On the Double-Second in the Bahamas, October 2000


PLACE OF BIRTH: La Brea, Trinidad
EDUCATION: St. Mary's Primary School, Carapichaima
STEELBANDS: •  Southern Symphony (1940s - 1951)
•  TASPO (1951)
  • Tuner
  • Player
  • Arranger
  • CAREER:                                       Growing up in a musical family, Bonaparte learned to play the tenor saxophone and read music. He began his steelband career playing and arranging for the Southern Symphony steelband, the first steelband in history to perform while reading musical arrangements. He was one of eleven panmen selected to join TASPO as the Trinidad & Tobago representatives at the 1951 Music Festival in England. In the mid-1950s, Southern Symphony gained the first steelband sponsorship in history when it became the Esso Southern Symphony. The band travelled to Cuba in 1958 and, later that year, went to Paris, France.
                                                                While in Paris, the band members (which included his brother Clifford) were bought conventional instruments by a Swiss well-wisher. They formed a dance band with a tenor saxophone, an alto saxophone, clarinets, a trumpet, a guitar, and a bass. In 1961, Bonaparte made the transition from steelband to conventional music and returned to Trinidad with his band, The Bonaparte Brothers. The band would go on to accompany the Mighty Sparrow while Belgrave continued his association with steelbands by arranging for Renegades, Dixieland, and San Juan All Stars. After a disagreement with Sparrow, Belgrave Bonaparte left Trinidad in 1971 to perform on a cruise ship. He landed in Nassau, Bahamas, where he made his living playing in a steelband through his later years.
    Compiled by Ronald C. Emrit