Most people would argue–and there is much certitude to it–that
Clive Bradley was a master steelband arranger, a top class
musician, and an illuminating teacher. But while he was all of
these, he was a person of much complexity and this aspect of
Clive Bradley’s personality was brilliantly articulated in his
music. What made his musical sensibilities interesting and
complex was his ability to take very simple melodies or motifs
and superimpose on them a symphonic opus that would always leave
many standing in awe. Bradley was the kind of artist who could
see the beauty in something that would generally be considered
by others to be, low-brow, tawdry and insignificant. He was, in
many ways, a humanist, resurrecting from the olden days, musical
riffs, motifs and presenting them to his contemporary audiences
with a modern twist that made these antiquated concepts and
styles simple, relevant, appealing and hip. His music and his
approach to it was the epitome of the idea that “there’s
complexity in simplicity”.
When the world famous Witco Desperadoes Steel Orchestra,
Nutones, Metro and Pantonic Metro Steel Orchestras come to one’s
mind, Clive Bradley usually follows; and many would argue that
the music he had arranged for these bands and the Panorama
victories resulting thereof have compelled many to deify him.
Many have even addressed him as “Maestro”.
But although Bradley did create some majestical and provocative
musical arrangements for these bands, there are arrangements
that he had created for other steelbands that have, to a certain
extent, been overlooked. Steelband arrangements such as “Sugar
for Pan”, “Pan in Danger”, “No Wuk for Carnival” arranged for
the Carib Tokyo Steel Orchestra, “She Want me to Sing in She
Party”, “Sailing” and “Somebody”, arranged for the defunct
Fertrin Pandemonium Steel Orchestra, “Calypso Coup”, “Rant and
Rave”, and “Iron Man”, arranged for Starlift, Solo Harmonites,
and Siparia Deltones, respectively, as well as others arranged
by Bradley are panorama arrangements that will definitely cause
one to be overtaken by a sense of sweetness, unorthodoxy and in
many respects, out right rebellion–arrangements that can
persuasively be argued as classics. Bradley understood what the
masses wanted, but at the same time, he, with much deft, gave
them what my father would call “food for thought” in terms of
his musical imagination.
Bradley was also a man of controversy and it, I believed, had
centered around his sense of free-spiritedness and independence,
which he conveyed in his music. During his eleven-year hiatus
from Witco Desperadoes, many of his critics and foes were of the
belief that he would never be able to win Panorama in Trinidad
without Desperadoes, and during that period, many of his
arrangements did not fair well albeit, in my opinion, many of
them were and still are musical gems. But his victory in 1998
with Nutones playing David Rudder’s “High Mas” was a great
vindication for his reputation, and I was so proud of Bradley
when I received the news of his triumph. I knew, at that moment,
that Bradley had made a comeback.
To come to the end of my tribute to him, Bradley was, has been
and continues to be a great source of inspiration to me. He
understood the rules of music, but what made him a genius was
his ability to manipulate them and even outright break them.
Knowing how to break the rules is a convolution that Bradley was
able to decipher, and over which he had command mastery.
I will miss him dearly; we all in the pan fraternity will miss
him dearly and, it is my hope that his legacy and his
contributions to the steelband art form will not be shelved to
collect dust, or his legacy treated as a “cultural decoration,”
but, instead, will live through each of us and for generations
Pax vobiscum, Clive Bradley.
Jackman is the resident arranger for New York Nutones.
Collins has performed with Nutones, Metro, Pantonic,
Despers USA and D'Radoes...
here for more great Bradley moments
with When Steel Talks