PP: When were you first introduced to the steelpan instrument?
AF: I am not sure of the exact date but I know it would have been in Tabernacle in the mid 80s.
PP: What made you want to start playing pans?
AF: Growing up in Ladbroke Grove and the iconic All Saints Road where I heard and saw people playing the steelpan gave me the passion to play this wonderful instrument. I remember wanting to play just like my favourite player and family friend, Wayne Audain, at the time.
PP: When did you start playing pan?
AF:I think I started playing in 1987
PP: First band you played for?
AF: Of course, my first band was Mantab (Mangrove's Kids Band).
PP: What steel bands have you played for?
AF :I have only played for Mangrove Steel Band in the UK. Clive 'Mash Up' Phillip would kill me if I dared to try and play with any other band. I also played with Phase 11 Pan Groove in Trinidad at the National Steel Band Panorama competition.
PP: When was your first panorama
AF: My first panorama was in 1994 with the Mantab Steel Band. We did really well placing 8thout of twelve bands including some of the bigger and more established bands.
PP: If you could play for any band in the world what band would you want to play with?
AF: I have a few answers. As I already play for the only band in the world I want to play with but I would have LOVED to play with Desperadoes in 2001 when they played Clive Bradley’s musical rendition of ‘Picture on My Wall’. But it was not possible so it had to be PASO from New York; they are a new band that came out in 2016 full of amazingly talented young players and of course with the proficient Andre White as their founding musical arranger
PP: What steelband competitions have you taken part in?
AF: I am not a fan of competitions when it comes to steel pan. It seems like everything these days is a competition even Blockoramas and Pan Jams. That said I have played in 3 Junior Panoramas, 22 UK National Panorama's, 5 Trinidad Panoramas and 1 European Festival but we don't speak about that it did not end well – lol.
PP: How many tours have you completed and where did you travel too?
AF: I have not done many tours but from what I can remember over the years – I toured Tanzania, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Antigua, Amsterdam twice, Rotterdam, Paris three times, Bulgaria, Poland, Denmark, Marbella, Bilbao, Mauritius, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Slovakia. I have forgotten a few and would need to look through my old photos to refresh my memory.
PP: What was the most challenging thing you have done to do with pans?
AF: The most challenging thing has to be the panorama season no matter how much planning we do its always a huge challenge for different reasons. A band the size of Mangrove has 100s of things to do, even thinking about it now is giving me a headache but I must say it’s my favourite time of the year. Panorama 2015 season was very hard and challenging we started our song 12 days before panorama so every day was intense coupled with late nights.
PP: What’s been the most inspirational moment in your life?
AF: The birth of my first son, Tremaine, his birth absolutely changed my world and too emotional to get into it now, as I will shed a tear.
PP: As Captain of the iconic Mangrove Steel Band can you let us know what is the importance of the role of captain in a steelband?
AF: I believe the importance of the captain’s role is vital to insure that you bring all the aspects of what a steelband is together; working closely with the manager, arranger, section leaders and of course the players. It’s a very hard role to fulfil. I am always learning and try my best to be a strong and influential leader. I have spent hours talking to Andrew ‘Soca’ Brumant, the ex-captain of Renegades Steel Orchestra, who is a neighbour of mine’s in Trinidad for advice, guidance and tips, as he was captain of one of the world’s top steel bands. The best tip ‘Soca’ gave me was - you cannot please everyone and you have to and cannot dismiss the elders and former players of your steel band
PP: What are the important qualities/skills that an individual must possess to perform the role of Captain of a steelband?
AF: Being the captain of Mangrove comes with extra pressure as the band has a rich history in Ladbroke Grove and London as a whole. I can say we are honestly not like any other steelband; we are more than a steelband or mas band. We are the hub of our community, luckily I was brought up in the area and been around the band my whole life I know the people, the history and what it means to be part of Mangrove. So firstly, I would say you have to know the band and its people. You must know what it is Mangrove means to Ladbroke Grove, once you got that you have a good start. You have to be able to lead by example, be patient, and you HAVE to listen to your players, something I am accused of not doing at times. You have to be a people’s person, someone that players find approachable and find you easy to sit and talk too. You need have the support of your players and section leaders. For me, the main thing you need to have is to be a good strong captain is the trust of your players. They have to believe in you. I have been Mangrove’s captain since 2004; hopefully they all trust me by now.
PP: What is your favourite pan to play?
AF: Tenor and has to be fourths and fifths from D, its the best pan you can get and the only pan I have ever played; saying that I did play four cellos once for a song and it was a huge song and somehow I managed to play the four pan in that video. Marlon Roudette, a band member, did the video.
PP: Who are your inspirations both to do with pans and musically?
