Sunday, 15 April 2018

Duvonne’s Music Activism: Who Feels it, Knows it.

 Duvonne Stewart opened the gates of hell and met them face to face; the killer and the man who killed the killer. 

Duvonne Stewart hears the results. Photo Maria Nunes
He faced the demons, conquered them and had  love to spare ..with a little bit of help from his “close friend, mentor, motivator, critic”  Wayne Alleyne whom he saw lying in a pool of blood on the ground just outside his home on Queen Street in Port of Spain.
A murder statistic for the rest of Trinidad and Tobago, but this 59-year-old man was another one who was killed only to send a message to the other side in the turf war in the battle zone of East Port of Spain; the heartland of the island’s top three steelbands; Desperadoes, Renegades and All Stars. 
 “They made an example of Wayne. He was so close to me that it was real. It hit me hard. Every single thing that was expressed musically in the performance of Renegades, I turned around that experience and transformed it,” Duvonne said about the murder on December 11th 2017.
 Yet when he cried, in front of the whole world to see, he stifled the tears in the soulful and expressive arrangement of Year For Love which ended a twenty-year-drought-long transition from its record breaking success with the late Dr Jit Samaroo.
 It was more than a high  for the accomplished arranger of the Single ,Small and Medium bands who ,stepped into the hallowed halls of  Trinidad’s music history as a musical activist, leading a cadre of international players from the bands he has arranged for in the US, UK, France, Japan and St Vincent here in the Caribbean.
The Renegades, also, got a chance to breathe.  
To manage the  Charlotte Street band throughout the restless season, required more guts than the glory they achieved with the victory at Panorama Finals on February 10th.
In a community splintered by gang warfare-Nelson Street at war with Duncan Street, Prince Street at War with Queen Street and Laventille Road at War with the rest, for example- they dared to go from block to block- the band’s executive and administration- moving around inviting them to the pan yard.
And, at practice, in between sharing notes with the players through a loudspeaker. Duvonne would preach to  his team and  the immediate neighbourhood which included the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) next door.
The community held it together and there was peace and love, under a watchful eye, for a season. The music triumphed.
 “It was a year for a purpose. It was a mission that everybody understood and it was well executed with the passion, the true,real ,playing ethic of a song was  infectious because many players in the band lost a loved one through the hands of the criminal and they played a significant part in saying This Is The Year For Love.” Duvonne said. 
Never mind that ten days after Carnival the tension that was held in check overflowed when 25-year-old Akil James was shot dead at Calvary Hill, a stone’s throw away; a Rasta City top ranker who was killed in Rasta City turf.
Parts of East Port of Spain bordering the lanyard -Observatory, Bath, Oxford, Basilon Charlotte and Piccadilly Streets -erupted as they burned debris, ironically enough,  smack in front of the Renegades on February 20th.
Photo:Trinidad Guardian
 Finally, Stewart is on the international circuit and is freeing his mind as he shares the story behind his captivating arrangement  to music students  starting  at Howard University in Washington D.C in March and extending to the University of West Virginia in June and then a recall at Howard, followed by Berklee School of Music after which he will move on to Europe  to familiar ground at the University of Nantes , then on to Paris before England.  
 Renegades’ Year for Love was a soulful cry from the belly of Trinidad’s hell vocalized by instruments in a manner that no journalist, teacher, preacher, priest or community activist has verbalized.
  It was the definitive moment of protest in Trinidad Carnival 2018.  A thesis waiting for a social scientist.
 “I was in hell.I see what could take place down there.In there I had a conversation with  Wayne, the guy who killed Wayne and the guy who killed the guy who killed Wayne, a man with a Pump, talking to the killer. Fire will bun dem.
 “For me, it was an audiovisual production for the world that came from inside. I planned it out, the pyrotechnics, everything,” the  41 year old father of one, said about the band’s  statement on Final Night.
  Read on for the mitigating factors, to understand how the landmark arrangement came together, spiritually, in a year when Duvonne also conquering health issues literally became  fit and ready to finally grab the baton from the late Jit Samaroo and run his leg of this race  to also take  a new breed of arrangers into the promised land.

 The Genesis       

It all started December 11th, 2017 when “they made Wayne an example”. 
“On that Sunday afternoon,I was looking to go in the panyard. I came downstairs and heard the gunshots. He had come downstairs to throw out the garbage.
 “I did not see what happened but he was shot in the head. I saw him on the ground lying down in a pool of blood and I knew what the repercussions are like. I was traumatized.
 “On Monday morning I was expecting to hear “Yo! Duvonne, come outside let we lime nah.”
 “Me eh hear that. For four or five days I was out of it.
 “It hit me like my mother dead. He was so close to me that everything was real. Every single thing that was expressed musically in the performance of Renegades I turned it around and transformed it from that experience,” Duvonne revealed on his return to Trinidad from sharing his story with the students at Howard University in Washington, D. C.
As Loop TT reported
 “The actual gunshots that took place..another young one gone. Bram!.. and then meh boy Wayne and so I started to transform myself in telling the story," he said, giving words to the arrangement. 
“In hell, I met the killer, the man who killed Wayne, we are face to face and I  am asking what you kill Wayne for?  
 “He was about 21 years old and he died about three weeks afterwards when we were full into the carnival season.
 “I heard  people say yeah boy, they now kill the man, the man dead.
 “But, I didn't feel relieved. The same saga continues. The man who killed the man who killed Wayne. 
 “I was repeating and replicating that incident musically in this arrangement,” he said.
 Moving forward to the February 20th protests Stewart said  “the incident sent a negative outlook to what Renegades was portraying for Carnival, and people want to know why and how these things happen. 
 “Well, it’s the system that causes things like that to happen,” he said, from his experience living on the frontline of the battle zone that his community has become.
“This is just how it is on the Eastern side of Port of Spain,"  he intoned. 
 "When we first advertised the song  as the choice for the band we were going from Block to Block around the Eastern side of Port of Spain, the Renegades' Executive team… the administration. We were moving around inviting them all to come in the panyard. To bring back the love. 
“They came into the yard, talking and liming. Everybody put down their guns.
 “And then the people around told us they liked what we were doing down in the panyard.
“They told me they were hearing what I was saying.
 “They knew who the song was dedicated to; what the song was a reflection of. They knew Wayne. 
 “From the time they heard me call Wayne’s name in explaining the arrangement to the players the phone would ring. 
 “They would tell me he’s a good one. We will fix that, they promise.
 “But it’s not about fixing that. It's about about bringing that love and vibes. 
“There was a part of the song where I was actually talking to the killer in hell and I went back into my subconscious where I ran up the stairs and knock on the door and the door opened and all I could see was the Garden of Eden, a peaceful, tranquil place where I brought in the line from the hymn Let There Be Peace On Earth,” Duvonne explained.
  “I was trying to talk to the community now. Let there be peace in Trinidad, throughout the world.
 “Then I brought them together, let us talk, all ah we is one family. It was all in the song. The day ended and the next day came and  I tried to bring all that into the arrangement and I went back to the person who killed Wayne for him to talk with him.
 "Yo! Put down your guns. ‘When you kill this is what will happen, fire go bun you. Full stop.

