Editor's note: Andre Boldan passed away August 30, 2020
Andre Boldan (image source: Kyle Boldan)
Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - Andre Boldan was born on July 12, 1960, in Central Trinidad but lived in Arima his whole life. “I was born in Todds Road but grew up in Arima.” Andre attended Arima Boys’ RC Primary School and his early musical experiences came from a tin cup band called XY Cellotones, which was led by the Kong family in Arima. Andre is the father of three children and lives happily with his wife Catherine Boldan. Andre Boldan is a self-taught musician who took it upon himself to learn to read and write music. “Working outside there, I realized I really loved the music so I started to do reading for myself.” He received a certificate of achievement for a ‘Music Reading for Pannists’ workshop course held at the Centre for Creative and Festival Arts at The University of the West Indies in collaboration with Pan Trinbago. Andre stated that he attended a course at The University of the West Indies (UWI) in 1987 at the Creative Arts Centre. The people selected to attend came from various Steelbands in Trinidad. “It was a 6-week sight reading course. I topped the course. Leon “Smooth” Edwards was the tutor and Louise McIntosh from Pan Pipers Music School was the examiner.”
Today, in addition to being Edinburgh 500’s arranger, Andre does a little farming and planting at home. “I am a kitchen gardener... I sell some of my produce to the neighbours. I do this because I do not like food with a bunch of chemicals.” He also recalled, “I even did some tailoring at one time.” As for the music, steelpan is not the only genre for which Andre arranges; he has also done some calypso arranging. “One time Crazy [Edwin Ayoung] came by me for a track. I told him to sing, I take up my double tenor, figure out the melody and chords, ask him what key he like, what type of rhythm he want... and next thing you know, next thing, Crazy have his music. I work with Scrunter [Irwin Reyes Johnson] too. Check out the song ‘Gold for Gold’ on YouTube.”
Currently, he earns his living as a solo artist that performs little gigs for various special occasions at the local level. Andre does a lot of accompanying tracks that allows him to perform as a one-man-band. He plays solo gigs for extra money, from fashion shows to birthdays, to weddings... all kinds of events. He stated that he can play over 100 tunes and takes requests and if he doesn’t have the music in his repertoire, he will learn it. “Give me a little 3 or 4 days to work a track. I sound like a full band when I am playing solo. I practice 4 to 5 hours straight.”
Andre Boldan has a long list of bands for which he performed or captained. He has played with XY Cellotones, Heavens Super Panfere, Trinidad Nostalgic, Nuclear Symphonettes, Invaders (from age 15), Panvibes, Exodus, Tokyo, Arima Angel Harps, Simple Song, Melodians, and Opera Symphonic Sounds. He stated that his first band, XY Cellotones, eventually branched off and some members later formed Heavens’ Super Panfere. “The tin cup band evolved in the 1970s into Trinidad Nostalgic Golden Stars, which was shortened to Trinidad Nostalgic.” Boldan served as vice captain of Nostalgic Golden Stars from 1977 to 1979. From 1979 to 1983 Andre Boldan was the captain of Nuclear Symphonettes who hailed from Mt. Pleasant, Arima. “They were two bands close to one another. One was a single pan and the other was a conventional.”
Edinburgh 500’s arranger declared, “Not only does the manager (Dennis Singh) trust me with the music but so too did Nervin Saunders when Saunders was arranging for Simple Song.” Boldan stated, “Mr. Saunders, aka “Teach,” is a person who believes in me too. When he had to go to correct CXC papers outside and ting, he used to drop me a cassette, according to what group he was arranging for, and say, ‘Here is the Kitchener tune we doin’, you could put down the verse and chorus?’” Andre clarified, ““Teach” asked me to assist him in bands like Angel Harps or Simple Song. Now I drive him to and from his pan school in Arouca.” In fact, “Teach” was the arranger for the band that Andre was the leader of in 1980 and 1981 – Nuclear Symphonettes. “It was 8 bands from 8 zones, and we made that zonal final a few times.”
While Andre was on the music course at UWI, he was also a pan tutor in a secondary school. “I tutored pan at Five Rivers Junior Secondary.” They were one of the first schools with their own pans and rehearsal space. “They were the first school that had instruments for a class. They had their own pan room in addition to their music room.” It was located on Range Road, Five Rivers. Andre was the pan tutor at Five Rivers Junior Secondary from 1983 to 1992. “We did Junior Panorama. We went to 2 Junior Panoramas and 1 Music Festival.” Boldan took the junior secondary school to three Junior Panoramas in 1983, 1984, and 1988. “The first Panorama tune I did for them was a Kitchener tune ‘Sweet Pan’ and their tuner was Sylvan Doyle.” Incidentally, “Syl” Doyle was also the leader of a band called Five Rivers Modern Symphony and would follow Boldan to Edinburgh 500 to become their tuner as well.
After this secondary school experience, Boldan decided to go abroad to perform. Boldan became a performer in a quartet (Caribbean Uni Sounds) for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. “I did two tours with them; the first was 1997–1999 and the second was 2000–2003. I was both a musician and an agent. I also ended up working with the HR department for Royal Caribbean.” In between the two Cruise Ship tours, he worked under Edwin “Junior” Pouchet in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. “I used to perform in Disney but not the Disney Silver Stars.”
As an arranger, he worked with Pan on the Move, Five Rivers Junior Secondary, and Edinburgh 500 Steel Ensemble. Andre credits Nervin “Teach” Saunders for making him a pan player. “It is through him that I started to play pan.” As a competitor, he took 5th place as a soloist in the Pan Is Beautiful III Musical Festival in 1984 where he represented Arima Angel Harps. He won one traditional Panorama in 1993 with Pan on the Move, a steelband based in Arima, and went to Music Festival twice with this band, earning both 2nd and 3rd places.
Interview conducted July 2020
“First met Andre during his stint at Five Rivers Secondary (Five Rivers Junior Secondary at the time). Monty Downs was the music teacher and Andre Boldan was the pan tutor. Five Rivers had a very forward-looking music program with a full class sets of steelpan and string instruments (quatros as I remember) as well as various percussion instruments. Their example was an inspiration for us at St Augustine and by 1986 we got our first set of steelpan instruments. Like his mentor Nervin Saunders, Andre in his humble understated way was a committed pan-in-schools tutor in those early years/days, always willing to share his experiences and compare notes. Monty, Andre and Nervin have passed on, but many of us are grateful to have shared a mutually enriching and collaborative time in pan-in-schools and for that we salute them for their selfless and important contribution and remember them with great fondness.”