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Carl Rodney (1940-2024): steel pan man

Quiet and professional: Carl Rodney (Photograph supplied)

A steel pan musician whose career included a favourite Bermudian act brought music to the island from his native Trinidad in the 1960s, and never left.

Carl Rodney unleashed his skills with the Caribbean art form as a member of the Esso Steel Band, a popular group from Trinidad that began playing in Bermuda in the 1950s and eventually headquartered on the island.

Mr Rodney also played solo and in self-named groups, as well as the Latin and calypso group Mangroves.

He was brother to steel pan virtuoso Earl Rodney, who died last December as a revered figure in Trinidad.

Across decades, Mr Rodney’s music could be heard in the island’s hotel and club venues during a time when tourism boomed, and the unique sound of steel pan exploded in popularity with overseas audiences.

More recently, Mr Rodney was a regular at Harbour Nights in Hamilton.

A Pan-Jazz Music Festival in 2013 was held in honour of his contributions.

Steel pan originated in Trinidad and Tobago, where it holds a place as the national instrument.

The player, known as a pannist, creates music using a percussion instrument fashioned from steel drum containers.

The sound, which has its roots in African drumming, is heavily associated with Caribbean and Latin music, particularly calypso.

Dale Butler, a former Minister of Community Affairs and Sport, recalled Mr Rodney as “a quiet, very professional gentleman who took his music seriously and always seemed to enjoy himself”.

Mr Butler, an author and historian of Bermudian music, added: “He presented the best that he could to his audience. He should be remembered and admired for his contributions to music.”

James “Junior” Martinez, a friend and fellow steel pan artist who played with Mr Rodney in the Esso Steel Band, said Mr Rodney came to Bermuda with a different band and took to the island.

“After the Esso Steel Band disbanded, we did many private functions and gigs together over the years,” Mr Martinez recalled.

“I knew him as being a gentle, beautiful soul, a wonderful person who never spoke ill of anyone, and a very talented musician.

“He came from a musical family in Trinidad. He was one of the nicest people I ever met – just a decent human being.”

He said Mr Rodney’s passion as a full-time musician extended to the guitar, on which he became an accomplished player.

Mr Martinez said: “We had a lot of fun together in the Esso Steel Band, playing together, travelling together.

“They have almost all predeceased him. Now it’s just me and Rudy Commissiong, the leader of the band, who lives in Massachusetts. We are the last men standing.”

• Carl Rodney, a musician with the Esso Steel Band, was born on March 16, 1940. He died in May 2024, aged 84

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Published May 27, 2024 at 7:57 am (Updated May 27, 2024 at 7:56 am)

Carl Rodney (1940-2024): steel pan man

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