The Process

"From the first day I came into the pan yard on January 2nd, 2018, to distribute music I demanded the use of a microphone and a Public Address (PA)  system so every line, every sentence, every statement, every passage made evident to the instrumentalists what they played.
 “I had to describe and explain to them, off the bat, what it meant so the passion of executing the feeling of what I was doing in different parts of the song was fully understood by every single member.
“Because I had the opportunity to speak with everybody like it was one on one, they were very attentive, very understanding, very patient with the process. As I said I wanted to bring the story real.
 ‘It wasn’t something that I could have done in a Jazzy way or even with BeBop and have people think I was just doing music. 
 “I wanted to be clear in the arrangement. I wanted to be real. I wanted to be clearly looked at with the arrangement “Year for Love” because for the past five or six years as the Panorama Arranger for Renegades I was trying to mimic the Renegades’ style due to the legacy of  Dr Jit Samaroo that we inherited from the early 70’s 80’s and 90’s.
“I wanted to make that transition, for it to become evident, where Duvonne Stewart could be heard in the entire arrangement.
“When people hear Pan Elders(the Medium Band  Champions) everyone said yeah, this is a Duvonne.
 “ During that time though when they came by Renegades for them it was like Duvonne was trying to do something like what Jit did.
 “But then again reality did not hit the band in such a way for me to be ME in arranging for Renegades,” Stewart mused.
 “And the calling came in 2017 when I arranged Voice’s Far from Finished” for the  Ebony Steel band in London. 
  “Ebony won the UK Panorama.

“And that was the get-go. When I heard Year for Love, as I said, I wanted to be clean and clear and to be understood in all aspects of doing the arrangement.
 “The lyrical content of the song was so powerful that I wanted to bring the story unto the instrument because I wanted it to be how the singer brought it over, just real.
“I wanted the people to understand what it was like being in the mind of Aaron St Louis while he was writing the song, this being an extended version of what Duvonne Stewart did with the arrangement.
 “The creative minds that came together for this arrangement was a true story in which I had two friends who lost their lives through the hands of the criminals in December. 
 “It just naturally came to me what I wanted to say to these criminals, you know, bun dem.
 “Just about 3 minutes and 40 seconds into the song there was a passage that I used ” this is my time for Bunning” a line from Black Stalin. 
“That was the hell, when Judgement day comes, you are getting fired. 
“I tried to incorporate it with the Year For Love theme and everybody understood what I was doing and so it became easy to articulate. 
 “In another part, just about five minutes into the arrangement  I incorporated Let There Be Peace On Earth. I tried to bring the peace and the love- that was my story about what this place is supposed to be.
 “That was an inspiration that I received from within that God did not make this world to be how it is right now. 
“Everybody is supposed to be living in love, with harmony with peace; stop the killing the fighting.
“And then at about six minutes, I brought in  “all ah we is one family,” using a little Nelson line to let them feel how the Year For Love was supposed to be… and at the ending let them continue during the fire. 
 "I was just trying to send the message clearly ,without trying to be difficult or two or three notches above the average listener, without them being misled, without them coming into the panyard and just listening to a bunch of notes, a bunch of phrases and a bunch of lines. I wanted to tell the story real and true.
  “So I had to come right back down to grassroots and let them  understand what I was trying to do.
"If it doesn’t start with me, it doesn’t go anywhere. It has to start with me. I had to be mentally ready to make these players feel comfortable every single night from January 2nd until the 10th of February.” 
Duvonne was leading from in front.

I was very scared to take the baton, until...

 "When Dr Jit Samaroo was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2006, the band wasn’t ready for the transition in terms of life after its premium arranger. 
“While I received a call from the management, I declined, the reason being that I just wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready to fill that shoes . 
Duvonne and Dr Jit (Photo Duvonne Stewart)
“ Amrit Samaroo attempted and he was very successful in his ways. He then left and started his band Supernovas.
“In 2010, they called again. I declined again. I still was not ready.  
“The band did not make Panorama finals in 2011 and then there was a call that I received from BP directly saying to me "no is not the answer".
 “Come and take this band and do whatever you want to do with it", they told me.
“So 2012 was my first attempt at arranging for  BP Renegades. On  January 7th  I was doing Vibes by Mark Loquan, sung by Denyse Plummer. 
 “Before going to the panyard, I was very, very scared. Because as I said before it was not something that I had planned, to come and work with Renegades.
“But when the calls came I had to answer in a very professional way. Walking through the gates of the panyard I found about 100-plus people with open arms saying welcome back home. And that was the start for me accepting the fact that I was being loved, I was being appreciated; that I  have been gifted from the people who made me who I am because I was also a player for Renegades in the late 80’s early 90’s.
“ I performed in the Junior Steelband Festival in 1992 where Jit Samaroo saw me and invited me to play with Renegades.  
 “I was here since Bees Melody…my first tears crying as a young kid playing on the frontline when we thought we won the Panorama,” he recalled.
“Due to consistent results over the years 2012- 2016, (when we placed third) a dynasty was in the making and a new legacy was coming of age, the one that Dr Jit Samaroo started.
“So they saw a promise that this guy is knocking on the door so we have to take care of this guy, try and make this fella feel comfortable in himself, That was the vibe from the band. The message did not come directly from the players to me, but I heard it through the grapevine.
"I was 430 pounds at my heaviest weight.Concerns were brewing throughout the panyard. Duvonne getting too big, Duvonne you have to take care of yourself and stuff like that.
 “And being this young person in a fraternity where I had been respected by many young people, locally, regionally and internationally and working for one of the best steel bands in the world I had to make a stance to preserve me as an individual with good health.
"Renegades actually pushed me in that direction because of a feeling I got from every single player inside of here.
 "We have to keep Duvonne here for long. And I tried many, many programs until I made up my mind to do the Gastric Sleeve surgery in 2016. 
Nobody knew that I went to do it.
 “I lost 100 lbs in 2017  and everyone looked at me and thought something was wrong. At the first gathering in the panyard we all huddled and I told everybody what I did and there was an emotional change in the band. 
"Everybody greeted me with tears and the vibe of the band changed drastically.
"Now, it’s 2018  and I have lost about  230 lbs in total and the general reception was that I made them feel comfortable knowing I would be here for a long time, health-wise as long as God says yes.
“Take the baton, run with it, because you are here to build a new dynasty. you are here to stay, we want you here to stay. That gave an added confidence boost to me to deliver me to Bp Renegades.
 “The management team of Mr Michael Marcano and Candace Andrews Burmunt, all endorsed me: Duvonne this is your band now. Its history is Jit’s history. This is your time, they said, ands o everything evolved into making Year for Love Duvonne Stewart’s Year for Love.
 "I finally took the baton this year.
 “In the years in between, I was trying to make Renegades sound like how Jit Samaroo was. Being in his shadow  and  thinking that I was doing something good. Yes, I  was doing something good but I wasn’t really expressing who Duvonne Stewart really is.
 "How could you not move out of Jit’s shadow?
 “ I was a student of him. I was an understudy. Everything that he did I idolised it. Coming to the band that he made and he also groomed and made me what I am  I thought that what I was doing was the right thing. 
 "In the five years before 2018, in that transition period I was just sending the information from my head to the players, everybody knew when a double tenor solo was coming up, cos Jit used to do it, a Cello solo coming up because Jit used to do it but that time is all gone, now.
"It just happened. It just naturally happened because I was in that frame of mind" he said.
  "And people might draw reference to your middle pans?" I asked
“ …which is a trademark of the band. Letting go of these nice fluent cello lines and quadrophonic lines? That’s what I learnt him, taking it away is like taking the heart out of Renegades," he responded.
 "That is how the band was built. That is how the instrument was being used inside of here. 
"Telling the story of what he was doing from before. But everything else is just 100 percent Duvonne," he assured.


