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Caribbean

Published on July 23rd, 2013 | by The Trinidad Guardian

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Steelband loses an icon – Teddy Belgrave

Tributes poured in yesterday for steelband icon Ian “Teddy” Belgrave, who died at the St Augustine Private Hospital over the weekend. Belgrave, father of T&T Guardian freelance subeditor Chenier Belgrave, was 67. A friend and fellow pan researcher, Nestor Sullivan, manager of San Juan’s Pamberi Steel Orchestra, yesterday recalled Belgrave’s contribution to pan. He said Belgrave was originally from Laventille although he was involved in steelbands along the East-West Corridor. Sullivan said Belgrave’s brothers, Robin and John, were also involved in pan, with Robin being a member of Southern Symphony, and John a founding member of Ebony Steel Orchestra, based in London, UK. “Teddy first began in Highlanders with the late Bertie Marshall while attending Queen’s Royal College,” recalled Sullivan.

On leaving college, Belgrave migrated to Canada for his tertiary education where he became a member of Mellotones Steel Orchestra. In the wake of the disturbances at Sir George Williams University, in Montreal, Canada, Belgrave returned to Trinidad in 1970 and enrolled at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). “Teddy is a founding member of Birdsong at UWI,” said Sullivan. “In 1973, on leaving UWI, Teddy began working with OWTU and got involved with OWTU Free French steel orchestra. He left OWTU and began teaching at Trinity College, Moka, Maraval, where he started the college steelband, which eventually merged with Woodbrook Government Secondary School students to form Woodtrin Steel Orchestra. On leaving Trinity College, Teddy went to Arima Senior Comprehensive and began the school band there as well.

Through Belgrave’s involvement with the Arima school steelband, he became affiliated to former National Panorama champion Nu Tones and subsequently Arima Angel Harps steel orchestras. He also became chairman of the Pan in Schools Co-ordinating Council, initiated by teachers who were involved in pan in schools. In 2000, he was nominated to the board of the T&T National Steel Orchestra as its secretary. He also became involved in the UTT steelband initiative programme and served as co-ordinator of the advanced pan tuning programme. Sullivan recalled: “Teddy was a livewire and extremely knowledgeable in pan. He was also a serious researcher on steelbands, writing numerous papers on the national instrument.” Pan Trinbago president Keith Diaz said: “On a personal note, I remember Teddy with his big afro playing with Highlanders, the first steelband I ever played mas with. Teddy was really committed to nurturing young people in pan. “He was a historian, a person who grew in the pan movement from the ‘60s. Teddy was always free with his knowledge, and this he was filled with, with knowledge on pan dating way back to the days of slavery. He successfully penetrated the barrier of taking pan education into the tertiary level, and his contribution to taking pan into school is invaluable. Teddy Belgrave will be missed, especially in the areas of archiving and researching pan.”

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