- In His Own Words...
A When Steel Talks Exclusive
Brooklyn, NY - September 2002
C: This is an exclusive for Basement Recordings. The program is called When Steel Talks and we are pleased to welcome Mr. Robert Greenidge arranger and seconds player extraordinaire. Very happy to have you Mr. Greenidge.
RG: Very nice to be here.
C: And When Steel Talks is very much interested, as are people on the Website, with arrangers in general. We will be asking you a few questions based on your arranging experience and also we will focus on you as a solo performer and your professional experience world wide. Once again, welcome.
RG: Thank you, nice to be here.
C: How did you get started in pan?
RG: I got started in pan through my family, my uncle. He was a fellow by the name of Carl Greenidge - deceased now. I was born in Laventille. We had a band called Savoys Steelband in lower Laventille. We used to live just across the street from the band. I used to hear the music. I used to watch my uncle and them tune the pans and make all the different things with the sound. I was probably around the age of six or seven when I went to the panyard. I tried to stand on a box to play the bass and the other pans too because the stands were too tall for me. My uncle and the older folks were interested in showing me around the band. I took the initiative to really learn as much as I could at the time. I didn't know exactly what I was doing. Maybe, around the age of ten, I realized what I was doing. I tried to learn as much as I could within that group. We had people like Martin Albino and Mearle Albino. They used to coach us in the music, teaching us a lot of musical stuff using a blackboard. They taught us chords and different things. That's how we learned until we were ready to play. I stayed with Savoys for a long period of time getting experienced in the pan thing. After that, I went with another group called City Kids. They were also a family band from Belmont. It was a very small band, but a lot of people came out from that band that went on to do well also. That band was from my father's side. So I had music on my mother's side through my uncle, and music from my father's side. So those were two bands I was learning a lot of stuff with, and then eventually I went with Desperadoes in 1965. I was playing around then Rudolph Charles found us. We had some great sounding pans from a new guy (pan tuner) called Bassman. When he (Rudolph Charles) heard the pans, he asked us if we could come and join Desperadoes and if we could bring the pans with us - and we did. That was in 1965. From there I stayed with Desperadoes until at least 1998. It is a long period of time in there. After being with Desperadoes for a while, they gave me opportunities to learn to arrange music. We started learning under Clive Bradley and Beverly Griffith. Those were the arrangers for Desperadoes at the time.
C: You looked upon them as your mentors at the time?
RG: Yes, I did, because I was always interested in arranging. How to do it. I could do it, but I wasn't as great as the professional guys were. As the time went along, they gave us opportunities to arrange songs for the band. I started doing little pop songs for the band. They were easy songs until I got more experience. I would ask them how I was doing, and they would advise me on what to do and what not to do; how to get the correct chord, how to voice things. Mostly voicing was the main thing I was interested in.
C: What exactly is voicing?
RG: Voicing is knowing the ranges of the instrument. As an arranger you have to know the pans. If you have a tenor pan with a low 'C' and you have part of a song that has a low 'B' or a low 'A' under that, it could be difficult because the note is not on the drum and you will have to transfer it (the part) to another instrument which is lower and have that note. You might want to make a chord like C major. The voicing is important in that you might have the bass play 'C', the four pans play C and E, the seconds play E and G and if you spread it out to the ninth, the tenors could play G and D. It is a whole voice on one chord.
C: So you will regard Savoys, City Kids and Desperadoes as your training ground?
C: And your musical influences and experiences as Clive Bradley and Beverly Griffith...
RG: Yes, and Martin Albino. He was the first one that started to teach us to sound voices, so I cannot forget. Also, my uncle, Carl Greenidge.
C: What you just did was encapsulate one of the questions that I would later ask. So you've taken care of that: Who your musical influences were, and who your mentors were.
RG: Yes, that's exactly who they were. Also, there was another guy I looked up to as a player. He is a tuner these days. He used to play with Invaders many years ago. He is one of the most famous soloists. He is Emmanuel Riley whom they called "Cobo Jack" -that is his nickname out here. As a matter of fact he tuned the background pans for Moods this year.