Sheer ecstasy was a sign of intimidation

 ‘I never led from in front like I did this time. If you go back to the image that I had before with Renegades, I was like a rock in front of the band. I was just like being still, being stagnant, just watching around and waving my hands.
"Losing all that 230 pounds made me more energetic. I felt more real, more athletic.. running from one side of the stage to the other. 
"It made people wonder who is this man in front of the band? 
'And when they were told that is Duvonne? They were saying  Nah! "Everybody was like let me take a good look. Wow, Duvonne transformed this band.
"Hell yes! I was out to shock people!Everybody was gravitating to see me in front of the band this year.
 "The new image, the new personality, the new energy. I was just loving every minute of this carnival season. 
"It was humorous but yet still interesting and inspiring to a lot of people who saw the transformation of what I made myself to be.
 And that all came to a head for a semi-final performance.
A man possessed (Photo Gary Cardinez)
“After the preliminary round, the word on the ground was that Renegades is the band to beat this year.  
"The National Semi-Finals was four days later and we had to go out and make a statement to John and Jane Public so they would know the reason for Renegades being that band on top. 
"And we had to make that statement clear from the word go.
 "The draw for the semi-finals was very, very strange.It was the first time I had ever seen something like this. All the bands that played the same songs performed consecutively one after the next.
" I know that Desperadoes is a Champion band, I respect the band big time. And that performance that was given by Renegades on stage was totally spontaneous to the point where the energy, the vibe, the performing values that played a part on that said Sunday night was just sheer ecstasy. 
"The players just gave me what I wanted at that point in time because everything that was said in the panyard; every stanza, every line that was articulated by me to them was well portrayed and executed on the stage. 
"I had a fire torch in my hand. Nobody knew I had that. 
" I did use it on the drag but I did not plan to use it on the stage because it may have sent alarms to the Fire Service, but I said to myself  Duvonne if they have to lock you up tonight, they have to lock you up.
 “If they have to charge you tonight, they have to charge you tonight. Tonight is the night to make that Semi-Final statement that Renegades is out for blood, is out to make that cut above the rest.
 "A sign of intimidation to the rest of bands that we coming to bun people.

   Turf wars erupt in cyberspace 

      .. as a new breed walks through the gates

There was an unease among some bands and steelband turf war went into cyberspace after the semi-final performance, with the management of All-Stars and Desperadoes and Renegades  issuing statements to keep their players on chill.
 “I felt that nobody expected that a new breed, a new name arranger could be on the scene so dominant that he and his band were on the verge of winning National Panorama holding the lead from the preliminary straight up.
“ Messages, comments and all these things of a certain nature were coming to me. I heard it, I saw it and I felt it. 

 “Again, it was a distraction to make me be less of what I am to my organization and to my band. Again, I had to come here every single night prepared to make every single player comfortable with their confidence level high above everything.
“Among the comments they said that Duvonne is a rookie arranger. "That Duvonne wasn’t ready for this war as yet.
  “He now come. Another band will beat him. Renegades peak in the semi finals, they said,
 "But  I guess they did all they could have done and little did they know that those comments made me stronger in coming to the panyard here every night to execute and build a final night production to wow that Queen’s Park Savannah.
Again, at 41 years old, I could see the transition process of a new generation of Arrangers 
Somebody had to open that door. And, being in a band like Renegades with a managing team like they have and structures as well, I was given all the tools to work with. 
“It was just a matter of time to break down that door and the time was right in 2018.
 "The life-changing image that I have, the music that I had embedded in me, the confidence that I got from the managing team to be me, was all integrated to what this production lent to itself on February 10th.
“No distraction. no confusion. no night-before-jumbles in the panyard. Everything was just flowing clockwise inside this panyard here from the day go.
"All the distractions, all the darts that were coming, I expected it. Now that I have achieved what I have achieved in winning National Panorama with Renegades I believe that I have opened the gates for young arrangers.
"There must be a lot of arrangers that do not have the band that I have to go forward but yet still I  was still determined in opening that space, letting them know this is our generation’s time to say something, to make that statement, and that goes  for Seon Gomez, Arddin Herbert, Carlon Harewood, Liam Teague, the three amigos from  the US  Kendall Williams  Odie  Franklin and Mark Brooks. and all the young arrangers who  have the know-how to send their voices out through music.
"I am not taking full credit for it but this is what we have to do now, rush in the gates and make it happen.
 "No disrespect to the virtuosos that existed before who paved the way for us to be where we are now.  They may say  Duvonne is sounding like Jit, but who you want him to sound like again? 
 "That was the guy I was learning under. Then again I have to find my own purpose in terms of being me and that was one of the key things that made it possible in 2018. 
"Len Boogsie Sharpe, Leon Smooth Edwards Ken Professor Philmore, Ray Holman and you go on, these guys did what they had to do and I say thanks very much to them, but the generation has changed. The generation has evolved to come into this game to make a new sound for the next 10, 15, 20 30 years.
 "I won’t be here forever but what I thought I did was make the new breed arrangers feel comfortable in walking through the gates now to make themselves be heard in Panorama.
 "The older generation will be in the competition still; they will bring their game on and again Nuff respect to them, but now a group of young arrangers is coming at them with fresh and new music.

