It is not often
that a country produces so many geniuses in so short a time
Trinbago achieved its political independence from England in
1962, many of its citizens have excelled in the arts with one of
its controversial sons V.S. Naipaul receiving the Nobel Prize
for literature. But Trinbago also gave the world its musical
geniuses. One of them was Clive Bradley. This year Labor Day I
saw Clive in the Pantonic Steel Orchestra panyard in Brooklyn.
We talked about the steelpan and where it was going in the 21st
century. Clive expressed some ideas that he had been toying with
but said that he was reluctant to implement because the
steelbands first priority is winning the national Panorama in
Trinbago and that sometimes caused distractions. One of his main
concerns was that the soca material with which he had to work
was not up to the standard like the music of former years. But,
he was confident that the two steelbands for which he was
arranging, Pantonic and D’Radoes, were going to be strong
contenders in the Brooklyn Panorama.
I first met Clive at the Port of Spain Town Hall in Trinidad at
the weekend show called Sunday Serenade. At that time Clive was
playing bass in Felix Roach jazz trio.
belonged to a group of musicians who called themselves Beatniks.
Clive was not yet in the pan world. He was in the jazz world
which later extended to combos world of the 1960s becoming the
arranger for the Esquires Combo band. Apart from playing music
Clive taught mathematics at his alma mater Fatima College, one
of Trinbago’s most prestigious colleges. Later he taught at the
University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinbago’s highest
institute of learning. I believe his role as a math teacher
provided him with the intricate knowledge of the music world
because of the mathematical connection to music. Clive was a
great teacher and his students loved him. Clive had a way with
students that encouraged them to learn. I once watched him
teaching a pan arrangement to a group of teenagers. He was
patient and caring. He never raised his voice. Clive could get
kids to play whatever arrangement he chose while others may have
a hard time doing so. Clive could take an unknown steelband and
make them a Panorama winner as he did with the Nu Tones
Steelband 1998 with David Rudder’s tune High Mas.
I was privileged to know Clive and his second wife (now ex) Ann,
who was a good friend of mine before she married Clive, and his
two beautiful children. I sincerely express my condolences to
them. Clive Bradley, in my opinion, is the greatest pan arranger
of the 20th century.
made his name as the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra chief resident
arranger since the 1960s. Except for the break when he left to
arrange for other steelbands, namely Nu Tones and Deltones,
Clive has guided Desperadoes to many Panorama wins with his
latest win Oba’s Pictures on my wall in 2000. Of all the tunes
Clive arranged for Desperadoes perhaps the most fitting is the
tune “The Greatest” on the now famous silver album. As I listen
recently to the words of the song I really believe that it fits
Clive because he is the greatest of all pan arrangers. Let’s
take a walk down Clive’s memory lane and his pan achievements.
His most recent achievement in the panworld was his winning the
first and second place in the Brooklyn Panorama with the two
Brooklyn steelbands Pantonic and D’Radoes for which he arranged.
This remarkable achievement made him the only pan arranger to
date to have the two steelbands (Pantonic Steel Orchestra and
D'Radoes Steel Orchestra) for which he arranged win first and
second place respectively in the same Panorama, 2005 New York.
Also, he is the only arranger who achieved a triple win (1998,
1999 and 2000) with two different steelbands, namely two with
Desperadoes Steel Orchestra and one with Nu Tones Steel
Orchestra. Added to that achievement, his arrangement of Toco
Band for Nu Tones brought them the third place position in the
national Panorama of that year.
As we celebrate Clive’s life his pan legacy will always be
associated with the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. The people of
Trinbago will miss him. But, it is the people of Laventille who
will surely mourn Clive Bradley because it was through his
genius that he brought their community steelband fame and
success with his pan arrangements. I believe that the
Desperadoes Steel Orchestra will pull out all their inner
strengths and replace Clive. With Clive they built an
institution of which they can be proud and his passing will only
be a transition to greater heights. As we celebrate Clive’s
passing I call on Pan Trinbago not to let his memory die by
naming the Panorama first prize trophy “The Clive Bradley
Arranger's Trophy” for best arranger because it is the
arrangements that allow steelbands to claim that treasured
prize. What better way to celebrate one of our geniuses!
Farewell Clive! I will continue to play your music, especially
in November to tell you and the world how special you are.