Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 22nd 2013 Contents B30
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt September 22, 2013
Q: You quit music and sold off your
equipment a few years ago. Yet
here you are, seven years after
your last concert with Élan Parlé, back on
A: After 25 years in the music busi-
ness, it is still a constant struggle
to find ways to respectfully express
and share my music while gaining recognition
and earning a living wage for my work.
Trinidad is a desert when it comes to appre-
ciation for creativity. We're expected to pro-
duce today, throw away tomorrow and pro-
duce more the following day.
And while other industries receive funding,
incentives and infrastructure to help them
develop, in Trinidad we use and then discard
creative people. Most of our artistes die in
poverty and obscurity.
Selling my stuff was like a purging of sort.
I tried to convince myself that “I done with
dis music ting” and to go and get a “real”
job, as they say. It seems so easy to be corrupt
in this country and make loads of money
without conscience. But I wasn’t brought up
that way, so I continue to do what I feel is
my purpose. I have a deep love for this coun-
try, and I consider what I do as my contri-
bution to a better T&T.
What has changed about the band’s sound
since it was founded in 2000?
When the band started in 2000, we were
a four-piece group: bass, drums, keys and
guitar. The strength of the early recordings
was the guitar, primarily of deceased guitarist
Wayne Cottoy, with contributions from Tony
Voisin and Theron Shaw. We have not had
a resident guitarist since around 2004.
Flautist David Bertrand filled the void left
by Wayne and we introduced his flute and
electronic wind instrument (EWI) playing
into our sound. Since he left the group in
2009 to attend school abroad, we’ve per-
formed and recorded as a trio (bass, drums
and keys), which resulted in our last album,
Jazzalypso. With this concert, we will try to
explore the music from each of those peri-
You promised a full repertoire of Élan
Parlé’s hits for this show. What are some
of your biggest ones and what surprises can
the audience expect in the performances?
We’re definitely going to play some of our
more popular tunes like Sambo and Just
Another F in Jam. However, we will also debut
two new songs from the soon-to-be-released
I am Élan Parlé album titled Port-of-Spain
and Eastern Bull. We’ll also hopefully do some
mash-ups in the set.
Who’s performing with the band for the
show, and what would you say each brings
to the table?
The band consists of Richard Joseph on
drums, Rodney Alexander on bass and myself
on keyboards. We’re augmented by Modupe
Onilu on percussion, Dean Williams on
acoustic and electric guitars and Anthony
Woodroffe Jr on flute, sax and clarinet. On
vocals is former Charlie’s Roots vocalist Ker-
Richie is Mr Dependable. He’s been around
the band since the beginning and is the only
player to have performed on all the albums
to date. He is also the man behind the graphic
design and layout for our albums, posters
Rodney is a really humble guy, great per-
sonality, a grooving bass player and again
dependable. He pulled us out of a jam on an
overseas tour two years ago when the former
bass player opted out at the last minute. He
has been my go-to bass player ever since.
Modupe is a bright, young and upcoming
musician, son of deceased master drummer
Ja Jah Onilu. He is bold and isn’t afraid to
put himself out there to try to achieve his
goals. He’s played with us on and off since
Anthony is another young musician who
is driven to attainment. He’s played with me
on and off since 2010. He is progressive in
his musical thinking and he is equally at home
on the complete range of reeds and wood-
winds and that makes him an asset to any
aggregation. I have had the pleasure of playing
with both his father Anthony Woodroffe Sr
(trumpeter) and his father’s cousin Tony
Woodroffe (drummer, of Fireflight fame), both
of whom have contributed to my development
as a musician and a bandleader.
I’ve known of Dean Williams since Guitar
Wars back in the 80s. Our paths have crossed
over the decades while he played in various
bands, and I played in others. This is his first
performance with Élan Parlé. Dean brings a
wealth of experience and musical knowledge,
a myriad of styles and tones. He can go from
acoustic to jazz to rock, representing each
with the required effect.
Kerwyn is a great friend from my days
with Charlie’s Roots and one of the most
underrated performers here in Trinidad. He
is very interactive with the crowd, and we’re
hoping to bring that interactivity to Queen’s
Hall on September 28.
Is Ming going to sing?
Maybe. But not in the way you might think.
I guess you’ll have to be there to see.
One of the country’s best-loved jazz bands is set to stage This is Élan Parlé, its first concert in almost a
decade, on September 28 at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s. LISA ALLEN-AGOSTINI interviewed Élan Parlé’s
bandleader, composer and keyboardist Michael “Ming” Low Chew Tung, about the show.
Making music in a desert
Élan Parlé bandleader Michael
“Ming” Low Chew Tung, right,
and Anthony Woodroffe Jr.
PHOTO COURTESY ÉLAN PARLÉ
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