 Straight Up, Aggressive, Unedited
              My Dynasty is Now

"I could speak for ME personally. I am being myself. I am being real. Uncut. Unedited. Unplugged with the ideas that I have to bring whatever composition is being led to me. "There is no other way to be right now.
(Photo Bp Renegades)
"In the 80’s and 90’s the arrangements that came from the virtuosos were very technical to articulate. A new generation has evolved we have to try to make them understand what we are doing in terms of being transparent, in being straight in your face. That is what it was like arranging this said piece, this composition.
"Carlton Alexander’s approach to Year For Love and Duvonne Stewart’s approach was completely different.
"He is of the soulful, jazzy, very orchestrated type. Sometimes the young generation may not tend to gravitate to it. I am not saying that he is not doing something good. For me, he is doing something good, but then again there is a flavour and taste for people to understand. 
"My version was like up in your face telling you that fire go bun yuh directly without you trying to understand three or four or five times what Duvonne really doing.
"That is just the real straight minded approach that I have. bringing everything directly to your face without going left or right.  Yes, aggressive.
 "I go with the lyrical content of the song and build from there. For example, the line  "another young one gone, brap!", It’s like a gunshot! "There was total silence in the band.
 “I was just saying that a criminal walk up to the band and killed somebody. So I  explained that to the players.
 “In teaching them I explained everything in detail so they understood what they were playing.
"When it's your time, it's your time. I believe my Dynasty is now. I could win come second, third, fourth, come tenth. Nobody knows what next year holds or even what song is available.
 "Everybody goes in at zero, it’s up to the judges.I don't take time to critic what a man does with his own creation. "You can’t go inside his mind and tell him what to do. This is what he feels, what he does and sees fit to bring it to the table. Every single arranger  did what they did best in what they brought to the table."I am not saying that Quincy Jones can’t do what we do. I  see us as phenomenal musicians, exceptional musicians. All of us, the new breed, the Grand Masters who did what they had to do.
"Len Boogsie Sharpe, for me, is the greatest I have ever seen arranging and playing. To be consistently in the top three over three decades .. I can say the same thing for  (Clive) Bradley,  (Jit) Samaroo and Alexander. "They are all phenomenal in re-creating and repositioning music that was given to them.

A Billion Dollars waiting

After his stint with Ebony Steelband in London, Duvonne  Stewart was invited by Billy Ocean to be part of a project at the Music Arts Department at Liverpool University which involves a lecture and workshop on the steel pan.
 “The instrument is growing big time in London. It is compulsory in most of the schools in the UK.
"We need to take time to pay maximum respect to this instrument. This is supposed to be compulsory in the school system. Start it from the school system, make it compulsory that every single child in Trinidad and Tobago learn this instrument.    At the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary levels make this instrument a study because there is a market for steel pan outside.
With Billy Ocean (Photo Duvonne Stewart)
"Andy  Narrell, Victor Provost, Robert Greenidge, Liam Teague Robert Foster, just to name a few are living comfortably internationally off this instrument and they are living examples to the people in Trinidad and Tobago to know there is a life out there with steelpan music. 
“If we don't have the right measures, procedures, the right template back home to make a child feel encouraged to make pan an occupation it will never get from where it is right now. 
“That is why Robert Greenidge lives outside, Ken Professor Philmore is more outside, Len Boogie Sharpe is here but there is nothing here for him to do after the carnival. That is why I travel a lot to make name for myself.
"Outside of that, we have University program in Trinidad at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) run by  Seon Gomez ,Mia Gormandy and Leon Smooth Edwards. There is one in the University of the West Indies and one at COSTATT. Multiple students go there to get Diplomas, Certificates and stuff like that and then after there is nothing for them here. There is not a school steel band program in any of the schools in Trinidad. None.
"At some schools, there is not an instrument in the school.
“I went to Signal Hill Secondary in Scarborough and I received multiple book lists and there is a part in there which says music. So you go buy your manuscript, you buy your Trinity or Royal School of Music Grade One or Two and the instrument that you use is a Recorder. 
"Why it is a Recorder when you are living in a country with an instrument that is national and indigenous.The steelpan supposed to be the instrument used to teach people music in Trinidad and Tobago. Everyone should know what is “doh ray mi fa so la ti doh”  on every pan in Trinidad. 
"We should take time to invest in nurturing and respecting the instrument for what it is because this instrument is a billion dollar industry.
 "The connections that I  built over the years working with bands internationally, So players from all the bands that I touched came back to Renegades to help with the mission.
 Casym in New York, Starlift in St Vincent, Ebony UK had had over 20 players here,  we had two players Calyps Atlantic in France and a couple of Japanese players I normally work with.
" And then again I have a fan base of international pannists that also love Renegades and want to play with the band, they came back, because of how I did the music.
  "I wrote the Score and sent it to all the players internationally,  so they had a fair idea by the time they landed in Trinidad.  I score my own music using the e-pan  a midi steelpan interface that is triggered with any music compatible software  and I go about writing the music by actually playing pan and I am like 120 players doing the song., 
"It is easily accessible for me to do things like that. when they come two days before preliminaries. It's just to fall in and play with the band.


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Let the truth be told: How Shorty deceived the status quo to create Sokah.