C: Mr. Emmanuel Riley.
RG: He is on of the guys we used to listen to a lot because we liked his style of soloing, not as a full band ensemble.
C: Does he still play?
RG: Well, he plays
C: When was the last time you personally heard him?
RG: Well I heard him play bass not too long ago at the Washington Carnival. He was one of the - still is - I think considered one of the best players. He is just one of those quiet guys. He took up tuning and a whole other occupation as a fireman. Now he settles back into himself and is tuning a lot, but still playing. But I haven't heard him play the double seconds or the tenor, which I know he is very good at. I guess these days he is more sticking with the tuning of the drum and trying to get a better tonal quality out of the drums. He has also been tuning a long time too with Ellie Mannette. He came out with Invaders and we had a connection between Invaders and Desperadoes. The connection was, we used to have the same kind of range of pans. Ellie and Jack used to come up to Desperadoes. Rudolph used to go down to Invaders. The tuners used to incorporate things together. He (Rudolph) wanted to get that sound that they had down there. He also wanted to get the best tuners that were around. He also wanted the best arrangers to make his band what it is today. Through having people like Jack and others coming up to the hill to play with us we had good experiences by learning a lot of stuff from them. They took the band to greater heights.
C: Would you be working with Desperadoes again, you think?
RG: Maybe, sometime in the year. All I did was really take a break from working with them. I did not want to get burnt out after so many years. I decided to take a break from them. And Clive Bradley is really back with the band, which is great. Before, as I said, he was really the arranger with the band in the earlier days. Then he took a break and we stepped in as the arrangers.
C: We meaning?
RG: Well -we- meaning we had a group of us as arrangers that were learning to arrange at the time. There was Denzil Botus from Despers (NY), Knolly Nicholas who passed away, myself. There are a couple of other players all around that came through our hands living up here in New York. Some are in the Despers New York steelband. Some have their own bands now. I just cannot call everybody's name. A lot of them form their own thing and they learn a lot from Clive, even from Beverly, because we were all in the band together. The real people were myself, Denzil, a fella name Turbine, Knolly Nicholas - we called him "Panther"- and a couple others in the bands started to arrange also. So most of the stuff that we learned was in the Laventille Community Center. That's where we learned to arrange. They gave us the opportunity to do it. We used to listen to the records and try to take the music off the record player. Most of us at the time couldn't read music too well - still can't. But the reading is good when you want to learn something. If you have it and you memorize it, after that you should be able to play it. You need paper just to read and fine tune your parts.
C: You arranged for Solo Knights [in Trinidad]?
RG: Solo Pan Knights. That came about through - well the pan yard for Solo Pan Knights was between my house and Desperadoes yard. So when I go to Desperadoes, I would come back and stop by Solo. Solo was a young band that came out of Solo Harmonites band. They had a split and the sponsor (Solo) went with Pan Knights. They did not stay with Harmonites. So the Harmonites right now I think are sponsored by White Oak,Fernandes or one of those - but the sponsor (Solo) went with Pan Knights which is Owen Serette and his band. They formed this band and they needed an arranger and asked if I could do it? I did say yes because in those days you could arrange for two or three or four bands if one wanted. Now it is different. They [panorama organizers] allow you only one band to arrange for.
C: In Trinidad?
RG: Yes, which is a little ticklish. Because you cannot tell a doctor how many patients to operate on, you know. Or, you cannot tell a carpenter how many houses to build. So due to that they got Clive Bradley back at Desperadoes and I stayed with Pan Knights as the arranger for the past five years.
C: What is the difference if any, you found in arranging for Desperadoes in contrast to Pan Knights?
