family he feels for most of the NY steelbands as he sees many of the young people who grew up through the ranks in Metro, branch out to the other bands which presently attract a larger following.

Laying out what it takes to bring out a band for Panorama, Tony quickly went through the key elements such as the panyard (practice area) rental for the two-plus months, basic  replenishments for band members during hours of daily practice, preparation of pans and racks for the Panorama competition, band uniforms for the sixty-plus band members, the arranger's and pan tuner's fees, transportation costs for the steel orchestra, noting that overall this could cost just about fifty thousand dollars, with financial assistance not being easy to procure.  Even if the orchestra won the twelve thousand dollar first prize, that was but a drop in the bucket of expenses.  In the case for bands which did not triumph, the original financial outlay was generally theirs to bear.  So why do Tony and other band leaders go through this potentially financially bankrupting ritual annually?  He answered simply "it's in my blood - it's the love of pan".

Despite the existing turmoil in the NY pan world, Tony feels that the band leaders themselves need to come together and speak with one voice, especially as NY Panorama organizers have for more than three decades treated pan players like he termed "second class citizens".  Noting that the fledgling steelband associations formed mainly to represent the bands' concerns to the organizers were already kayoed by infighting among management, he sees the ability of the respective band leaders to rise above the challenge of this present situation as critical to the survival, and moving forward of the New York pan world.

Not allowing plans for his own band - Metro - to be sidelined by any distractive obstacles, Tony is looking forward to the release of the band's Basement Recordings-produced CD in the very near future.  A firm believer that steelbands' efforts should be documented i.e. recorded - Metro's upcoming CD will showcase the talents of this New York-based steel orchestra's pan players.

 

 

By CP - Basement Press Release Writer
 



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Date: 10.4.02

 

 

 

 

 

'Big Tony' being interviewed by When Steel Talks...

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Touring one of Basement's studios after his interview...

 


 



 

 

 

 












 

 


 

 Tony listens appreciatively to the recording of his band's (METRO) 2002 Panorama selection -Music for the Soul - at Basement's studios

2002 Basement Recordings, Inc. All rights reserved.