Garfield Blackman
(Photo Winston Peters)
He confessed that he thought he was going mad.
What he did not know at the time was that it would be his next musical step.
Going down by “the line” in Marabella for a sea bath, sometimes three times day, was the meditation that brought Jamoo the musical upgrade to Sokah which he invented  and for which he lost many friends along the way. Africans and Indians alike chastised him for blending their rhythms.
And while he  seeded 14 children with Claudette time has proven the late Garfield Blackman, Ras Shorty I, gave an entire nation a formula for love and unity which was largely ignored.
“What they condemn me for is what they are using now,” he said, three years before he died.
 With a grieving heart, just a few years  after Sokah descended, by and large, into vulgarity he admitted that he felt like he was a voice in the wilderness when  he changed the formula, again.
 “The hardest part of my life was the transition and the way people dealt with me and I had to maintain my integrity. But I am doing something, regardless of what anybody says about me I am pressing on because I am guided,” he said in an interview which I recorded on a cassette in 1997 and which  I have transcribed simply to bring the truth.
Herein lies the unedited transcript in which Blackman, who died  three years  later on July 12th 2000, gives in details the raw truth about that woman Indrani, how he beat a charge of indecency for The Art of Making Love, how he was forced to deceive the status quo to make the Dougla rhythms  to create a sound for a people for all time.
In between there is the story of how  Trinidad and Tobago’s  iconic songbirds Ella Andall and Carol Addison came into the spotlight and  the  subtle changes from Dholak to Tabla that made the  Jamoo music.
And he speaks about what grieves his heart.

Making a Dougla in the 70's.

 It was  early in the 70’s in Trinidad and Tobago when  there was an undercurrent of  uniting the two major races politically. A Trinidadian  of African descent growing up in Lengua, Barrackpore, Garfield Blackman was witness to the real deal in his daily life. It became his musical mission  and he was pushed forward when it seemed, in those days that calypso was dying and reggae music was on the rise.
  “Someone told me “people like you and Joey Lewis should be able to bring something together to touch people. To make calypso come alive.
  “I was angry and I left there with that anger and I went home in search of something and then I started to put things together and this is how I came up with the Indian and the African rhythms, with Indrani in 1972.
 “The idea is to unite Indians and Africans. It was first an idea. How could I do that? 
  “Let me put Indian music and African music together, make a Dougla rhythm. 
  “I start with the Dholak and the calypso rhythm.  “The Dholak has a kind of downbeat. 

The Dholak

Calypso in those days was not so much down.“ Calypso in those days wasn’t the kind of music that you could sing a love song. And I, in my youth  had a desire to be able to sing a love song that the young people could be a part of. So it was the combination of both.Unite the Indians and the Africans with the music, make a Dougla rhythm and make a rhythm that the youths could be a part of. 

  “Like now, in those days it was still a situation with the radio stations propagating American music and the young people would go for whatever was the music played  at that time.
  “I am a stickler for my own and I feel that we ought to have a music that our young people could be a part of.  
  “That is where the whole thought began. Now I need a song to sing and then the idea of Indrani came into being.
  “Her name wasn’t Indrani. Meh brother had a woman and  we used to call she  Bhowgee. "And when he and she come from the garden and drink their Puncheon rum, she used to sing like  tingy tingy (high pitched voice) and dance around him and thing and everybody know that they going inside and have sex in a few moments.
“So I take the thought from that and made as though this Indian woman is my woman.describing her “she skinny and bony like a whip”, the exact description. But she wasn’t sixty years old.
“When I went into the studio to do that song it was actually my own first production  because I used to work with other production companies in those days, I went to Mac Serrao studio in Woodbrook.  "The label was Shorty Records.
“In those days it was only four tracks they had -no overdubs and things like that. Everybody sing and do their thing one time.
“Robin Dindial played the Dholak, Tatsil  played the mandolin. They were both from the ACME Dil E Nadan Orchestra.
Shorty(left) with guitar working on Indrani
(Photo Winston Peters)
“I used the Dholak, Mandolin and the Dhantal. what I did was  first I put down the calypso with Ed Watson and his  band. He was totally against what I was doing. When he finished do his work and they get paid I bring in the Indian musicians and I used two tracks for the band, one for the Indian musicians  and one for me and the choruses.
“That kind of work was unheard of in that time. Nobody was doing that. Max Serrao said you could do that if you want and I said yes, I am going for that because I have options and I want to try it.
 “The combination of the Indian rhythm and the African rhythm, which was calypso blended so nicely in Indrani, it was a big hit for me. It buy meh house, car everything for the first time. 
“Previous to that I could not even buy a bicycle.
 “Sat Maharaj started to complain right away that I was degrading Indian women and all that. "I fought them in the sense that I find that was ridiculous because Indian women were like anybody else. 
“In those days all things about the Indian woman and their culture was a hidden thing only for Indians. And here I was as an African, breaking into something that was totally traditional East Indian and Sat Maharaj was one of the first fellas  to start talking.

   Outsmarting Dr Eric Williams 

“ That very year I had  Art of Making Love and the Prime Minister  (Dr Eric Williams) had me charged with indecency. 
  “It was a whole big publicity thing. It was two 45’s. One was Indrani and  the flip side was Calypso is Ours and then there was Art of Making Love Parts One and Two.
 “I had two hit songs and I really sold out.

 “The Attorney General Karl Hudson Phillips dropped the charges eventually because I was making too much of a big thing out of it.
“ You ever see anybody go to look for a Summons?
  “I take my lawyer and said allyuh have a summons for me, I want it.
   I carried a photographer and made a big splash of it. 
  “Every day my picture on the papers and people was buying records.

 Before Indrani

My first album was recorded in 1963, Cloak and Dagger  and then there was The Follower, Fish is Fish and Female Opposition where  I decided to take all the prostitutes and make a political party and then "Indian Singers" before Indrani.  I was speaking about the Indian singers coming into nice melodies and lively music. The song started by saying 
 “Them Indian singers bound to hire/ day by day they getting better/ long time when ah Indian come to sing/ he use to start off as if he groaning. But now that change entirely/ if you hear them with a sweet sweet melody.
 “I Sang it on calypso rhythm, but the whole mood of the song was that.  That was in 1966
 “In 1970, Don't Chook Yuh Mouth in Woman Business, that was a big one.
 “And then in 1971, the big song as not one that I sang but it was a song that I wrote and gave to Baron Severe Licking, they used to call it Ah Lick She. 