RG: The difference is the players. Desperadoes have a lot of fine players. The things we learned from the classics we played, helped to improve our skills. We had Pat Bishop teaching us. Also, a fella by the name of Raymond Shaw; we had Anthony Prospect. We had all these teachers and classical pieces for the stage band. So by learning all that, Desperadoes is a band that stuck together. The players stayed with each other and after a while everybody got to know what to do. From an arranger's standpoint, I knew what I could have given them to play. I knew what they could take and what they cannot take. When you get to Pan Knights' panyard, you see there are more kids in the band. Also, there were not too many experienced players. Most of the experienced players stayed with Harmonites. About five or six experienced players came across to Pan Knights plus the youths. As I said, on my way home from Desperadoes panyard I would stop at Pan Knights panyard. I used to do it when we were doing panorama tunes with them. I would go in the day do the music, go home, eat, come back and continue the music at night. So what I did is split that by going to Desperadoes in the day, then go to Pan Knights in the afternoon, go home and eat, come back to Pan Knights and then back to Desperadoes. So I had a kind of rough one.
C: It is a portfolio in arranging.
RG: So the thing about the kids in Pan Knights is, they learned fast. They were not as experienced as the Desperadoes players were. I got used to the players in Desperadoes. I will know how and who to give what kind of [musical] runs.
C: Basically you know them [Desperadoes] intimately.
RG: Yes! That's it. After all these years, we traveled all over. We've been to Africa; we've been to London- everywhere. Desperadoes traveled, we were there. We always stuck as a family.
But back to Pan Knights; I was the only arranger that arranged for that band, because they are a brand new band. I think it is either 1992 or 1994, somewhere between there they got started. And, ever since I have been the arranger. As I said that's when you could have done arrangement for two or three bands. Now they have a limit of one band and Clive Bradley is back on the hill. So while he is on the hill, I would still like to do panorama music so I went ahead and stayed with Pan Knights.
C: It is good that you mention the restriction there because that is a lead in to my next question which is - what are the comparisons you find as an arranger between the Trinidad panorama and the New York panorama? Obviously one difference off the bat is that currently there is not a restriction as to how many bands you could arrange for in New York. But in Trinidad, you say that restriction is in place - one band. So along with that, what are your likes, your dislikes, what are your observations of the advantages as opposed to being a New York arranger and a Trinidad arranger?
RG: Well, so far as a New York arranger I have seen for example Clive Bradley has done two bands this year. Nobody has said anything so far. I have not seen any other arranger do two bands for the season in New York. So we have that space we could still play around. It's not that -
C: - stringent.
RG: Yes, and Trinidad is real tough. There are a lot of bands; and a lot of bands need help too. There are a lot of bands that have young arrangers and they need to have professional arrangers guide them like we were once [guided].
C: - guided by Beverly Griffith and Clive Bradley.
RG: Beverly Griffith and Clive, that's how we learned. We are able to arrange our own thing now without their help. I think that alone is a plus by itself. Being able to come out and do your own thing. I hope they don't try to limit it here yet. There are a lot of bands that need professional arrangers to guide them around. Even though they have their arrangers, I always like to advise them to have someone there who is capable of doing a song for the band. It doesn't have to be a panorama tune. Then they could make the attempts at panorama material because it is a ten-minute piece. You have to take a three-minute song - You know what you have to do with that. Put seven minutes of music on to that. It's not that easy. We've been doing it for years, so we kind of learnt the -
C: - ins and outs.
RG: Yes, the ins and outs and the ways to do it and after a while you get the road map and you take it from there and put embellishments on it.
C: Do you consider as an arranger, after so many years, that you are still growing and if so in what direction?
RG: Yes, I think I am still growing musically. Yes, I have learned a lot of different things even still as I go along here. During the arrangement I might learn a different voicing maybe, sometimes - we have like newer instruments within the band -like the four pans, quadrophonic which we didn't have in the earlier days. Through that we hear how to voice that like putting that pan in between the seconds to make your band sound totally different. Usually it would assist the melody pans playing melody by having a lower register melody being played on the pans. That is a voice by itself that really makes a big difference.
C: What do you think of the choice of music that is available for pan arrangement, tending more to soca and calypso pieces based on what comes out for carnival season in Trinidad? Do you see that the choices are out there? Or, do you find that the pickings could be lean at times.
RG: Sometimes it could be. But the choices are out there. What also is happening is that a lot of arrangers are doing their own material, which helps.
C: You had a piece called 'Sweet Ramona', right?
