“Let us celebrate Clive Bradley”

who gave us great music for Panorama

by Khalick J. Hewitt - A When Steel Talks Special

Clive Bradley

  Clive Bradley

Global - It is not often that a country produces so many geniuses in so short a time period. Since 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. He 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. Clive 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.

- © 2005  - All Rights Reserved

Khalick J. Hewitt is the President & Founder of the International Steelpan & Calypso Society Click here for more articles by Khalick Hewitt. Contact Khalick J. Hewitt at khewitt@isnj   


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