  Deceiving the status quo 

“I decided that I would make my first album. In those days nobody made albums but Kitchener and Sparrow. Another artist with an album was unheard of. 
“It was a great challenge because people would say you playing Sparrow, yuh playing Kitchener. And I was financing it. I produced an album called The Love Man with ten tracks. I used the dholak in every track, the mandolin and the dhantal.
 “I was condemned for it. Everybody say I was playing Indian, spoiling the music.
“ All that time everybody was doing their traditional thing. Nobody was doing anything different. And I was sure I had something. 
“So what I did in my next recording which was Endless Vibration , I transferred the Dholak rhythm to the drum set so nobody could say ah playing Indian anymore.
 “That is how the drum rhythm changed from what it used to be to what it is now. And then I gave it a name SOKAH. That is to represent the soul of calypso. Kah was the East Indian influence (the first letter in the Sanskrit alphabet).
“Endless Vibration was recorded in 1974 and released in 1975. It was the turning point of the music., “Everybody accepted it because it didn’t have any Indian drum on it. They didn’t understand what was happening there was the same thing they were listening to, but it was a different format.
“What it did  was that it allowed the music to flow more. it was a freer flowing song. I was able to use shorter lines, sweeter melody patterns,].  I was able to swing my voice in a totally different way.
“ I expressed what I meant by that in 1975 when I made another album called Shorty and Friends, Love in the Caribbean and I presented Ella Andall, Ricky Gibson and the Grooving Millers. We did basically songs with the Sokah rhythm
“Second Fiddle, Love in the Caribbean and Who is she, which I sang were the most successful of the ten tracks. When you make an album is ten tracks in those days. 
“In 1976 with Sweet Music  I was able to go in deeper into what I was experiencing, what was the movement.I began to hear now and what it enabled me to do.
“I did not hire a band. Not Ed Watson nor Art de Coteau. I picked up musicians to get a particular sound. It was rare at that time. In those days you look for a band. They were the two big bands.
 “I wanted a different sound and I also did something that nobody else did. I used females in my chorus for the first time. 
 The chorus group in those days was the Sparks, that eventually became Wildfire. I took Carol Addison and her sisters. She had two sisters who used to work with her and I hired them.
Carol and her sisters had an American attitude about them and changed the color of the whole musical thing.
On that sweet music I had  Angus Nunes on bass,  On keyboard was Junior Brown, Toby Tobias was on the drums. I transferred everything into the drums, it’s still the same thing they are playing up to this day and nobody wants to recognize that is where it came from. 
They calling it crossover chutney and all kinds of things but it’s Sokah music.
“I had my band called Vibrations International and I run my first calypso tent, the Professionals. Upper Frederick Street, we only did one season. We had  The Mighty  Duke and a lot of new  fellas like  Mba who started and got their break there.

Sokah runs into Jamoo barely six years later

 “ By 1978 I was in the sea bathing. I  used to go by the sea everyday-sometimes three times a day- on the line by the wharf. I used to walk from Vistabella and go down on the line to bathe by a place called Iron.
  “And while I was in the sea I began hearing Jamoo and I knew that God was giving me a different concept of music. Because I was hearing calypso but of a different nature.
 “I actually felt like I was going mad in the sense that so much things was going on in my mind I could not capture it. I tried putting three tape recorders together to capture the bass, the drums, to sing them out. 
 “ And then I said to myself your mind is the greatest computer man
 “I then began to develop my mind to maintain all those sorts of things. And in a short space of time, for the first time, I was able to write a song without even using a paper and pen.
“I never did that before. That song was Jamoo. It was released in 1984 along with songs that were written between 1977 and 1984.
 How is Jamoo different?
 “It remains with the East Indian side. more classical. but I have adopted the Tabla rhythm rather than the Dholak.
 “Jamoo is the next stage in the development of Sokah, what I see with  Jamoo is what I was seeing with  Sokah. I wanted a music that young people could relate to. Jamoo is still that. 
“As a matter of fact, most of my fans right now are young people, they appreciate what I am doing. The music has changed from the carnal to the spiritual. 
“Sokah  make you feel to wine, whereas Jamoo does not. It moves your whole body. It moves your mind even when we play it uptempo, because Jamoo had two aspects male and female. 
“The male is the aggressive, dominant  and authoritative. The female is the more passive ,mellow and smoother reflection of the music. The male resembles Sokah more because the music comes out of Sokah 
“It is still calypso music. I call it born again Sokah or Caribbean Gospel Music.
 “It is not the kind of classical music like what you hear in  Black American churches. This is the kind of music that relates to the rich and poor alike. Not something that you could run from because it relates directly to your spirit.
Shorty I , Claudette Blackman and the Love Circle.
 Photo Discogs
Watch Out My Children is the most successful Jamoo song that I had.
“I have been doing it since 1977, 18 years ago. People now begin to understand Sokah and probably appreciate  the crossover of the East Indian and the African rhythms. 
“What they condemn me for is what they are using now.


Quest for Indian and African Unity  revived in the 90’s 

 “My mind is working in the same direction with  (Basdeo) Panday’s call for national unity and I had been fighting for national unity for years. There has always been this deep-rooted thing between the African and the Indian. When you and an Indian fella is good,good partner and you want to become his enemy, mess with his woman.
 “I had a partner and the only time we became enemies was when he heard I was going to meet his sister.  Trouble start! I found that ought not to be. 
“From as a little boy I would lime by my neighbor Narine, who was a musician and every morning I would find myself by Narine in Lengua. Sometimes I used to try my hand on the Dholak. He used to get up every morning and play his music. It was a  religion to him. He used to play his Ramayan.
 “The division in the races and the desire to bring them together because they come from basically the same area, and came to Trinidad basically on the same attitude.
 “Why then do we have this big difference? My desire was to help to make that contribution towards uniting the thing
 “I had no problem as a child with neighbors. Yes, it was natural in the sense that I had it in me from a child.  “Living in Barrackpore and I went to see an Indian movie and  one stayed in my mind until this day. I used some of the effects from Nagin in this song. The oboe flute.
“The national unity thing is so big now. this is why I decided to lift my voice I have always been fighting for that.
“This is what I chose now to make a statement musically. I chose her(Ramraji Prabhoo) because she is a full woman, beta, son and big brother bhayia. I wrote it and the Hindi was translated by a woman in Williamsville.
 "The song does not say anything about national unity but the idea that I am using a woman as a duet shows the unity on all front.
“Most of the East Indian and the crossover music that is used now there is very little or no East Indian musicians playing in it. Africans  are interpreting the Indian music.  
“In this song, Respect Woman, most of the rhythm is used from the  Tassa.“I desire to use the classical influence of the East Indian music. so I used the Timtal.. at the beginning of the song Rajkumar Krishnapersad is the voicing . 

What grieves my heart

 “What grieves my heart about the music now is the whole vulgarity of the thing as though nobody or little or no one at all is writing anything to uplift this society but only to help the society go further down into degradation by one mental thought, just party wine jam on both sides of the Africans and the Indians. 
“There was a time you would never see an Indian woman wine at the side of the road. 
“That was something if you see that you know she is a prostitute. Now in every little inn, all over the place, you see these Indian women just letting go they self. 
“But Ramraji once said in an interview they used to do it in the bedroom well now they coming into the bedroom. 
"The desire to do these things was always there but because of their religious beliefs,it was held back. "So now religion has gone to the wind and they are allowing themselves to be just drawn into this whole syndrome of immorality and vulgarity.