RG: Yes, I did a piece called Sweet Ramona this year, and I also did a piece call The Bomb. So I had two songs out there in the panorama. One was played by Renegades and the other was played by Pan Knights.
C: Sweet Ramona was played up here by Caribbean Youth Panoramics.
RG: Right, that guy Caribbean Youth Panoramics, he was a member of Desperadoes also.
C: Yes, Mr. Franklyn - Joseph 'Franklyn' Gerald.
RG: We all came in the band. We all played in Desperadoes around the same time. Now he is an arranger. So it is the same people that we all hooked up with. I am pretty sure that he will say the same thing about Beverly Griffith or Clive Bradley, because it's the same people we all learned a lot of stuff from. So it's good to know that they all around. Even Denzil Botus, he has been around for so long. We all came in together at the same time. We all wanted to arrange and do something different. So here we are.
C: Just before you went on camera you mentioned there is a lot more you would like to have done with your present arrangement for Moods Pan Groove, who you arranged for the 2002 New York panorama. Were your short-term musical goals met by Moods? Were you pleased with the interpretation of what you gave them in the time that you had allocated?
RG: Yes, I am pleased. I was very pleased with them and I think they did a good performance. I was not there at the performance because I had other plans. But I heard that the performance was very good. When I left them on Friday night everybody had everything in place. What they had to do was matter of performing it and make it sound like something. I was talking to you before we went on the air. I was saying that I wanted to do more with it. Usually we have ten minutes of music to play for the panorama. But by the time you finish the song, it is like fourteen or fifteen minutes to get the whole rounded song. I really don't like the limit of ten minutes. You should have something to say between ten and eleven minutes, something like that. But don't just let me give you ten minutes. Sometimes the way the song goes around, the whole arrangement reach nine minutes and forty-five seconds and you now in the middle of a phrase.
C: That's interesting. Because there seems to be a consensus from people with well trained ears who find that, while there are arrangers - like you - who might be able to manage that and do a very credible job on it, there are some arrangers who may have difficulty getting past four and a half minutes. So - (laugh)
RG: -(laugh) well we get used to it being in Trinidad with panorama- every year it's ten minutes. And I always have a query at home with that also. Even when I do Desperadoes or Pan Knights, some will have to be nine and a half minutes or ten and a half minutes. It's very hard to stop on the ten-minute mark.
C: So what kind of restrictions the officials -
RG: - ten minutes
C: -that's in Trinidad. Are there official restrictions here [in New York] that you know of?
RG: This I don't know. But I believe it is ten minutes. Some guys you say will come up with six minutes of music and leave it there all the time. I know guys that will do that. Other guys will do that and they will say the night before "we will put on some more music" but by that time everybody has to learn it and the players will need time to consume the music and put it back out. We used to do things like finish the song the night before the show and sometimes it is a little difficult for the players themselves.
C: They need the confidence. They need to be playing by instinct by the time they hit the stage as oppose to looking for the notes.
RG: There is a lot of big bands that get their songs done ahead of time like Exodus and all these bands. So they are always rehearsing. They enjoying it.
They do not have to think like "am I going to go to this note or this one." because they already rehearse and have everything down pat.
C: That's a good point. How long before actual performances do you consider is enough time for the bands to know the tune? How many days?
RG: I would say four to five days.
C: So they should have -
RG: - because if you are rehearsing and your panorama is Saturday, if you finish the music by Monday, you have Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday to really get the song. Just run it and smoothen it out. It is not just the music alone. You might have twenty tenors playing the same thing at the same time. You might find one person in there that tends to differ a little bit because he did not take his time to get it going like a unit. You need a whole knitted thing where everybody could say "I have it, you don't have to worry about me. You cover my back, I'll cover you, we going." But some bands kind of..., I understand for this panorama one band finished their song on the track... I don't understand -
C: - you mean in the New York panorama?
RG: The New York panorama. That's what I heard. I don't know how true it is. But things like that, you have a period of time to have these things. You must always remember your players. You could have all the music in your head. You give it to them and when you reach there - is like I could do it, but they freeze.
C: They have to interpret and memorize and synch.
