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Caribbean

Published on December 28th, 2014 | by Robbie Joseph

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Junior ‘Soldier’ Edwards – ‘Don’t Dream Your Life, Live Your Dream’

Born in San Fernando, in the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago in 1966, Junior began playing the steelpan at the very early age of eight (8).  Coming from a very musical family Junior was very eager to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Theo Stephens, a member of the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra – TASPO who visited the UK on the 26th July 1961 to play at the Festival of Britain and his mother, Jeanette Edwards, a talented and accomplished tenor player.

Junior started playing with the Free French Steel Orchestra, the band that his uncle, Theo was chosen from to play with TASPO in the 1950s before moving on to the Hillside Symphony Steel Orchestra.  In 1986, he became a member of the Skiffle Bunch Steel Orchestra under the leadership of Junior Regrello and vice captain, David Goddard. It was while he was at Skiffle Bunch that he met the legendary Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe.

During the ten (10) years he spent with Skiffle Bunch, he travelled through Europe including Germany, Holland, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, France, Italy, Norway and Switzerland. He fondly remembers the amazing concert they performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England for HRH Queen Elizabeth as one of their best performances.  He also toured and performed at concerts in Singapore, Malaysia and Mexico with Skiffle Bunch.  His laborious efforts paid off in 1990 when he was awarded the esteemed accolade of ‘Player of the Year’ with Skiffle Bunch.

In 1996, during a vacation in Switzerland he met the a steelband from the Swiss Alps that engaged him as their tutor. That action initiated his outstanding musical contribution to the Swiss Steelband Fraternity and his residency in Switzerland for the past eighteen (18) years. In 2000, Junior performed at the World Steelband Music Festival in Trinidad with the Swiss Steel Orchestra, PANCH 2000, a steelband formed nine (9) months before the Festival and only having its first public performance five months before the Festival, a free street concert in Berne, Switzerland as a warm-up for the European qualifying round of the festival. In fact, Panch 2000 never played professionally and was virtually unknown to the global steelband fraternity. Panch 2000 went on to capture the tune of choice category of the 2000 Festival with their tune of choice, Franz von Suppe’s, Poet and Peasant led by musical director, Yiara Yonne.

PANCH has since evolved to become the Swiss Steelband Association of which Junior is a consultant in their musical team. In 2011, PANCH awarded Junior the prestigious Merit Award for his special achievements in the Swiss Steelpan Fraternity.

He currently tutors several steelbands and soloists and has organised steelpan projects. One of his projects was SWISSTRIN that was supported by Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe. The song, ‘SWISSTRIN’ was a special composition done for the band by Sharpe who also accompanied them at the Swiss National Exposition in 2002 in Biel. The SWISSTRIN band was made up of players from different backgrounds and playing capabilities.

Another one of Junior’s projects in 2007 was the ‘Caribbean Connection’ with fellow Swiss steelband tutor, David Henry, from Barbados. The Caribbean Connection Project saw the band participate at the Karnival der Kulturen in Berlin, Germany as well as at the 2007 Notting Hill Carnival supported by the Mangrove Steelband.

Junior is also a very talented percussionist, drummer and conga player. He has had several engagements with Bands in and around Switzerland. He has played at the Jazz Festival in Montreux, on Latin Jazz Night and various other jazz gigs. As a drummer and percussionist he has performed with the Namusoke – www.nausoke.ch and Black Power – www.black-power.ch.

He has played percussion, congas and sound effect pad machine in a reggae band called, Spitfyah, They are a popular backing band for the popular Swiss Reggae artist –Cookie The Herbalist. They opened Damian Marley and Nas’s concert, as well as Julian Marley’s. Spitfyah also performed at the famous Reggae Lakesplash in Biel, Switzerland.

He also played steelpan and percussion with singer, songwriter, composer and drummer, Jon Otis as well as Brazilian band, Zoa led by Julinho Martins

Junior recognises that his collaboration with Leon Duncan – www.leon-duncan.info and his attendance at the various courses at the Zurich Jazz School has increased his musicality. His motto, ‘don’t dream your life, live your dream’, helps him to keep focused with a positive mind-set to deal with setbacks and stay motivated.

His own steelband, Outta D’Blue, was formed in 2011 and along with Patrick Bernhard who is a Swiss music teacher with an established history in steelband music are equally responsible for the band’s musical arrangements. They have performed at the Cudrefin Steelband Festival for the past two years where they have been outstanding, receiving plenty plaudits and positive feedback. They also perform regularly at gigs in and around Zurich.

In addition to his music and musical commitments Junior also has a regular day job and ensures that he returns to his native Trinidad – The Mecca of Steelpan annually to participate at the National Steelband Panorama with the iconic Phase II Pan Groove Steel Orchestra and Len Boogsie Sharpe his friend and mentor. Junior also visits the Notting Hill Carnival in London on an annual basis to perform with the Mangrove Steelband and to catch up with old friends and acquaintances.

He intends to do a great deal more with his life, travel to other countries, develop his personal and professional skills and life in beautiful country of Switzerland that presents enormous diversity and opportunities.

Check out his website –  http://www.junior-edwards.ch/

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