Ode to a Steelband Visionary Anthony Abdul Reid


by Andre Moses - former Steelband Administrator and Educator

Provided by and published with the expressed permission of, the author

‘Let the dead bury the dead’. Sounds callous and unfeeling, but the truth is that so often in the hustle and bustle of daily living, our time and energy is taken up with ‘the now’ and ‘the next’ to the detriment of ‘the before’. It is, what it is, but in the interest of full disclosure, let me begin by pleading guilty as charged.

Last Sunday a few of us Pan Trinbago old stagers gathered at Clifton Greene’s home in the Southland to give him a ‘parang’ for his birthday on the invitation of his sister Margo. In our reminisces the topic of Abdul came up and we ‘promised’ to give Abdul a check, just as we had ‘promised’ a few years prior, when Nestor Sullivan was still in the land of the living and a lively participant in that ‘parang’.

On his ID Card Abdul’s name is Anthony Reid. We refer to him as Bub because Abdul was also known as Beelzebub, or simply Bellzie, a name that has devilish connotations in Christian theology and in village talk back in the day. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. To those on his side of the table Abdul was a true friend and a brother, but those on the other side of the table can be forgiven for believing that they were engaging a ‘devil’, such was his tenacity and unrelenting purpose.

Fifty years (50) ago, Curepe Scherzando was a graphic representation of Abdul’s side of the table. Back then, the Steelband Panorama was just ten (10) years old and the money economy was already dominating the competition to the extent that the Panorama Finals was mainly and almost entirely populated by the big named, sponsored steelbands. In 1974, Curepe Scherzando was the anomaly, neither sponsored, nor big-named, Scherzando took the Panorama of that year by storm, convincingly winning the semifinal round with their scintillating, high octane rendition of Shadow’s ‘I Come Out to Play’, before a drum set malfunction put paid to their title winning ambition in the final.

The 1970s and 1980s was the era of the Steelband Block-o-rama. On Sunday evenings, very popular, well attended steelband concerts were held throughout the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago. All the current tunes to which the young people of the day gravitated were a part of the repertoires of the various steelbands. Fonclaire were the ‘Funk Kings’ of the south. In East Trinidad, the Curepe Market - Scherzando’s panyard, was the Black-o-rama headquarters of the east-west corridor.

The Scherzando unsponsored-community steelband model was rooted in self-reliance and community support. Scherzando’s successes inspired other steelbands, like birdsong and Pamberi. Abdul was a passionate and articulate proponent of this new model.

When I joined Adul on the Pan Trinbago Central Executive in 1980, I came to understand that this community steelband model was not just a ‘vaps’ thing with Abdul, He would invite me to his apartment on the Southern Main Road and pull-out boxes of documents, including many hand-written manuscripts. He was intellectually curious and had enrolled as an adult at the Cipriani Labour College. I had recently graduated from UWI St Augustine with a degree in Economics. We spoke a lot about the economics of pan and those discussions informed a Pan Trinbago position paper, aptly captioned ‘The Economics of Pan’, that I penned as Education Officer of Pan Trinbago in the early 1980s. Some 40 years later, those discussions continued, with an Abdul weakened by time and ill health, under the shed by the doubles man in Curepe, for more than an hour, before I was allowed to ‘escape’ to address other pressing personal matters.

Anthony Abdul Reid
Anthony Abdul Reid

The young panists of this generation from Scherzando, birdsong and Pamberi would not know Abdul and he too would struggle to adapt to their dynamic that was birthed and developed in a radically different era. As they ‘do their do’ and make ‘new history’ in well appointed panyard spaces, with the benefit of strong traditions and resilient legacies, we should tell them that we should give thanks to a thinker, a fighter, a vibesman and a visionary called Anthony Reid, aka Abdul, aka Bellzie who played a pivotal role in setting up the structures that we all claim and benefit from so immensely today.

Let us tell them his story, how proud he was of them, and how inspired he was that after fifty (50) years the community steelband model is alive and still bearing new fruit. Know too Bub, that although we never followed through on our promise to parang with our brother for one last time, the times and love we shared were both real and appreciated. Farewell Abdul!!! Love and empathy to all your loved ones and friends.

Nuff Respect and Much Thanks Brother!

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Editor’s note: Anthony Abdul Reid passed on July 25, 2023.

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