RG: I think if you give yourself four to five days, you could really have a good performance. In other words the arranger really has to finish his music a week before time, which is very rare.
C: Do you manage?
C: Did you manage with Moods?
RG: Moods? No I didn't manage - actually I did about three days before.
C: [Still] Pretty good for you.
RG: Why? Is because I did not have enough time to do the music with them. I was travelling in and out [of NY]
C: You had performances -
RG: I had performances at Jones Beach. I had performances in Chicago. I had performances in Boston. All during the period of time I was doing the music with Moods.
C: That's a good lead in. Tell me about yourself. You are considered one of the world's best second players. What do you consider makes you different from other second players? What makes you outstanding? It may not be your interpretation. But what do you know? What makes you who you are - Robert Greenidge?
RG: Robert Greenidge does not play seconds whole day. Robert Greenidge is an overall pan player. I play second pan because the second pan is what we call a workhorse. I do not play any other instruments. From an arranger point of view, you need an instrument when doing the music. My second pan is my workhorse. So I stuck with it for many years. Every now and then I go across to the tenor and play and come back to the seconds. Those are the two main pans that I play. As a lead player you have the other people playing background music on the other instruments. The difference with me is that I do a lot of rehearsals. I think everybody does rehearsals. I try to improve whatever I am doing everyday.
C: So you practice daily?
RG: Oh yes, I do practice daily. Whatever you see here in New York is just a small section of Robert. I do a lot of classical pieces on my own. I have written a lot of pieces for the pan also. I have about five or six CD's out with pan and conventional instruments. They are not all calypsos. They are a mixture of light jazz, CD 101 type things - it is just a mixture. I live in Los Angeles. I have been living out there for a period of time. I met guys and we formed a group together. We go to the studio and record. Put things down together. I also do a lot of stuff on my own - like workshops. I just came from an Ellie Mannette workshop at Virginia University. Ellie has a very good program there. There is a lot -
C: That's good. I want to find out because of the audience we have - I am sure they would want to find out what is the typical month or year like for Robert Greenidge - the professional.
RG: Well carnival time is for the steelband.
C: There are some arrangers for whom that the only time they work. The rest of the year they basically don't work, but that's not the case with Robert Greenidge.
RG: No! No! Robert Greenidge works three hundred sixty-five days a year. He doesn't work everyday but his job is three hundred sixty-five days a year. I have spaced myself out in such a way, that I could have my own breaks and do different things. The pan is my livelihood. That's all I do. I have been doing it for a long period of time. I have some luck in that I have been able to go out -
C: You are blessed in being able to do something that you love.
RG: By doing something that I love very much. Then I go out also and play with other conventional instruments and artists - people like Taj Mahal the blues singer. I travel a lot with him. He sings, I play. I travel with Jimmy Buffet a singer. He has his own following. I work with him during the year. I also do concerts different places. Next month I will be doing a show in Antigua. I also do a lot of corporate shows with my group from Los Angeles. Also, I do a lot of individual performances in concert. I am sometimes accompanied by a drum and a bass player.
C: Do you find that when you're out there on the world stage there is a good reception for the various genres of music that you play? Do you find that people are taken aback when you play something other than what is traditionally referred to or looked upon as tourist fare? -When you show that this instrument is a serious instrument - it is just as good as anything else and perhaps even better. What kind of reception you get?
RG: I get a very good reception because of like you say they have it that pan is a tourist thing. But because of the way the instrument is tuned now, the tuners are making very good instruments. They are lined up in tune with other conventional instruments, whereas in the past this was not always the case. The average musician would say that we playing in 'A' major, but the pan is not tuned in 'A'. It is not tuned to 'A' 440, which is the basic concept of tuning in 'A'. In the past some people would have their pans tuned in 'B flat' and some in 'D' depending on who is doing the tuning. However within the last ten to fifteen years they have maintained the 'A' 440 tuning which puts it right in tune with the piano. So when you're playing with a pianist, you could mesh. The pan is not out of tune compared to the piano.
