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Baker's Dozen

Panning For Gold: Fimber Bravo's Favourite Music
Zakiya Mckenzie , March 3rd, 2021 10:13

In this week's Baker's Dozen, Zakiya Mckenzie speaks to steel pan legend Fimber Bravo about his favourite music, from Aretha Franklin to Stormzy and Johnny Cash; Sun-Ra, Hot Chip and Miles Davis


Winifred Atwell & Pan Am North Stars – Ivory & Steel
Winifred Atwell is probably the most successful black artiste you’ve never heard of. Born in Trinidad, she trained in piano at the Royal College of Music in London in the early 1950s. Winnie became the first black musician, male or female, to top the UK Singles chart in 1956. As popular as she was, I didn’t know about her back in Trinidad when I was a teenager playing with the Pan Am North Stars. Steel pan music was still in its baby stages and I remember the first time I played with them in 1966 on Bombay Street, Port of Spain – you could feel the music all through your pores. We had a contract with the American base on the island and, under the leadership of Tony Williams, we mastered classical pieces from Strauss, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and so on. In 1969, Winifred Atwell proposed a tour with us. We rehearsed solidly for three months like athletes at peak fitness. Before going to the US with Winnie, we had a free concert in the main Woodford Square in Port of Spain. It was packed inside and all around. The support and pride in us, black sons and daughter of Trinidad, playing the concertos of Mozart, was wild. One of my neighbours from the village was so moved by the concert that he gave me his only watch. We travelled to the US selling out Carnegie Hall in late 1969 performing Ivory And Steel, the album that we did together. This is the only one that I know of that she composed herself. Winnie focused on playing the European classics, but she was brilliant with Pan Am North Stars on steel pan. We were brilliant together, creating a really unique sound. People were stunned that a steel pan from an oil drum could match any instrument playing classical music. Winifred Atwell was a real star.