Meet Earl Brooks Jr. – Performer, Instructor, Arranger
“The instrument is amazing as it is; however, it is the organizations and those in power that give it the wrong attention. – Earl Brooks Jr.
The name “Brooks” resonates deeply and strongly in Pan’s world. There’s the iconic Earl Brooks Sr., and his son Earl Brooks Jr. who forged his own path to greatness. Plus, Brooks Jr. secured his accessories the old-fashioned way – he earned it.
With a touch as soft as felt, like Muhammad Ali – he can float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, as he performs the most difficult musical passages. Indeed, thoughtful and forward-thinking Earl Brooks, Jr., through his experiences, musical excellence and skills, brings a lot to the table. And that bodes well for the next generation of steelpan musicians. Earl Brooks Jr. talks succinctly about his love for the pot, his father Earl Brooks, Sr., and more, in this exclusive When Steel Talks interview.
WST – “Tell us a little bit about Earl Brooks Jr.?”
Earl B. Jr. – “Born to Gail and Earl Sr. in April 1989. The first documented performance was at the age of three (3) at SWWTU Hall, Wrightson Road, Trinidad. Assisted Music Makers led by
Merle Albino-de Coteau, Primary – St Joseph Boys RC; Secondary – Trinity College East, then
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA in the summer of 2010. “
WST – “When and how did you first become associated with the steelpan instrument?”
Earl B. Jr. – “From the start, because my father was one of the first steelpan pioneers and an ambassador of culture.
WST – “What was it like growing up as the son of a man (Earl Brooks Sr.), considered by many to be one of the best pan performers?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “Difficult, being overshadowed by so much grandeur, so creating my own image was difficult. However, when I immigrated to the United States, I started to think about it and seek mentorship. It was then that I noticed that I love my dad for what he has done and done for the culture.
WST – “You are panist, instructor, artist and arranger. Is there a preference among these disciplines for you?
Earl B. Jr. – “To be honest I would say be an artist. I am able to freely create and transmit my emotions through my art.
Earl Brooks Jr.
WST – “What keeps your passion for instrument and music going?”
Earl B. Jr. – “The desire to see the instrument respected in multiple forums and my passion for music comes from my passion for the instrument.
WST – “If you had the power to change something in Pan immediately, what would it be?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “The instrument is amazing as it is; however, it is the organizations and those in power that give it the wrong attention.
WST – “What were you most proud of about Pan?”
Earl B. Jr. – “The growing number of people becoming aware of the instrument, as well as taking a liking to the art form.
WST – “What disappoints you the most about the steelband movement?”
Earl B. Jr. – “All.”
WST – “What would you advise the thousands of young panists around the world who dream of following in footsteps like yours?”
Earl B. Jr. – “Ignore the noise, focus on the evolution. There is no limit to your profession, only the ones people ask you to instill.
WST – “You play the pan. Are there other instruments you play?
Earl B. Jr. – “I play drums, marimba, piano and some “hand” percussion.
WST – “Do you have a favorite / favorite pan” voice “to play? Tenor, Double Seconds, Quads, etc. ?
Earl B. Jr. – “Quadraphonic.
WST – “Who, and what are your musical influences?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “Some names to mention are Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Michel Camilo, Fela Kuti, Stevie Wonder, Raymond Anger, Corey Henry, Christian Scott, Jay Cole, Jay Dilla, Derrick Hodge, Chris Dave, Marcus Miller, Joe Cleaveland, Jacob Collier. The use of harmonic structure, voltages and polyrhythms.
WST – “What is your most memorable experience in Pan?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “Too many to mention with my many years of experience and I’m grateful for each of them.
WST – “What is Panorama for you?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “In my humble opinion, it is a failing business as it is now.
Earl Brooks Jr.
WST – “Is Panorama a curse or a blessing from your point of view?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “It’s a balance of the two. “
WST – “Describe your academic experience at Berklee College of Music?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “At first it was discouraging and difficult, but then it became motivating and empowering.
WST – “What do you think of the global changes implemented in Panorama 2020? “
Earl B. Jr. – “It was commendable.
WST – “What do you think is the biggest challenge the steelband musical art form faces in Trinidad and Tobago today?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “The biggest challenge is accountability.
WST – “You have traveled the world focusing on panning.” What did you learn from these experiences? And did any of them stand out? “
Earl B. Jr. – “As I travel the world as a musician, I have learned that music is an ever-changing language. I have been introduced to many cultures and traditions, and have acquired so much knowledge and good friends along the way.
WST – “What is your vision of the steelpan instrument?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “So that Pan is respected as an instrument and not just noise and payday for some.
WST – “The Steelpan musical art form is obviously an important part of your life. What are your personal expectations or dreams with you and pan in the near future? “
Earl B. Jr. – “My Baby, Brooks Art Academy premiered in February 2020 and will launch online soon. It is a refuge for underdeveloped and disadvantaged youth. They will learn music and percussion through the art form of steelpan while learning about the cultures and traditions of the Caribbean diaspora.
WST – “What do you know now, you would have liked to know years ago?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “Health is wealth and music is language.
WST – “What made you choose ‘Thriller’ as your last night performance at the PanoGrama competition, where you triumphed? “
Earl B. Jr. – “The song was instrumental in the complete showcase package.
WST – “How does it feel not to have a live audience during the competition?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “There was no difference as my main focus was performance and entertainment.
Earl Brooks Jr. Performs in PanoGrama Semifinals – “Sir Duke”
WST – “Were there any technological challenges / concerns at any given time, regarding the presentation of your best possible presentation during the different phases of the competition? And have there been any lessons learned? “
Earl B. Jr. – “There was no challenge from my end, but I learned ways to experiment with audio from the competition.
WST – “Do you foresee larger groups participating in a PanoGrama type format?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “Yes, most definitely.
WST – “You and your father have a unique bearing style. Did Earl Sr. teach you the technique or did you understand it by ear? “
Earl B. Jr. – “My dad has a unique playing style and I always wanted to get along with my dad even at a young age, so I focused on emulating his approach to the instrument.
WST – “You arranged with your father for Hatters Steel Orchestra for Panorama 2020. Talk about the co-arrangement process with him?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “I produced the model and while organizing I was lucky enough to have my father’s ear to guide me. He made it clear if he didn’t like something and suggested changes with respect.
WST – “Can you compare learning music at Berklee to learning in a panyard?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “The difference is that in Berklee you are educated while in most cooking classes you are educated.
Earl Brooks Jr.
WST – “How has the pandemic affected your approach to the music business?” “
Earl B. Jr. – “Dramatically, because steelpan is considered an interactive activity.
WST – “How has COVID-19 affected you and the pan community?”
Earl B. Jr. – “It has banned many scheduled shows and events. Not to mention the possibility of rehearsing or having a musician jam.
WST – “Are there any other steelband issues that you would like to raise? “
Earl B. Jr. – “Creating a union and having a standard level of professionalism are the two that I suggest.
WST – “What’s next for Earl Brooks Jr.?”
Earl B. Jr. – “As mentioned before, online launch of the school, exit from my first project and live through entrepreneurship.
on Earl Brooks Jr.
photos provided by Earl Brooks Jr.