Renaldo Griffith doesn’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t involved in music.
The energetic self-taught drummer who joined the C.O Williams House of Soca calypso tent when he was 15 years old, loves music, loves Crop-Over, and loves soca, and not necessarily in that order.
In an interview with Nation Online, he said when he was two years old, he played on the little drum set his mum had. He played at his graduation from nursery school, at primary and secondary school and while going to church with his aunt.
So, it was no surprise to anyone that the leader of Ultra The Band, a backing band for numerous artistes at various entertainment events, became a drummer.
“I just love music! My mom was always supportive; when I was at St Mary’s Primary school, I used to play with a steel pan group. From young I also played with the Reddi Panners, the Barbados Light & Power steelpan group. At St Leonard’s Boys’ School though, I was just practising and played with the school band sometimes.
“At primary school, I knew I wanted to be a fulltime musician. I wanted to be in steelpan, but I also wanted to be the drummer and have the opportunity to grasp the big stage. I used to have people saying, ‘why you want to be a drummer, they’re a million drummers out there and it’s hard to get out as a drummer’. I said, ‘well, I’m going to prove you all wrong’. That motivated me to put in a lot of work. I have a love for the drums and bass, but I can’t play bass,” said the 24-year-old.
Developing his skills by listening to songs, playing along, and trying different things, he said it was musician and teacher Pernell Farley who told him about playing in the tent.
“I knew nothing about reading [music]. My drum set wasn’t a proper one to carry but I got the opportunity to play in the tent. My first rehearsal at tent, I turned up with just a pedal and a snare because I didn’t know you had to walk with a drum set,” he said laughing at the memory.
“All that’s part of the learning process. That made me laugh. Everyone asked what happened and I said I didn’t know I had to have a drum set. The next day my mum and Mr Roger Jordan, the band leader, took me … to purchase a drum kit.
“At 15, I was not afraid. I always had a lot of confidence. I have no shame in the world. Everyone in the tent was supportive. [Tent manager] Sharon Carew-White who I call mum in respect, guided me a lot and still does up to this day. She has done a lot for me, she trusted me. I couldn’t read music (he played by ear) and I have to say kudos to the band members for being supportive and trusting in me,” he said.
Renaldo, who graduated from the music programme at the Barbados Community College, enjoys playing in the tent. He’s never viewed playing 36 calypsos prior to 2019 as tedious or anything other than his job.
“Sometimes you may be tired from [another activity/event] before the tent, but I enjoy music and I believe in having a strong work ethic and depending on where you level yourself, nothing is difficult. I believe it’s always a mind thing; whatever you put your mind to, you’re capable of getting it done.”
A “big fan” of Edwin Yearwood and Adrian Clarke, Renaldo said Ultra The Band which comprises Trevaughn Cyrus, Andrew Yearwood, female keyboardist Danielle Brathwaite, and engineer Ronald Taylor, whom he said helped him along his musical journey, will be playing at various events this Crop-Over season.
He believes that young musicians must be playing at “a certain standard and quality”, that they “need to put in the work to get the call” to play at big events because “being experienced in this field is one thing but you can’t just jump to the big stage. It ain’t easy,” he said resolutely. (GBM)