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Bertie Marshall Speaks
Bertie Marshall Speaks on the Steelpan

Bertie Marshall Speaks on the Steelpan

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Bertie Marshall and Rudolph Charles

Staff Article
Interview Recorded: March 13, 2005
Posted: March 18, 2005

The relationship started with Rudolph and I through George Yates, the 'red one' they called the Pope. One time their tuner was giving them trouble up in the panyard, so I went up the road and see Rudolph trying to tune a tenor pan. I never like to 'bad-talk' people one time, I said, "but he trying." They said, "Bertie finish dis pan for we." I know it is not a good thing to tell a man, "but yuh going off ah what?", that is killing his sprit. I never liked that. You give him an encouraging tone like, "well yuh going alright yuh know". But the fellahs know that the pan not up to standard, that is why they called me. George Yates is the man who made me go up. And then they started to treat me good too and I went everywhere the band went. I went Cuba, Canada, England and all those places, through the band. The place was very cold. I said, "but Rudolph whey yuh bring meh here for, yuh trying to kill meh?" I was three years older than him, a lot of people felt Rudolph was older than me but that wasn't so. I was about forty-five when I went up there to join the band. Hear this joke, every time I tell him it is my birthday, like if I tell him I am forty-five, he would say, "no, tell dem yuh is thirty-five." I said, "ah cyar do that man, why ah go lie to tell them." He say, "nobody doh tell people dey age" I said, "you believe in obeah or what?" I hear people don't tell other people their age because they will do wrong things by knowing your age. That is why I ask him about the obeah business.

The tuner for Despers before me was an alright fellah, he use to tune alright. He went crazy on what he smoked, so he started to tune some pan that you could not understand. People know when you change, your personal hygiene and other things are lost, and you suffer. He stopped producing the pans, cause the boys found that their pans wasn't up to standard. However he use to make pans that looked neat, the appearance was nice. He understood about the harmonics, because I used to tune a pan in the open. A man could buy a pan and understand what it is I was doing. For instance, if you are a tuner, and you can't understand how Bertie puts the rings on the notes. The ring really is the only octave you are hearing that you know. I used to tune complex, the fundamental with the octave which is a pure octave note, but then I started to put the fifth at the side, so you were getting a more qualified note as far as I was concerned, a complex note, because it has two types of tuning. It has the simple one, which is just the octave, and then the complex one, which is when you put in the fifth or the third according to the height of the note. I believe that is why some bass don't sound good in bands, because they trying to tune it just like a tenor pan. I feel they should use the thirds instead of the fifth, they are trying to put the fifth which squeezes the note too much, so you start to 'pinch the note'. In other words now, you are altering the notes and not conscious of it, and that is what happens. What yuh suppose to have, is a coordination from tenor pan right down to the bass pan.

Because I didn't like what I was hearing, I realized if I don't experiment it won't go any further. You see with Rudolph, if he was alive, pan would have reached a little further because he would have encouraged me. I am waiting on a sponsor now. A partner of mine from Lincoln Enterprises trying to get a sponsor to make up the steel drums. There was another tuner I told about the idea I have about putting a thicker metal for the bass pans and the lower instruments in the background. You don't have that kind of tone in the background. Sometimes a man tuning a cello and the cello sounding like a second pan, or a guitar pan sounding like a second pan. It sounds to high and that is not the proper sound for that. That is one of the lower instruments, it is suppose to have more depth and the only way you could get that depth I believe is by first getting a thicker metal, and using different harmonics so that you don't get that sort of high sound. It seems as if they squeeze in the notes too much. So in other words now, the notes getting too small for it's sound, and they find it sounding nice. What could also happen as a tuner, is that you are tuning a tenor pan all the time and they bring a guitar pan, that could hamper you. You could start to put the same fifth on the guitar pan too. It might be sounding like the low notes to the tenor pan, but when the whole band is playing, that is the problem.


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