Steelpan Tuner
Bertram Kelman
WST Pan Photographer

Bertram “Birch” Kelman


Bertram Kelman - Master Steelpan Tuner

Always driven by a desire to continually make the steelpan music instruments better, Bertram Kelman is universally recognized as simply one of the finest steelpan tuners of our time. 
In addition to his outstanding tuning talents, Bertram was also valued member of  the  Trinidad and Tobago National Steelband that performed at Expo "67 in Montreal, Canada.

In 1969 Kelman became the resident Master tuner for Renegades Steel Orchestra. Bertram was also the driving force behind the legendary Jit Samaroo becoming the arranger for Renegades Steel Orchestra. Between 1980 and 1997, the Amoco Renegades won nine Panorama competitions, came second three times and third three times.

More on Bertram Kelman

WST Pan Photographer

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Betram Kelman
Bertram “Birch” Kelman

Bertram "Birch" Kelman (born September 9,  in St. Madeline, Trinidad)

  • Received the Humming Bird Medal, Gold for a lifetime of devoted service in the sphere of culture
  • Member of the National Steelband which performed in Expo at Expo '67 in Montreal, Canada
  • Bertram Kelman joined Renegades Steel Orchestra in 1969 as master tuner
  • In 2007 Butch Kelman was commended for his contribution to the design and build of the G-pan.

Additional info and fist-hand testimony below posted are from members of the When Steel Talks forum...

 


 

Great and humble person!  Excellent tuner.  Very focussed, balanced and effective.  One of the finest tuners and personalities produced in T & T.  He tunes for every known and progressive steelband in T & T.. He is very shy but knowledgeable.   

 He worked with us, Solo Harmonites, in our glory days.  He is still with the band.

 

God's blessings to this great son of the soil.  I wish him good health, long life and continued prosperity.

 

Joseph Renaud.

Former Captain and Manager of Solo Harmonites.


 

We are very fortunate to have Birch in our midst. He's simply gifted and has the Magic touch. Wishing him longevity.


 

I first came to know Bertram Kellman in the early sixties as a teenager when he was one of the key members of "de Marabella band" Southern Marines Steel Orchestra,which was then captained by Milton "Squeezer" Lyons.

Back then, Burch was an excellent tenor pan player, and competent soloist.

I remember hearing that  Burch and his brother (I can't remember his name but he was a fine bass player) had a small pan side "Over the Hill", which was a vague reference we used for the Pointe A Pierre area.

At that time, "Squeezer" Lyons had already established himself as a pan pioneer.

Squeezer's brothers had founded Southern Marines in the late forties, and by the sixties Squeezer had won a national ping pong (tenor pan) championship, and in '63 the band won the first South panorama.

In those days, Southern Marines had the sweetest pans in South, and Squeezer was one of the best tuners in the land, so it was a great opportunity for young tuners like Burch Kellman and Karloff Alleyne to develop their skills, working with master tuner Milton "Squeezer" Lyons. 

Burch is also a decent arranger, and in the seventies he was arranging for Marines. I'm sure if he had devoted himself to arranging he would have done quite well.

One year, I ran into him on a visit to Trinidad, and he was also working as a DJ.

Burch was always the same - quiet, a bit reserved, humble and very passionate about his craft. He worked hard at it and took pan tuning very seriously long before many of us realized its potential.

Burch is a national treasure and has to be mentioned in any conversation about the greatest and best pan tuners.

He is entitled to much respect.

As an old acquaintance , I echo Joseph Renaud in  wishing him the best - good health (we're getting old) long life, and prosperity.


 

I always think that the best people get's left out when it comes to the steel pan and Birch is one of them he have been the top tuner around for years just look at Renegades record of victories not to mention bands in the USA and Europe and yet still he don't get the recognition he deserves Pan Trinbago Wake up.


 

I remember in the 60,s when Michigan(deceased) from City Symphony introduced me to BIRCH and said that he was going to tune some tenors for us, Since that time he has the same demeanor, a nice smile, and very shy. He is definitely one of the best tuners of today, Presently he blends my Double tenor


 

Kudos to a great master tuner, Birch Kelman.  Thanks for the wonderful work you did on the G6 basses (Gpans). They are still the most sought after of the G-pans. Thanks as well for the many hours of conversation down on the line!


 

I've been playing Birch Kelman's double tenors for the past 15 years or more, and he is rated among the" Best" in Trinidad & Tobago.  I would like to get him to interact with Hillary "Baga" Rezende who has a world of technology under his belt, and they both can improve the quality of tuning in T&T by sitting down and comparing notes. Birch, I'm ready for a new double tenor! Good luck, and keep up the good work. Again, I think if they both had worked on the G6 basses (Gpans) Brian Copeland would have been very proud.


 

I want to believe that with all the sentiment express about the ability and competence of this great icon of the Steelband fraternity, the most salient point is being overlooked. The issue here is the disrespect and contempt that Bro. Bertram "Birch" Kelman encountered from some esteem functionary manning the entrance to a bleachers at one of the Pan competition venue, at Point Fortin Borough celebrations. And there was no entrance fee, just a guest list. When the matter was brought to the attention of the Pan Trinbago Officals present, they could have done notthing about it although they were part organizers of the program. Not even to identify the brother by saying, this person is a guest of our organisation, and as such he should be seated with all curtsies extended. I find it so embarrassing and shameful. If I was an offical there, the show could not go on until they made amends with an apology. And I still believe that this unfortunate incident, should be brought to the attention of the Mayor, who I know would gladly issue an apology to Bro. Kelman on behalf of the people of Point Fortin. There are people in the Pan Fraternity, that should be issued with life time passes to enter any Steelband show, without question.    


 

I for one have to be grateful to Birch Kellman,as he was the maker of my first pan back in 1968 and to this day I have only played his style 4th and 5ths, 4th to the right as opposed to the modern 4th and 5th style going to the left. Thank you Birch I owe everything to you as my pan has gotten me all I have now including a very supporting wife..


 

 WST sparkle video logo An Exclusive When Steel Talks Interview with Bertram Kelman