AF:I listen to hip hop, reggae and steel pan so my inspirations are Tupac Amaru Shakur, Nas Big L, Jah Cure, Bob Marley, Vybz Katel, Kendrick Larma and Buju Banton. They all have a special talent to be able to provoke emotions, deep thoughts and carry a conscious message of upliftment and positivity through their lyrics and music.
My inspirations from steel pan changes all the time as I have met and played with some amazing pan musicians from all over the world. Justin Russell, Kyron Akal, Matthew Phillip, Andre White, Levi O’Connell, Debi Gardner, Junior Edwards,
Russell Roberts (I have never seen a player roll on a note as good as him its like a drill). Quincy Roberts, very talented player who joined the band for the 2015 panorama. He joined our stage side shortly after. I have been watching him over the last year or so, he plays most of the pan instruments and can also plays the drum kit, he also has arranged a song for the stage side and the adult class, he is a huge asset to the band and one of the tenor section leaders for panorama 2017. You can expect bigger things from him in the years to come.
Leon Foster Thomas, Bullet, Danger and this guy from Trinidad and Tobago called, Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe, I am not sure if you know who he is but he can play a little. I got the chance to share the stage with him not only at the UK Steelband National Panorama in London but also at a show we did with the BBC Royal Symphony Orchestra for her Majesty at the Queen’s Jubilee. Boogsie also played a solo, which had everyone on their feet and accompanied by huge cheers from the orchestra as well. These players have inspired and pushed me. I wish I could play half as good as some of them
This year, while playing with Phase 11 Pan Groove, I met a player called Kwesi Paul, his approach to playing, learning and teaching; blew my mind. The way he plays and breaks down the music was a big eye opener.
Musical arrangers: Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe, his music is like no other. He has somehow managed to be at the top of his craft for over 3 decades and is my favourite arranger has given us some of the best panorama arrangements ever. His music moves my soul
Clive Bradley, my second favourite arranger, but some days he is my favourite (don’t tell Sharpe I said that), he takes simple music and just makes magic his bass lines and minor jams raise the pores on my skin. I am devastated I never got to meet him or play one of his arrangements
Andre White (my little bro) is the only other arranger’s music that gives me goose bumps. I could go on and on about how much I have learnt from him and the impact he has had on me as well as the whole of Mangrove. In 2006, I met him in Trinidad. We were in Renegades pan yard we just got talking and became friends; a year later we met again in Trinidad, this time we were playing together in Phase 11 Pan Groove. I got a bit annoyed, as he seemed to be picking up the song with ease; he was a really good player even back then. For me, he is the next best thing bar none (he won’t like me saying this and would be humble). He only just turned 27 and has achieved so much, not only in pan. As a musician and composer you just have to listen to the bands around the world you can hear the influence he has had on so many. He will continue to do great things for many many more years to come.
PP: What are your hopes for pan in the UK?
AF:This might get me in trouble but if you know me I don’t mind trouble. My hopes for pan in the UK are to move forward we seem to be stuck in the 90’s; things have not changed after much promise and 'talk' we seem to be going backwards. We need new blood, we need change, and we need people that can bring change.
We have people here doing amazing work for pan (e.g. Kyron Akal, Shareen Gray and many more) it’s time to let them take over, both young and old working together would be a great. There is a place for everyone but right now, let the youth lead and let’s try and do more for pan, a few blockoramas and a panorama in a venue that is not fit for use, is not good enough. We all know things have gone backwards but yet continue to do the same thing over and over again. An officially recognised accreditation for steelpan would be a nice start.
PP: What is your vision for pan in the future in the UK and Globally?
AF:I am a good friend with players from all over the world. When I speak to them, we seem to have the same problems, lack of money, lack of people with vision and the main thing seems to be the people at the head of the associations who have run their course but for one reason or the other they just won’t let go and let the youth help to move things forward to the next stage. My vision is to see the instrument we all love so much flourishes and be seen, as more than a little thing we play with bright coloured shirts and straw hats. Again, officially recognised accreditation is something that is wanted and needed.
PP:What are your musical aspirations for the future?
AF:Short term, to win the UK National Panorama 2017 competition and maybe learn to play a different pan. Long term I would to see Mangrove win the next ten (10) UK National Panorama competitions in a row. Hopefully do some more tours. I’m dying to go to the far east again. Help develop the generation coming through at Mangrove we have some AMAZING young players coming through that I would love to see playing in the big band in the near future.
PP: What do you think needs to happen in the UK for the steelpan instrument and its culture to be more widely recognised on all musical platforms.
AF:Again, I hope nobody takes offence but once the leadership of the BAS changes the people waiting to come in already have plans for these exact issues for years now. I have sat and spoken to many players and bandleaders about this and once the changes happen, the rest will follow.