C: So when you play a classical piece or a jazz piece - pop piece- or rhythm and blues, the reception as opposed to -
RG: Maryann - is totally different. They see it as an instrument when we start to play the other things instead of the old classical calypso pieces like Harry Belafonte, or Yellow Bird. It's a totally different avenue here. As the instrument is being tuned correctly with other instrument, you get a chance to really play with great musicians and learn things from them also. They in turn can learn from you too. My approach to it is this; I am very serious with what I do with the pan. When I get into it I practice a lot. I try to learn all I could learn. So when I get to do a performance, I can play by myself and put on a good show.
C: I looked at you working with Moods and I had the advantage of seeing you at different places while you were giving out the music -
RG: well you have to be - you know you are trying to teach the group what's going on. You trying to make sure the music is being played and if you don't have all experienced musicians to work with, it gets hard. Then you have to make your adjustments to suit. What I did with Moods is try to teach all of them the parts, make sure they have it. Then I would go and play also to show them the approach to it. Sometime I watched some of the guys (players) and when they see my approach to it, they say "oh! That's what we have to do." Like I wouldn't cross my hands this way, I would play this way [showing the difference in motion] so it becomes clearer to them.
C: You spoke about teaching the players - there are some people in the pan world, a school of thought that says if the pan players don't learn to read and write music like professional "musicians" they are at a great disadvantage. Not only that, some of them go as far as to say if pan players don't actually learn this way, then they are not serious musicians. What is your take on that? Do you think that someone who is naturally brilliant by instinct and cannot read music - do you think they play any less? Is there a drop in level? Or do you think they should be dissed like that because they cannot read music?
RG: It depends on who they are - the individuals themselves. Like me, I am not a great reader but I can play. I have learned a lot by listening, by watching and getting advice from other people. I would advise all pan people to learn to read for their own advancement.
C: So they can probably fall in more on the world stage.
RG: Because what we are doing now is learning by rote. We go into the yard and we teach one section, then the next. That's all good, but it is a time consuming thing. Whereas if you have the music written out and the players can read in two or three days you can show them the whole arrangement. Other than that it will take you two or three weeks, sometimes more just to get the music. Some arrangers for pan do not have the music written out. They have it in their mind. They might have one section and not the next. Most of the time I try to get all the sections before I start to work. I will put it on tape and if I don't like it I can always change things before I take it to the band. Sometime I take it to the band then change it. But I will advise players to learn to read. There are a lot of good pan players out there now going to different universities giving giving degrees in music with the pan as a percussion instrument. People like Andy Narell went to college and came back out reading. They were a lot of percussion players and they took the pan with them and that's what takes them out there.
C: What do you think of the young and upcoming pan players like Liam Teague?
RG: I think Liam Teague is doing well. You must remember Liam plays another instrument - the violin. Right now he teaches at the Illinois University. This is the advantage that he has.
C: So you consider pan being in good hands at the moment.
RG: It is getting better.
C: Getting better? Beside Liam Teague are there other young people you can -
RG: call? There are a lot of white guys learning to do this thing inside out. I have seen them perform. I have seen them do the arrangements. They are watching what we are doing and they are going ahead and doing their thing because they can read.
C: Do they approach it as a vocation?
RG: I think that is changing. Being in the universities out there you see where they are coming from. For some of them of course it is a vocation. Others are very serious. They take it up and go on to college and get their degrees. Then they come back and form their own groups and teach in colleges all over.
C: You said some of the people, do you know them off hand?
RG: Couple of people, Liam Teague, Andy Narell, Jeff Narell, Tom Miller - there are a couple of them out there.
C: Really good at what they do?
RG: Yes and they just picked it up as a percussion instrument and are very bright. The fact that they learned to read- you can just bring music and put it in front of them and they will play it.
C: It is a serious thing.
RG: It is a serious thing with other people and I am not talking about the vocation players. Most of them are really serious about this. The reason why I can say this is because I go to the colleges and see what it is they do and all the bands that are in the colleges. I go to different colleges and perform every year.
C: Okay. So you've heard what the bands sound like those at the colleges. How do they sound in comparison to Trinidad bands?
