Notting Hill Carnival 2023: Panorama

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The annual clash of the UK’s finest steelbands runs from 4pm to midnight on 26 August. The venue is Horniman’s Pleasance, a small park on Kensal Road that becomes an honorary enclave of the Caribbean on Carnival Saturday.

While smoke drifts across the park from the surrounding food stalls, suffusing the air with tempting aromas, steelpan aficionados discuss the likely prospects of the contenders. It’s far more than a music show, for this is a fierce competition that arouses as much passion and partisanship as a football championship.

Each band has its unique style and sound, so even when two bands play the same tune, the performances never sound the same. Like a great chef, the steelband’s arranger adds their signature spice to the musical ingredients.

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The seven bands must each play for seven minutes from memory, ie with no sheet music – a feat that astonishes classically trained musicians. The harmony of accuracy, energy and enthusiasm has to be seen as well as heard.

The full line-up, in order of appearance, is:

  • Metronomes
  • Southside Harmonics
  • Real Steel
  • Croydon Steel Orchestra
  • Ebony Steelband (defending champions)
  • Pan Nation
  • Mangrove Steel Orchestra
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