Ron Berridge, Caribbean Music Extraordinaire speaks on the Steelpan and More - UpClose!

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, musician great Ron Berridge shares his thoughts on Caribbean music and Pan. He is simply one of the most influential individuals of music out of the Caribbean for a generation and by extension Steelpan music. His influence and reach, coupled with a series of fortuitous sequences of events, are still being felt in the steelpan music world today. From Lord Kitchener to the Mighty Sparrow, the musical works of Ron Berridge live on.

Ron Berridge
Ron Berridge

WST - “What is it that you are doing musically now?”

Berridge - “Presently, I am retired from the corporate world and keep myself busy experimenting and arranging in a digital format.”

WST - “How did you become involved in music?”

Berridge - “I fell in love with music the first time I laid my eyes on a musical instrument, and immediately started to learn as much that was possible at the Belmont Orphanage, and continued throughout my entire existence.”

WST - “Who was your greatest influence?”

Berridge - “I am the protégé of Frankie Francis and Burt Inniss. Quincy Jones was my mentor where arranging is concerned.”

WST - “You arranged The Mighty Sparrow’s “Mr. Walker” which is one of the iconic pieces of Caribbean music - can you take us back and tell us what went into that?”

Berridge - “Burt Inniss was originally supposed to that album.  Unfortunately he passed on (God bless his soul) before the project was ready.  Since I put most of Burt’s arrangements to music scores, the job was given to me by Sparrow. I also did Kitch’s ‘67 the same year. I was doing quite a lot of work for other calypsonians so it was just another job to me. The only difference was that it was Sparrow.  He required a bigger band, and I had to do best possible at that time.”

WST - “And who does Ron Berridge listen to present-day, and/or hold in regard?”

Ron and Clem Berridge
Ron and Clem Berridge

Berridge - “I listen to Jazz and fusion music. My favorite trumpet player is Wynton Marsalis and Trini player Etienne Charles.”

WST - “What do you think of the music scene in the Caribbean right now?”

Berridge - “Music has changed dramatically in T&T and the Caribbean, and it’s due to Rap; I don’t particularly like it, but things change with time.”

WST - “Why was the instrumental genre able to continue with respect to Pan, but not with the ‘big bands’ of the Caribbean?”

Berridge - “I think Andy Narell, Robert Greenidge and “Boogsie” Sharpe will eventually change that. Etienne Charles is also doing his part.”

WST - “In your opinion, are there any major or integral moments which were missed, that would have impacted on the music of the Caribbean and Pan?”

Berridge - “Government help and advertisement like Jamaica does with Reggae.”

Scipio “Sarge” Sargeant
Scipio “Sarge” Sargeant on guitar in the Ron Berridge Band.

WST - “What are your early memories of Pan?”

Berridge - “My early memories were their night time practice and carnival.”

WST - “Did you ever play?  If so, why – OR - why not?”

Berridge  - “I have fooled around with it and did a little arranging for Despers, before sending Sarge (Scipio “Sarge” Sargeant) to take my place since it was hampering my time with my band.  Clive Bradley took over when Sarge left.”

WST - “What are the biggest changes you’ve observed in Pan, both good and bad?”

Berridge - “I think Pan will eventually become a conventional instrument which is good; not being paid enough for their effort is bad. But these bands are so big.”

The Ron Berridge Orchestra and the Mighty Sparrow
The Ron Berridge Orchestra and the Mighty Sparrow

WST - “Clarence Curvan, Clive Bradley, Roy Cape and the like, are your musical contemporaries – what makes them so great?”

Berridge - “They all had their specialty. Curvan satisfied the youths of his time, Bradley was arranging for steel bands and Roy is Mr. Calypso. You forgot Joey Lewis.  Latin Music.”

WST - “What are some of your favorite Panorama pieces?  Why?”

Berridge - “ I will not be able to answer because I have lost track. But I do remember Pan Nam North Star’s Intermezzo-Music Festival.”

WST - “What do you think of Panorama judging?”

Berridge - “Judging Panorama is hard on the ears. There should be two sets of judges.  And they should be placed about 30 feet away from the performers.”

WST - “Have you ever been an adjudicator? If not, would you ever like to be one?”

Berridge - “No, but it was suggested to me by Pelham Goddard this year, 2011.  I don’t know if my ears can handle it.  I will prefer to be far away.  The ringing of the iron.”

WST - “Take out your ‘crystal ball’ - and predict where Pan will be 20 years from now, both in Trinidad and internationally?”

Berridge - “It would be a normal instrument as a piano.”

WST - “What is your fondest musical experience?”

Berridge - “My fondest musical experience would be playing on the same stage with King Curtis, meeting Quincy Jones and Eric Gale.”

WST - “What would you say to the Caribbean musicians of tomorrow?”

Berridge - “Learn, practice and stay focused on what you would like to do.”

Pictures provided by Ron Berridge

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More on Ron Berridge;   see Ron Berridge′s WST profile

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