The future foretold for Trinidad and Tobago, sadly.

“My question is where is the nation going ? Where are we going with this kind of attitude?
 “What is going to happen to the children tomorrow?
 “They are going to be worse than us, you know.
  “And somehow the people who are voices in this society have to make their voices heard- you with your pen and me with my music.
 “Sometimes it seems like you are the voice of one crying in the wilderness. But that voice of one crying in the wilderness made its presence felt.
 “Elijah in the days of Jezebel thought he was the only prophet available. He said Lord they kill all your prophets, I am the only one remaining and they want to kill me too. 
“Then God told him don't worry I have seven thoughts prophets who have not bowed to the God of Jezebel.
 “I know that I am not the only one out there working. I know there are lots of people out there working. 
  “God is using them to put things in place because he would leave himself without witness.
 “If the religious people fail to do the work God will appoint people who may not even be considered religious and Godly.
 “I have been doing it since 1977, 18 years ago. People now begin to understand Sokah and probably appreciate  the crossover of the East Indian and the African rhythms. 
“What they condemn me for is what they are using now.
“What is the worst thing you do through as a result of fusing.
“The hardest part of my life was the transition and the way people dealt with me and I had to maintain my integrity.
“But I am doing something. This is where I am going. I am doing something. Regardless of what anybody says about me, this is the direction I am going. 
“I ain’t turning back for nobody. I conducted myself as though I saw he that is invisible. I saw Jesus, even though I did not see him. I am sure that He is guiding me. So regardless of what anybody says I am pressing on because I am guided. I know the lord is with me and He is telling me go in this direction. If God speaks then who is man?

Saturday, 10 February 2018

New World Steelband Order : Teague's minor changes make a major note

Professor Liam Teague (Photo Frederic Dubray)
 "I am a Dreamer," he declared. And he’s got ideas. But, here in Trinidad, Professor Liam  Teague  does not speak unless spoken to except when he is teaching. You would have to seek knowledge. And it is only then this humble man with an unmatched steelpan performance resume and teaching history would give some insight. Usually stoic and measured, Teague steers clear of controversy. Being in a panyard is not quite a normal experience for him anymore. The greater part of his life is now in the classrooms and the concert halls.
But it has become an annual pilgrimage, a humbling one.  And while the internationally recognised steelpan virtuoso is honoured to be among the thousands of musicians and players of instruments he hungers for more people, in Trinidad, to be able to truly appreciate what we have.
All year he works with students who sight read music. In the panyard, he adjusts his game to become a different kind of teacher.
Teague, who distinguished himself before he left Trinidad when he was just 18 years old has clear and workable ideas of how to bridge the gap between generations. He has a radically different - and very workable-take on music education in the panyard.
 Even with all the accolades attached to his name, most of which go unnoticed in Trinidad, when Teague enters the arena he explains how he is honoured to be lined up alongside the legends in what is the largest steel band music gathering in the world. 
In his own words, learn how Liam “Hands like Lightning” Teague who under the guidance of Trinidad Dr Cliff Alexis before him,  has laid  another cornerstone in the foundation for the bridge into the new world steel band order, starting with the Panorama experience.

Demystifying Panorama

"I think a big part of what can help Panorama is actually education. It’s simple. For example, a lot of people who come to the panyard just sit and they listen and many times they aren’t aware of what’s going on, like  the intricacies, the subtleties and  that’s one of the things I would actually like to do where we spend five, maybe ten minutes speaking to the audience explaining what’s going on.  
"For example, we can say listen to this particular motif that is in the original, now hear it in the cellos and while the cellos are doing that this is what the tenors are doing. In so doing we can give them a deeper appreciation of what’s happening. And I think a lot more people may be more inclined to visit panyards because what they are hearing won’t be a mystery. it’s also about packaging and marketing. "And that goes beyond Panorama.
"So many times we take this instrument for granted. It is all around us and truth be told so many people think of the steelpan as noise and  I know if I was a layman and my only experience with steelpan was Panorama then a lot of the bands may sound the same and would just sound loud. 
"And it goes back to where people are not aware of intricacies and subtleties. This is where education is important and getting to young people from early.
 "It’s not just  for young people that play the instrument but  for the masses. By educating them explaining to them what is happening so even if they don't go on to become professional musicians at least they have a love for it, a profound respect for it. 
"And they may be more inclined to attend different events.
"A lot of times people  may walk into a panyard and they start talking to the players during rehearsals and are very nonchalant about it.
 "They won’t even realize they are being disrespectful but this is a serious social experience going on here. "This is part of the education process and again, beyond Panorama for steelpan in general, education is key. You see it in the classical world and in the jazz world where people like Leonard Bernstein would have broken down the symphony orchestra  and created music for young people.
"It's all about making it more marketable and easier to appreciate, I think.
"In some ways, it is being done at the tertiary level in places like the University of the West Indies  (UWI) and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).
"A lot of the students that are playing with Silver Stars when they talk to me about the music it is very very profound. They are not just making general statements  to say I like that part or something. They say  I really like that whole tone part that you are using , I would not have thought to use that. 
"They are speaking very specific and that tells me you are seeing changes.
@Silver Stars Panyard (Photo Frederic Dubray)
"I really wish that adjudicators would come to the panyards routinely; they could be anonymous because this is the level of respect that is afforded to Symphonies.You know nobody is gonna fully appreciate Beethoven’s Fifth without multiple listenings so why do we treat our own like that?
"We cannot decipher every single thing about the arrangement in eight minutes.
"I always try to keep one foot in traditional and also genuflect to what’s happening in the contemporary world.
"I am just a fan of Panorama music, so outside of the competition I just love listening to the arrangements
"When it comes to music I do not believe in absolutes, to say that I have a favourite arranger.
 "But there are arrangers who have influenced me more than others.
 "Probably the biggest influence would be Jit Samaroo. With him being musically literate and very organized he did the majority of his arrangement at home and still left a bit of space to create in the panyard and  I am very similar."