RG: They sound very good. Of course Trinidad has a feel... -
RG: So these people are technically correct?
RG: Yes technically correct. They have professors of music teaching them.
C: They reproduce very well.
RG: Yes and they invite people like us to come to the different colleges to do workshops and performances then they take it from there.
C: It's validation.
RG: So somebody is going to go out and spread the word and we are taking that initiative by doing that also.
C: Don't you think that it is long overdue that the Trinidad and Tobago Government and the University of the West Indies should have taken this on a long time ago?
RG: Yes I think they should.
C: Are there any rumblings in that area. Based on your experiences outside, is there anyone at all-
RG: Well the only thing that I know now in Trinidad is: there is a Trinidad National Steelband Orchestra where they take the younger members from different bands and they teach the kids to read and write music. I was in one of the National steelbands in the earlier days. What they used to do was choose the best players then. Now is whom you send. To be in the National Steelband is like being on an all star cast. It is like a football team. You have the best from all the islands or something like that. What they did in those years, we had the same guy again Cobo Jack, all of us were in the band. You had to send your best players. Otherwise you're wasting time.
C: Right now on the University of the West Indies St. Augustine campus, there is no program like that?
RG: Well, I've heard they are starting something. I have not been around. I am not really informed much. I hope they do something because like I say it is moving out there and we are just looking at the States. We did not even touch Europe yet. Europe has more bands than here.
C: On the Internet there is quite a lot of bands.
RG: Switzerland has a lot of bands. Paris has a lot of bands. Sweden has a lot of bands and they are serious. They all go to the music festival in Trinidad. Most of them that qualified. That's a step in the right direction.
C: Let me get personal. Who taught Robbie Greenidge right from wrong?
RG: Who did? Wow!
C: You know, going back to when you were younger. Who did you look up to as your icon? Not musical mentor but just your role model.
RG: All my people [role models] were into music. I used to look up to people like the great guitarist George Benson or somebody like Stan Getz or some others that played music. These are the people I really like to listen to, to watch - or somebody, for me to say "hey I really would - like to be like this guy.' It's kind of hard to say because there is so many people out there that I wish I could be like. There are so many people out there that have that touch. I just take advice from me and try to take it ahead. If I have to refer back to anybody then I'll find someone.
C: Who manufactures and tunes your pans?
RG: Bertie Marshall tunes my pans. As a matter of fact he is one of the first guys in the Savoys steelband also. So these are guys who are like family. We all come from Laventille together. He is the one that tunes my drums and takes care of them.
C: You've had the opportunity to hear recordings of panoramas from Trinidad for a number of years. You've heard one from New York's panorama - actually what you just heard was a bit of the DVD. You heard the recording quality and I believe you have a copy of the recording of Moods this year -
RG: Yes I do and that was great -
C: What are your thoughts - if any - of the recordings you've heard in Trinidad and the one that you have from your 2002 production of Moods and what you've just seen on the DVD from the Basement studio.
RG: I think Basement is doing well with their approach to it. The way they are recording it. As a matter of fact sometime in 1994 we did [called] 'No Wuk Fuh Carnival' and I find that to be a great recording.
C: '94? That was seven years ago!
RG: Yes. That's how long Basement been happening and I find that this year's recording was great. I know they probably have more advanced equipment now. But at the time what they had was probably more advanced too! Anyway the quality of recording is great from what I've gathered, seen and heard. They have a couple of guys in Los Angeles; and Sanch Electronics [in Trinidad] and also somebody else trying to record. But I just think he has a little way to go before he gets to the kind of sound that would interest me to say well "yes, that is it." The sound in Trinidad this year was okay. But there was something I did not like because they were rushing. They just put five microphones in front the band and I don't think they got the full load of the stuff because they just pick up the frontline or the pans in the first two rows or something. The rhythm section is all the way in the back. You're hearing it but it is not as fine as it should be in a live recording.
C: You've had an opportunity to observe some of the techniques here?
