SteelTing, ting, ting… the anticipation is like an electric current passing through the crowd in Kensal Road as, after months of dedicated practice, a mighty steelband rings out its first beats.

Panorama is the UK’s national steelband competition, which has been held on Carnival Saturday evening since time immemorial (well, 1978). It’s an event that for many is the real start – or even the climax – of London’s carnival season.

This year, eight steelbands will be competing – and that competition is fierce. The current holder of the Panorama honours is Ebony, which will be playing Far From Finish, arranged by Duvonne Stewart. Looking to unseat them will be Croydon Steel Orchestra, playing Good Morning (arr Brent Holder), Endurance SO (Good Morning, arr Marlon Hibbert), Impact SO (Pan Up There, arr Joseph Boyde), Mangrove SB (Full Extreme, arr Andre White), Metronomes SO (Full Extreme, arr Lero Clarke), Phase 1 SO (Hold That Pan Stick, arr Stephon Phillip) and Southside Harmonics SO (Rumble In The Jungle, arr Eustace Benjamin).

You’ll notice that some bands are playing the same tune, giving you a chance to compare how different arrangers have interpreted the music for steelpan.

Be sure to arrive early, not only to soak up the atmosphere and get some food from the stalls, but also to listen to the bands practising before they reach the judging point. In the past you could stand opposite the players, but this view is now restricted to the judges and you’ll only be allowed to stand around the sides, so the practice period is your best chance to get up close to the bands. Still, there is nothing like a big steelband at full throttle – you don’t just hear the music, you feel it in your very core. If you have never been to Panorama before, prepare to be overwhelmed!

Finalist and their performance tracks:

Croydon Steel Orchestra Good Morning

Ebony Steel Band Far From Finish

Endurance Steel Orchestra Good Morning

Mangrove Steel Band Full Extreme

Metronomes Steel Orchestra Full Extreme

Phase One Steel Orchestra Hold That Pan Stick

Southside Harmonics Steel Orchestra Rumble In The Jungle