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Teddy Belgrave and Steelband - Eulogy

Tribute to Panman and Activist Ian “Teddy” Belgrave

by Nestor Sullivan

Ian “Teddy” Belgrave
Ian “Teddy” Belgrave

Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - “Born in Laventille, Trinidad, Ian “Teddy” Belgrave was exposed to the steelband at a very early age. His two elder brothers, John and Robin, were practicing players with steelbands in the area. This area had bands like:  Kentuckyians; Armed Forces; Unique; Playboys; Savoys; Highlanders; Southern Symphony ...and individuals like: Bertie Marshall; Carl Greenidge; Oscar Bushe; the Bonaparte Brothers; Lincoln Noel; Theophilus Trim - all legends and icons in their own right, all of whom made positive contributions to this instrument that we so candidly claim today as the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. As a youth, Teddy rubbed shoulders with these ‘men of steel;’ it is no wonder that he made the kind of contribution to Pan that we can speak about today.”


“Starting off playing six bass with Highlanders Steel Orchestra, led by Bertie Marshall, Teddy remained a proud lifelong member of the band.  I was party to many a discussion on the subjects of:  the music; the sound; the orchestration; the masquerade and the players of Highlanders; the skills of the players; Bertie’s attitudes towards tuning and experimentation; the sharpest men in town... all these found their way into our discourse about this legendary steelband that introduced sound amplification to Carnival Music long before the conventional bands did. Teddy boasted about the efforts and processes involved in the preparation of the band’s repertoire and the importance of the band’s musical identity.

“Teddy and Highlanders are both from Laventille - an area of which he was immensely recent as 2nd June 2013, he invited the “New Highlanders” committee to his home to discuss, plan and organise the band’s business. While at QRC (Queen’s Royal College) Teddy encountered other panmen who would go on to leave their mark on the steelband movement: Ray Holman and David “Splav” Waddell of Invaders; Selwyn McSween of Syncopators; Sherman Fife of Starlift and Darcus Howe of Renegades.  You can only imagine the ‘ole talk’ and ‘fatigue’ flying about the place, especially around Carnival time.

“Off to Canada to study in the late 1960s, Teddy joined Mello Tones, led by Len “Boogsie” Sharpe’s cousin, Rupert “Shadow” Nathaniel. This band was very active on the Canadian circuit performing regularly in a variety of events and places; it also served to supplement his income with payments from the gigs. He played six bass here too.

“Back to Trinidad, he entered UWI (University of the West Indies). Teddy is a founding member of birdsong [Steel Orchestra] on the university campus at St Augustine. Back then he insisted that birdsong must be a real steelband... not a university club. Forty years later and I can stand here today and say... birdsong became more than a real steelband... birdsong is blazing a pioneering trail in the area of Music Education in T&T (Trinidad & Tobago) with its Academy catering for hundreds of youths who choose music as a possible career path in life; based in the community of Tunapuna, a second home for the young Teddy after leaving Laventille.”


OWTU (Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union) Free French – “When Teddy went to work with OWTU as Education and Research Officer he became the Manager of the band that was sponsored by the union. In 1977 for the 40th Anniversary of the Union, Teddy organised a Steelband Festival to mark the occasion.”

WOODTRIN SCHOOL STEELBAND – “While he was a member of staff at Trinity College, Teddy formed a band in the school. They eventually merged with Woodbrook Secondary to form ‘Woodtrin.’ They won a School Steelband Music Festival and toured Aberdeen, Scotland and Miami, USA.”

ARIMA SENIOR COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL STEELBAND – “When he left Trinity, Teddy went to Arima Senior (Comprehensive) where he revived the school’s steelband programme. This band enjoyed a successful run in both the School Festivals and School Panoramas. This band toured USA, UK and Cuba performing a repertoire that could match any of our adult steelbands bands today.”


PAN TRINBAGO – “Teddy served as Chairman of the Eastern Region of Pan Trinbago in the early 1970s, representing the region on the National Executive of Pan Trinbago. He paved the way for a new type of leadership in the steelband movement, one rooted in the principles of democracy, unity, total participation and self-reliance.”

