David Rudder Speaks! - Performing Artist, Composer, Musician Extraordinaire - Up-Close

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

“The future will depend on how we nurture our children. How we connect them to their history and sense of self.” - David Rudder
When Steel Talks Exclusive icon

Global - His music simply defined an era as he penned and/or sung some of the greatest, most timeless and culturally relevant Caribbean music hits ever. The name David Michael Rudder is synonymous with a thoughtful consideration for artistic integrity, an appreciation of culture, and an acute awareness of history. His gift for storytelling is second to none. And throughout his awarding-winning career the Pan, its people and the culture of Pan remains one of his treasured topics.

In this exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - musician, composer and performer David Rudder shares his thoughts on the steelpan art form and music of the Caribbean, then, now and tomorrow.

David Rudder -  Composer and Musician Extraordinaire
David Rudder

WST - “For those who are not familiar with your many accomplishments - which are you most proud of?”

David Rudder - “Making people feel good about themselves for over forty years. Representing T&T (Trinidad & Tobago) and the Caribbean .”

WST - “When and how did you become aware of Pan?”

David Rudder - “I spent a lot of my early years on Duncan Street [Port-of-Spain] with my aunt Eileen, and her neighbor was Charlo, who was the captain of the band Sisson’s Wonderland. That was in the late fifties.

WST - “Pan has always been part of the David Rudder narrative - The Hammer, Dus’ in Dey Face and last year’s Smallie Dancing to name a few. Why has Pan been such an important part of the David Rudder story?”

David Rudder - “Because it was a large part of the story of our lives here in our twin islands.”

WST - “You are a musician, composer, arranger, performing artist and by extension an educator, historian and journalist - which hat do you find most fulfilling? ”

David Rudder - “It’s all one hat really.”

WST - “Following up on the previous question - do you feel today’s artists appreciate the responsibility and potential power they wield - as documentarians of culture and history - in the way veteran performers such as yourself, Sparrow, Kitchener, and others know yourselves to be?”

David Rudder - “Perhaps some, but the world has changed. The view is different now.”

WST - “If Rudolph Charles was alive today what would be different? Relative to the steelband art form, why has there been such a void in similar leadership and vision?”

David Rudder - “That’s a tough one to answer. Truth is, I don’t know.”

WST - “Which is your most favorite ‘David Rudder’ song?”

David Rudder - “The one that I’m presently writing. LOL!”

WST - “What are you most proud of as it relates to Pan?”

David Rudder - “That we have created something which we can share with the world.”

WST - “What has most disappointed you in Pan from both a national (Trinidad & Tobago) and global perspective?”

David Rudder - “The insecurity and the selfishness.”

WST - “What do you believe is the future of Pan in Trinidad?”

David Rudder - “The future will depend on how we nurture our children. How we connect them to their history and sense of self.”

WST - “Is Panorama a curse or a blessing?”

David Rudder - “It’s a blessing, it’s music. The curse, is the way that we have allowed ourselves to make this the be-all and end-all. It’s how we treat ourselves as a people. That’s where the curse is. That empty shell in Trincity, is a perfect metaphor.”

WST - “If you had the power to change something in the Panorama scene what would that be?”

David Rudder - “Hmmm! Perhaps a solo pan expo. One young soloist backed by a small band (A chamber-sized orchestra maybe) the best from each band. Arranged by a youngster.”

WST - “Describe your creative process?”

David Rudder - “I usually go into the studio with either a blank mind, or one idea. Then I open up my spirit and let it take over. Songwriting is second nature to me, so it’s not hard at all, and I’ve never had writer’s block.”

WST - “What has changed the most for you about your work since your hits of the 80s and 90s?”

David Rudder - “Brass.”

WST - “In 1987 you wrote “Haiti.” It is one of the most important and definitive pieces on the state of Haiti in our time. In 2010, the unimaginable happened to Haiti. What have we learned - or not learnt - from this catastrophic event and the aftermath?”

David Rudder - “Nothing much, but at least we know now that our ‘pumpkin-vine’ cousins exist, small mercy that it is.”

WST - “Culturally speaking - what surprises you most about this moment in time?”

David Rudder - “I don’t think that I’m surprised about much since I’m a student of history. What I sense though, is that there will be an explosion of new music soon, new ideas as the young people, armed with musical knowledge, take center stage.”

WST - “What are your thoughts on the International Panorama recently announced by Pan Trinbago?”

David Rudder - “Announcing is one thing. Cutting the gig is another. Maintaining the vibe is yet another. Let’s see.”

WST - “Name two things relative to Pan that are totally intolerable from your perspective, and you would like to see changed immediately? ”

David Rudder - “I can think of one. Do something about that “Trincity sculpture”. Blow it up or sup’n .”

WST - “Who are your favorite steelband arrangers, and why?”

David Rudder - “Boogs and Brads. They never feared what was put before them. Apart from “Boogsie,” who else outside “Braddos” would have tackled High Mas?”

WST - “Many of your songs are timeless. From “Madness” to “Live Yuh Life (Like Yuh Playing Mas)” - what does this say about the human condition to effect change in his or her life time?”

David Rudder - “Do something truthful and deep, and people will feel it for generations. If it makes someone see a new and beautiful way, then half the work is done. “I am the seed of the growling Tiger.””

WST - “When you hear names like Pat Bishop, Clive Bradley, Ella Andall, and David Rudder - one thinks unapologetically of Trinidad. Who, today, from your perspective - is walking down that road?”

David Rudder - “If you’re talking about the next generation, well they all are walking that road. It’s just that some of them don’t know it yet. ”

WST - “What do you want David Rudder to be most remembered for?”

David Rudder - “A song.”

WST - “What is next for David Rudder?”

David Rudder - “More music and rekindling my other artistic interests.”

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