RG: Sure, I did. When we recorded Moods I was not aware. I should have recognized that we were recording and set the band up in a different way by putting all the tenors in one section, the guitars in one section and also the bass, and then you could get the full sound around there. I noticed the set up but I did not say anything much. We had two quadrophonics, but they put one microphone between one quadraphonic [because of the band set up]. It is a little too close there. When they pick up the bass mic there was a conga player right there. You hear a lot of him. You know I am just observing the CD and the recording. It just slipped me not to put the band in a recording format. That I would really have enjoyed, because then you would get the full body of the band. Everybody would be on their own separate little thing [track] and you would hear the full body of the band. But overall it was very good. I played the CD for a lot of people and they like what they were hearing. They say "where you guys recorded?" I say, "we recorded right in the panyard.' They say, "that's real nice" and I guess we were kind of endorsed too.
All in all I think you guys are doing a wonderful job in recording the bands. It is the only company [Basement Recordings] I see in New York doing something for pan. I hope that you guys continue doing what you doing and get the pan players to come in and understand what you are doing. I don't know, maybe you might have to take their hands and bring them in and say this is for pan. There are not too many people round here doing it. So make use of it. A company like you guys I will support anytime.
C: You got a glimpse - not very much but a few minutes of the DVD?
RG: It's great. I would like to check it out some other time again. But the little glimpse I got, it's very nice and clean.
C: There is actually no recording of pan on DVD to the best of my knowledge. I know there is a lot of VHS tape. Have you seen any DVD's?
RG: No. I really have not seen any yet. I think what you are doing is a wonderful job. Don't stop. Continue doing what you're doing. There is next year to come again for panorama.
C: You would like to record again, whichever band you're arranging for?
RG: Sure. I would love to. It's always good to have that history back there. A lot of music is being lost after panorama and you need something like this.
C: But it is being recorded...
RG: It is being recorded yes. But some bands are not recorded. They did the piece, they work so hard... a week or two before panorama - leaving their regular job - whatever they do - staying up late at night, and after panorama that's the end of you. So they need something like this to keep them rolling to say "this is what we have. This is what we're doing." Come together, find whatever form of sponsorship to get this thing rolling. Put the CD out there. Put the DVD out there. Get this thing rolling. As I say, you are the only guys I see doing this thing around here in the New York area. Not too many areas out there anyway. They have them out in Washington, California, but the little bit that I see here I am very much interested. It is very interesting to see what's happening.
C: What we need is pan people to come together and this will be good, so we can document it -
RG: Are you guys going to make any CDs this year? Make a CD of the bands and put t out there.
C: I know that there is suppose to be a pan CD of the 2002 panorama selections from the bands that recorded prior to panorama this year. But it would be their panorama selections. That's in the works.
RG: That would be important because you don't want it to 'lose' or slip away like earlier years. If somebody come back and ask "what this band play in [the year] nineteen so and so."
[someone replies] "It was good, you know"
"but you have a copy?"
"No, I have a l'il [little] cassette tape ah make on meh lil cassette."
So they need to be heard out there. They want it. They need it very much. And people need to hear what is going on here. Not just in this country but other countries like Japan and all these other places. I just got a CD we did for carnival in Trinidad. The Japanese did it. And they did like three or four other different bands. They did Desperadoes, Exodus and Phase II. They did some solo guys like Boogsie Professor, Earl Brooks, and myself. And they have a CD out right now.
C: How is it?
RG: It sounds pretty good. They brought their own equipment like how you guys walk around with your stuff. They went around to the yards. Tell them exactly what is going on, set the thing in motion and the CD is out now. They have a good team with them - some lawyers and attorneys. So the business is good. It was very good. I enjoyed doing it and they took care of you very well also. The business is all right. I was very happy.
C: Mr. Robert Greenidge: very, very good having you on When Steel Talks. It was a pleasure speaking with you. Getting insights into you as a person, your experiences professionally, your mentors and also your viewpoints and your hopes and aspirations. Wish you all the best professionally-
RG: Thank you.
C: And may you continue to play pan and be a light in the pan world out there and just follow -
RG: -just trying to be a vehicle out there
C: Very good having you on When Steel Talks.
RG: Thank you. All right.
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