Friday, January 12, 2007


Bay Area pannist Terry Figuera jams Andy Narell's 'Coffee Street' on You Tube:

From pan to “island soul” - David Reid

By Laura Dowrich-Phillips

The premiere of MTV Tempo on Trinidad and Tobago’s cable television in 2005 drew curious audiences eager to see which of their local artistes would be the first to help put soca music on the map via this new medium.

At first, there were no surprises. Machel Montano, of course, was present, with videos that chronicled his rise from a boy too young to soca to the reigning king of Carnival music, along with Shurwayne Winchester and his supercharged, superhero-themed video for that year’s Road March, “Dead or Alive”. But there was one other performer starring in a video credited to Trinidad and Tobago, which was shot along the scenic North Coast Road.

The unfamiliar name and face of the singer left most of us wondering, “Who is he?” He turned out to be Tobagonian David Reid, a pannist turned singer, currently based in California.

Formerly a member of Tobago’s West Side Patience Hill and Our Boys Steel Orchestras, Reid abandoned the national instrument, and music overall, after he settled in the US, and concentrated on getting a degree and an eight-to-four job. Then a call to fill in for a pannist in a band reignited Reid’s passion for the instrument, which he had been playing from childhood.

But it was the invitation to play in the band Insomnia, formed by friend and former Atlantik bassist Wayne “Lemo” Lemmessy, and encouragement by another friend, Lisa Wickham, to give singing a try, that transformed Reid into a vocalist.

After a year, Insomnia disbanded, and Reid became the lead singer and musical director of his own musical ensemble, called Tambrin. Today, however, he is best known as a solo artist, performing his own compositions, which include “Memories”, the first song he penned when his passion for singing persuaded him to try his hand at composing and producing his own material.

As beginner’s luck would have it, that was the song that pushed him out of obscurity and into our homes, when its theme, of picking up the pieces in the aftermath of a failed relationship, resonated with listeners.

The video for “Memories” was produced by Ezone Entertainment, owned by Wickham and shot by Militainment. They were also the production team behind Winchester’s “Dead or Alive” video. Thanks to Tempo, Reid picked up fans around the region, and immediately began plotting his foray into the local market.

His quest: to become a household name around the Caribbean and, in particular, in Trinidad and Tobago. That he intends to do with his recently launched debut album, Memories, titled after the single.

On Memories, there are a lot of songs that focus on relationships — are these based on your own experiences?
There are a few songs where I draw from my past, my experiences, as well as the experiences of other people. But for most of them I just put myself in the moment to paint a picture. For example, for the Carnival songs I pictured myself jumping up in Port of Spain.

Do you have a favourite track?
I have two favourites, actually. One is a track I recently completed at Shaolin Studios, called “Sweetness”. I love the music and the melody on that. The other is “Be AfrAIDS”, which I like for the lyrical content and the message it is sending out. It basically is a song letting people know they are responsible for their lives.

In the video for “Memories”, you are captured posing with a pan. Are there any pan songs or references to your past as a pannist on the album?
I featured pan in that video because without pan none of this would have happened. I started out playing pan. When I was small I learned to play guitar, but I couldn’t afford to buy one. But my love for music was strong, and pan was the cheapest musical instrument around, so I ended up playing it. Putting it in the video was just a way of giving back the love — but there are no references to it on the album.

Have you collaborated with any other soca artistes on the album?
Because of time constraints, I decided to just make this album about me, but definitely for the next album I plan to work with some other artistes.

Many soca artistes are incorporating reggaeton, dancehall, and even old-time calypso melodies into their productions, to make the music more universally appealing. Have you incorporated other musical influences?
Yes, I have mixed other genres into the soca. “Memories” is a mix of R&B and soca, “50/50” is a lovers rock, “Dream Lady” is pure R&B, “Moving On” is R&B with a sweet calypso rhythm. A lot of experimenting went on to see what could be done with soca.

You are a newcomer to the local soca scene. Why do you think this album will give you the edge?Because it is different. I think soca is at a crossroads; it’s trying to attract a different market. The fact that the album has such a mix of genres and soca gives it an edge. People are looking for something new.

Fellow Tobagonian Shurwayne Winchester has won the Road March twice, plus the Soca Monarch and Groovy Soca Monarch competitions within the last three years. Do you think the doors are now wide open for artistes from the sister isle?
The door has been wide open for years. Looking back at Tobago’s history, we’ve had people like Calypso Rose and Shadow blazing the trail, and now, in recent years, Shurwayne, who I admire for not giving up the struggle. I think it is up to Tobago artistes to put out work that will be recognised and accepted.

Who have been your biggest influences musically, in and out of soca?
Outside of soca, Sting, R Kelly, and Steel Pulse. I like Sting because of his business approach to the music, R Kelly for his lyrics, the way he tells a story, and Steel Pulse because of the way they manipulate their voices. As a pannist, Kitchener influenced me. Pan sides always played his music, and the type of melodies he created always had this jazz feeling. I must also mention Machel, because of his stage performance.

Some have described your sound as “island soul”. How would you define your music?
That is a compliment. When I first started, people used to tell me I sounded too American, but I am always trying to keep the Caribbean flavour in my music. My description of what I do is just “music”, though — according to what I am feeling, that is what I’ll be putting out.

Taste of the Caribbean - Carnival in Solano County!!


Let's keep Caribbean music alive in Solano County. We are having a 'Taste of the Caribbean' evening on Feb 24th in Vacaville at Shepherd of the HIlls Lutheran Church as a fundraiser for Vanden 'PanPassion' Steel Drum band.

We have 2 steel drum bands so far that are playing. It will be a fun event of tasting Caribbean food from all over the Caribbean like Jamaica, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and more. I would like a Latin band to play Puerto Rican, Cuban and reggae.

We are open to options like a DJ to play Caribbean music, have Caribbean or latin dance lessons or some Carnival costumes. This is the time frame for Carnival in the Islands so lets party. You can use this event to advertise your business at the sametime.

I can use any help iIcan get on this. We need to pay for cases, drums, stands and more and we want to expose the kids to all that the Caribbean has to offer maybe a trip to Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.. who knows.. I am the parent for the High School band and have been coordinating events and performances for them for the last year or so.

We played at the Jazz festival with Ron Mesina as a wonderful surprise and we were a hit playing Evil Ways. We have been playing at local venues as requested but our drums are getting banged up a bit since we have no money for cases and our stands are not the best so crates etc. will have to do for now for our large bases.

Here are some links/pics of our group.. This is on under VandenSteel Drum

Leslie 707-446-7677


All instruments provided!

Learn the magic of making music on Caribbean steel
drums. Have fun with the basics of sticking and melody making. Enjoy playing
favorites like Yellow Bird, Jamaica Farewell, Lion King, and more. Beginners
welcome. You will be jammin’ in no time.

Alameda School of Music, 1307 High Street, Alameda CA 94501
Tues. 7:45-8:45p
1/23-3/13 (8 weeks)
A native of the Caribbean, Harry Best has been one of the top
providers of Caribbean steel drum music in Northern California
for the past 20 years.
Info: 510 222 1123