PAN IN SCHOOLS COORDINATING COUNCIL (PSCC) – “Teddy was the first Chairman of this group made up of teachers who were involved with steelband in their schools. This organisation advocated and developed plans for the successful introduction of Steelband in Education in T&T. The outcome of these efforts is the Pan in the Classroom Unit at the Ministry of Education.”

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO NATIONAL STEEL ORCHESTRA (TTNSO) – “In 2000, Teddy was appointed to the Board of this institution and served as its Secretary.”

UNIVERSITY OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO (UTT) – “He served on the Academy of Letters and Culture from which the Advanced Pan Tuning programme came. Teddy managed this programme from inception in 2005. More than thirty tuners completed a course of study that included: Tuning all Instruments; Metallurgy; Science of Sound; Workshop Theory and Practice; Music Theory; History of Steelband.

“The University is now contemplating the setting up of a Steelband Institute to cater for the educational and developmental needs of the steelband movement… an idea that was very close to Teddy’s heart. UTT hosted a Pan Symposium on 29th June 2013 to address the Institute, I presented a paper here and that was in fact my last collaboration with Teddy.”


“Teddy wrote many articles and presented papers on steelband... its History; Analysis of Trends in the Movement; Proposals for Steelband Projects. I can still remember him doing presentations at Miami University in 1994 and Clarke Atlanta University in 2006 and creating quite a buzz with his well-researched documents. Pan Trinbago appointed him to write the authoritative ‘History of Steelband’ for which he developed a comprehensive research proposal. Something happened and the project fell through. Teddy was a fountain of knowledge on the steelband, its history and its personalities; he was always interested in investigating the lives and experiences of pan people not only in T&T but around the world. Many students writing papers on steelband cite Teddy’s works as references.”


“Not many people possess the knowledge and experience of steelbands as Teddy. This made him a serious resource person who could give advice and guidance in a variety of steelband-related situations. Some of those who sought his wisdom include:

“Teddy was free with his knowledge; he shared it with those interested in a very sincere manner. I have benefitted tremendously from his knowledge and experience.”


“He formed Mango Rose Steelpan Services in 2005; the first project was the publication of a children’s story book on Pan - “Granpa Conks and the Magic Steelpan” written by Leanna Williams, then a member of Mango Rose. This book was launched at the Hilton in 2007.

“Later that year Mango Rose hosted a Seminar “The International Promotion of T&T Steelbands” at La Hoya, St Joseph. More than fifty steelbands attended this historic seminar.

“In 2011 Mango Rose, on the request of T&T’s High Commissioner to London, supplied a personalized and inscribed Tenor Pan; a Case; two pairs of sticks and a stand for William and Kate as a wedding gift from the people of T&T.

“In 2012, in the face of a serious drum crisis here in T&T, Teddy imported drums from the USA for the benefit of the tuning fraternity.


  • Steelband out of the Carnival – loss of fetes; loss of mas players
  • Absence of Research and Development (R&D) to guide the work of Tuners
  • The need for an Institute to develop the human capital of the movement
  • Absence of a National Policy to address the fundamental issues facing Pan
  • T&T losing its position of dominance in the global steelband industry
  • Lack of financial support for steelbands without sponsor
  • T&T steelband losing its place on the world’s stage
  • The absence of a proper drum manufacturing and chroming company”

Finally, a message from a boyhood friend:

“We were at QRC at the same time, I preceded him by three years and yet he was able to show signs of leadership at that early age.

We often spoke of the musicology of Bertie Marshall. It was the beginning of a journey from Highlanders to birdsong.

I shall remember him... as I write, I shed a tear for a pleasant comrade and friend... hidden in death’s dateless night.

May he rest peacefully... My condolences stretch across the ocean to his family and friends.

One heart.”
Darcus Howe, London, UK

Presented by Nestor Sullivan at the Funeral Service for Ian “Teddy” Belgrave at the Trinity Anglican Cathedral, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on Wednesday 24th July 2013

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