Fimber Bravo

The Trinidadian artist has lived in Britain since the 1970s and has used his instrument to fight oppression ever since. His latest album is the latest chapter in a life of resistance. Many people in Britain associate the steelpan with carnival. However, historically, it was born out of resistance. Fimber Bravo, a Trinidadian pan legend, recounts the origins of the steelpan on the fiery protest track “Can’t Control Me”. He starts with the ban on oil drum playing in 19th century Britain by British colonial oppressors. Then, in 1934, the tamboo bamboo, which was the precursor of the steelpan, was outlawed. Players of the pan – a chromatically-pitched percussion drum – were imprisoned by colonial police in the 1950s, but the steelpan persisted. Bravo was part of the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago’s late ’60s. Bravo enjoyed its joyful and defiant sound. Bravo says that “Can’t Control Me” has a lot meaning. He is speaking from Tooting, London. Bravo also mentions the resonance the song has with the Black Lives Matter movement. Bravo, a member of the 20th Century Steel Band who arrived in the UK in 1971, was competing against Marti Caine and Lenny Henry, a stand-up comedian from Dudley. After a long tour of Europe and Africa, the band disbanded. However, the conscious lyrical intro to the band’s song ‘Heaven and Hell Is on Earth’ was later used by Grandmaster Flash and J-Lo on “Jenny From The Block”, giving it an afterlife that reality TV contestants can only dream about. Bravo left the band and joined Steel ‘n Skin in Kilburn, an arts-based community project that fuses music from Africa with West Indies. This further expanded the possibilities of the steelpan. “I was working with people who were poor and couldn’t afford to see shows. Bravo continues to invent. We would do workshops on African dancing, drumming, and cooking. He has released Lunar Tredd, his second album with Moshi Moshi. It features regular collaborators like Zongamin and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. Kadialy Kouyate (kora player) is another collaborator with whom he has been collaborating since 2004.

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