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Revisiting -- Musician, educator and arranger Rafael "Raf" Robertson has passed

When Steel Talks extends condolences to the family and friends of music stand-out Raf Robertson.

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Adding my condolences, a reminder of how fragile life could be. I was chatting with him on satruday never knowing that it was the last time.  A great Caribbean musician.

Gone too soon. The music fraternity has lost another giant.



Man this is so unfortunate i will miss his unusual approach to panorama

The Passing of Rafael "Raf" Robertson RIP ~3rd December 2015

Rafael "Raf" Robertson: Musician, educator, arranger & producer.

On behalf of the executive and playing members of Hatters Steel Orchestra; to the family and friends of the late Rafael "Raf" Robertson, musician, educator, arranger & producer; please accept our sincere condolences for the passing of one of TT’s most talented brothers of music.

We extend these sentiments to the pleasingly experimentally brave birdsong and to Vanessa and her southern steelband Golden Hands Steel Orchestra; where both bands are most likely, similarly, experiencing this loss.

Be brave, our sisters and brothers of music; and may our brother "Raf", Rest in Peace.

tobagojo - PRO Hatters - 20151205

To the man and his music. Your music will always shine a light on your life. Condolence to your family, your contribution is well documented in our heart.Thank you for being a great son to Trinidad & Tobago. life is a stage and we are the actors..  

RIP brother and condolences to the family during your time of loss.

I am blessed by Raf's music as he played on my very first composition recorded by Blue Ventures Combo in 1978. "Let's Sing and Dance", which is my tribute to the power of Soca music.

I have a piece of your legacy to personally cherish.



Rapping with Raf

Originally printed at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/commentaries/Rapping-with-Raf-200149...

March 26, 2013

A few weeks ago renowned local musician Raf Robertson held a ‘rap’ session with members of the La Brea Police Youth Club and the NGC La Brea Nightingales Steel Orchestra. The event was part of a novel project by the National Gas Company to strengthen community-based organizations, especially those that promote youth development.

Robertson proved to be an ideal speaker since he is a son-of-the-soil of La Brea and has travelled around the world building an enviable reputation as a top class musician. Despite an impressive resume which includes highly acclaimed performances in Europe, Africa, Asia and the US, Raf remains a humble human being without the pretentious arrogance that afflicts so many artistes. Not surprisingly he stressed the importance of humility in one’s life.

He chose the theme ‘Possibilities’ and began his ‘rap’ with the bold statement that “I have travelled to many countries and Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to be one of the greatest places in the world”. The problem he continued is that “we don’t know how great we can be because we are drowning in a sea of mediocrity”. He lamented that insatiable greed and the so-called ‘eat ah food’ mentality was blinding the nation from seeing the many possibilities that were available especially for the youth. He gave the example of a drowning man clutching desperately to bags of money not realizing that if he let go and freed his arms, he could swim to safety. “I deal with a lot of young people in Trinidad”, he said, “and everything seems to be about money and nothing else matters. It’s sad because if they took the time to develop their talent they could really go places”.

Robertson recalled some of the difficulties he encountered locally when he attempted to complete his latest CD. “I wanted to use local musicians as much as possible, but when I approached one or two, the only thing they asked was, ‘how much you paying?’ It turned me off because they weren’t interested in the music but only in the dollar. I must admit however that, in the past, I have worked with some outstanding local musicians”. He eventually produced the CD which is entitled ‘Majesty’ in Canada.

By way of contrast he spoke about the experience of his son Miles, himself a leading musician in the US. He said that a few years ago his son told him that he was asked to play a ‘studio gig’ for a young unknown female singer. “You taking it?” he asked the younger Robertson. “Yes”, was the reply, “it’s not much money but it will be a good experience and I might learn something.” The young unknown at the time turned out to be superstar Adele and today Miles Robertson is her musical director. Fortunately for him he was able to see possibilities beyond the dollar note. So much so that today he is also the musical director for another superstar, Alicia Keyes.

“You have to be open for opportunities that may come your way,” the elder Robertson told his audience. “Once you feel you are too big to learn or to listen you are setting up yourself to miss out on the possibilities.” To emphasize the point he highlighted experiences from his own past and his days as a student in London. “I always loved music,” he continued, “but my family told me that you cannot survive on music alone and you need something else to fall back on.” 

So young Raf went off to London to study but he was determined to be involved with the music scene and he took a late night job serving tea at a popular recording studio on Bond Street. “The pay was small,” he said, “but I wanted to be around top musicians and to learn from them. I wanted to see how they operated and to imitate their attitude because having the right attitude is the key to success.” Raf stressed that a major element of the right attitude was humility and that if a person lacked humility he or she could miss out on many opportunities for success. He argued that arrogance and an over-inflated ego could prevent someone from capitalizing on possibilities for self-development. He explained that young musicians came to him all the time and they asked him to teach them ‘the tricks of the trade’. “I tell them,” he said with a mischievous smile, “forget the tricks, learn the trade!”

Raf Robertson is obviously someone who is comfortable and secure in his own skin and does not need to be constantly in the limelight surrounded by sycophants and hangers-on. His contract as a music teacher at the University of Trinidad and Tobago recently came to an end and has not been renewed. He is not unduly worried because as he told the people of La Brea that “I have succeeded because I believe in myself and you also have to believe in yourselves. It just doesn’t work otherwise.” 

His quiet self-confidence is in stark contrast to the loud and boastful facade that others, with far less credentials, seek to promote. It is a genuine humility that is based on a profound faith in his people and his music. As the renowned Irish writer CS Lewis wrote many years ago, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

• Richard Braithwaite is a 
management consultant


I met Raf when I came home to visit in 2013. I was enamored and impressed with Raf the man just as much as the musician. Raf is one of the most critical thinkers I ever had the good fortune to converse with on the local scene. He genuinely enjoyed and engaged in a wide variety of topics especially involving political and humanistic concerns not to mention the obvious - music. I was shocked to learn of his passing at such an early age - we can only be grateful for the contribution his music has made and his legacy, short but profound.

Rest In Peace Raf.  You leave behind your contribution to music and will live on with us forever.


Something adventitious that has survived un-sayable conditions to arrive in its own right and legacy- a musical form identical to the resolve of a people to recapture the strains of their ancestral voice beyond bewildering extremes of psyche bemusement – makes its presence felt in the fulfilling genius of our virtual musician, Raf Robertson.

LeRoy Clarke

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