Impartiality is important....for all

"It is just listening to all  Panorama arrangements as works of art, the same that you would be if Shostakovich performed next to Mozart and next to Beethoven or any piece of art for that matter be it a Van Gogh painting lined up against Salvador Dali. They are all great for different reasons.
"Obviously, it will be fantastic if I win, if Silver Stars win.
"But win lose or draw for me it’s about the music first and foremost.
"Symphony orchestras do not play the work of just one composer.
"I think it is very very educational for players to learn different styles and appreciate different arrangers and listen with impartiality because it is so important and it will help us to grow and bring us together as a fraternity.
 "I am a dreamer. One of the things that bothered me at the semi-final round (2017) I was listening to a band on the Drag and a gentleman asked me what I thought of it and I said it was brilliant and he could not believe that I said that.  
"He was expecting me to shred the arrangement and the Arranger and then he went on a diatribe.
"People don't realize how much work this is. These are symphonic movements. It doesn’t come overnight.  For you to just say an arrangement has no vibes, it is simplistic and if they really come to the panyard and really try to understand the music- I am not saying you are gonna like everything or enjoy everything, but have some respect for it.
Every steelband is a symphony orchestra at Panorama
"It should not be a rare occurrence for an arranger to say something good about another arranger or a player or a band.
"Yes, I agree that you are preparing them for going to war. "One of the reasons this instrument developed so quickly is because of the one-upmanship with people trying to outdo each other.
"However, that could break things down as well.
"We can have bands going to other bands and performing even without the competition aspect, naturally, people want to play well. When I play with the symphony orchestra, of course, I am going there to give my best, but it is not a competition.

We have to be honest with ourselves

"I go all over the world and most people if they have heard about the steelpan they know it as the steel drum. They hear it in the stereotypical way playing the classics. By the classics I mean the Yellow Birds the  Mary Anns, you know, the kind of music that is associated with the beach or tourism and that is their experience with the steelpan.
 "When they hear me or any virtuoso pannist play The Flight of The Bumble Bee which is something a little more demanding they are shocked.
 "There are pockets of people that really understand the potential of this instrument. In the US it is going to the High School and University system, no doubt about that. Every year we have had students from the university system come and play with Silver Stars and of course, the other bands have that as well.
"A lot of times I think we tend to exaggerate where we are and what the international market understands about this instrument and we have to be honest with ourselves.
"First of all, we call ourselves the mecca of the steelpan. What does that actually mean? Sometimes these terms are used because they flow off the tongue nicely.
Len Boogsie Sharpe (Photo Newsday)
"Perhaps we could have a Len Boogsie  Sharpe Monday and Ray Holman Tuesday.. .if it was actually a national instrument, the masses. would be engaged in that kind of way. That’s not happening. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I do hope it happens.
"Still, there are a lot of positive things happening especially with the young generation, not just musically but they are becoming more business savvy.
"They are starting to see there is more to life than just Panorama. It is great if you can win but two to three weeks after Panorama, that what happens with your life? 
"Can you actually make a consistent career out of this instrument?
"This is one of the things I advocate for. This is my life. It is the greatest joy in the world to do what you are absolutely passionate about. And I am very, very fortunate to be doing that and I want that for everybody who may want that."

  Reverse brain drain

"I left Trinidad when I was 18 years old to pursue a Bachelors in Music Degree with a specific emphasis on the steelpan at Northern Illinois University.  At the time it was the only institution in the world where you could specifically study steelpan and get a degree. I did my Masters and they invited me to Faculty and I went through the ranks, Assistant to Associate and now full Professor.
 "While doing that I managed a healthy performing career and also creating music and also kept one foot in Trinidad and Tobago, whether it was arranging for Panorama or coming back and speaking to students at UWI, because a number of my students are now professors at UWI and UTT : Mia Gormandy, Seon Gomez who directs the program at UTT and Akua Leith conductor for the National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO) and they are all arrangers.
Akua Leith, Artistic Director/Conductor of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra.
(Photo NSSO)

"What I enjoy about that is that we are getting away from the brain drain cos so many people will go abroad to study and will stay there.
"It is very important that we do have some people that come back home and contribute.
"In my case, I always try my best to come back and contribute in different ways.
"I teach at a camp in summer in Wisconsin, Birch Creek Music and Performing Center, and it’s mainly for high school age kids.  For the past few years, I brought students from Trinidad and Tobago to attend that camp and open up new worlds for them, offer them different ways of thinking creatively. 
"They could take that new found knowledge and bring it back to Trinidad and change things.


   Virtuoso on a garbage can...
       “It is not a percussive instrument, something you can beat”

"It is discrimination in more ways than one. Again, I mean for example, when I play as a soloist with symphony orchestras many of the musicians see the steelpan as a novelty. They haven’t been exposed to it playing some of the most difficult kinds of music; profound music. 
"When I step on the stage for the rehearsals I can see many of them looking at me in a sceptical way probably thinking what is this guy doing here with this garbage can.
"I am a little cheeky.  Because I used to play the violin back in the day when I am warming up I would actually quote violin pieces while I may be standing and playing next to the violins. It’s just to get a little reaction from them.  So I see their faces change I can imagine them saying “Wait a minute , he is playing Paganini”. 
"Once I play the concerto and what have you I think it brings a new found respect to the instrument.The most important thing is that people get this new vision of the instrument.
 "When I think about the steelpan I don't necessarily think about it as a percussive instrument something that you beat. 
I think of its melodic characteristics. And truth be told ,the steelpan is one of the most beautiful instruments in the world and in the wrong hands it could be one of the ugliest because if you overplay it is very jarring.
Some of my early heroes would have been Robert Greenidge and Ray Holman who play with this degree of finesse and sometimes it is deceptive because they make it look so easy and it is some of the most virtuosic music out there. 
Ray Holman (Photo FOBA)
"So that finesse is very important. We don't always address that in the steelband world. We look at speed, but not playing with a consistent tone, coaxing the beautiful melody out of the instrument and part of that has to do with my violin background again. 
 "The difference between a mediocre artiste and the great artiste is that the mediocre artiste makes the easy look difficult and the great artistes make the difficult look easy.
"The technique is important and I see tremendous skill. I am not always a fan of how loud they play the instrument.  The mere fact that traditionally when we try to get the attention of the band we strike the instrument, is not good.  You will never do that to a piano or violin but this is something in our DNA which I want to see it stopped. I personally use the jam block or the cowbell and hopefully, that will influence change."


The difference I can make 

"Education. Going beyond the status quo. Think about future generations.
"I never set out to be a teacher. I was thinking this is consistent income, I will make it work but over the years it has been so gratifying to know that we have had a small part to do with someone else’s development and they, in turn, do the same. That’s the cycle.
"Mia, Seon and Akua are all contributing in small ways.
Dr Mia Gormandy. (Photo YouTube)