Thursday 28 May, 2020

Bajan saxophonist Elan Trotman: Ordinary man, extraordinary talent

Bajan saxophonist, Elan Trotman

Bajan saxophonist, Elan Trotman

“I knew from a young age that I had something special and that music came naturally for me.”

Sax sensation Elan Trotman on his longstanding love affair with music.

He describes himself as an ordinary guy, but if you’ve been lucky enough to hear him play, you’ll know that he’s anything but.

He was first introduced to the piano at the age of six, when his parents, wanting to keep their sometimes rambunctious son mentally stimulated and out of trouble, enrolled him in a host of extracurricular activities.

Elan said it wasn’t long before his music teachers realised that his was a special gift.

“I memorised the music faster than anyone else and then I would also get rid of the music and start interpreting it in my own way and changing it.”

He didn’t pick up a saxophone until he was 12 years old, but Elan says when he first acknowledged the power of music, there was no doubt that it would forever play an integral role in his life.

Unlike many other jobs that have strict guidelines that must be followed for objectives to be met, he said music represents freedom, encourages creativity and allows you to say what you want to say, the way you want to say it.

“When I started to perform in public and saw how people were responding… actually getting paid to perform as a teenager doing little events here and there, winning some competitions and you know feeling a little bit like a star, that feeling, that adrenaline rush, you get that energy you feel like wow! People are actually paying attention to what I am doing and I have the ability to change someone’s day with what I do. My job has the power to make someone feel happy or sad or put them in a certain frame of mind, when I learned that, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

Elan Trotman covering Kes' 2018 hit, Hello

As a recording artist, Elan has topped the Billboard Radio Charts over ten times, but when asked to share one of the highlights of his career, without a moment’s hesitation he said the opportunity to share the stage with some of his childhood heroes.

“I’ve played with some really big names, people I consider my idols from when I was younger, people who when I was growing up I never thought I’d be on the same stage as them or even performing with them. Obviously Jeffrey Osborne is someone I’ve worked with on numerous occasions and you know, to play songs like On The Wings Of Love with him, you know I heard that song when I was around 10 or 12 years old and I never thought that I would ever meet the person singing the song further more perform it with him over a dozen times. That’s just one example of moments that I’ll always remember, not necessarily because I was star-struck, but just to show how things can come full circle.”

As a fledgling in the industry, Elan says he was fortunate to have the support and guidance of Arturo Tappin, a fellow Bajan and Saxophonist who had already earned international recognition and was regarded as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

He said: “I always knew about him obviously but once I started playing the sax I became his shadow. I’d go to all of his concerts, I’d go over to his house and get free lessons. I just really tried to mimic what he was doing musically on the horn and the way he was dressed and all that. He was the only person I really had access to as far as being a mentor as someone playing on the world stage. He really took me under his wing and prepared me for Berklee, once I got the scholarship from the government. He’s definitely like a big brother to me.”

Elan said the Government of Barbados was also instrumental in the advancement of his career.

Elan performing Tradewinds off his Tropicality album at Jazz Artistes on the Greens

He’s now determined to pay it forward.

He founded the Head Start Music Programme which he says allows him to invest in the youth of Barbados the way the government invested him.

The programme caters to children between the ages of 7 and 11 years old.

Every year Elan raises funds to pay tutors, so students can access instruments and participate in the 15-week programme free of charge.

“I know what music meant to me, it kept me off the street. I lost my mother when I was young, that’s something you probably didn’t know about me, so music helped to keep me grounded. I wasn’t big into sport but it helped me to find something that allowed me to be me, so I know the importance of music and music education so that’s my way of giving back. If not for the Ministry of Education in Barbados I wouldn’t have gone to Berklee…”

Now positioned as one of the Caribbean’s most in-demand musicians, he stressed the importance of newcomers being ready to put in the work.

He said the music industry is not for the faint at heart.

“The culture now is to go viral and be an overnight success and not put in the preparation and you know the hours of studying and practicing for when the moment presents itself. You can never over-prepare for anything that’s what I’ve learnt over the years.”

Elan said the music industry is not without its challenges but he could never give it up.


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