Ezekiel Yearwood AKA Biggs
Ezekiel “Biggs” Yearwood
169 Brook Road.
Tel 0208 806 4578
Ezekiel “Biggs” Yearwood was born 12 February 1935 in St Vincent, West Indies.
He came to England in 1965 and settled in east London working for Ford Motor Company.
His steelpan career began after meeting steelpan tutor Gerald Forsyth who inspired him to become involved in the steelpan’s emergence in London. He started to teach steelpans in schools and also performed semi-professionally as the bass player in The Merry Makers steelband.
It was with the Merry Makers that he acquired first hand knowledge of tuning pans by experimentation. He then progressed from teaching to concentrate solely on making and tuning pans. With contacts made during his teaching career and playing semi-professionally, he was able to use this network as a vehicle to establish his work as a pan tuner.
One of his customers, a steelpan tutor from Leeds – Raymond Joseph, struck a great partnership with Yearwood after being invited to London to stay at his home in order to further his career.
In 1988, they teamed up to form the Pantonic Steel Orchestra after being contacted by Anslem Samuel, a youth worker for Hackney Council, who found some disused steelpans. In 1994 and again in 1995 Pantonic was placed second in the annual Panorama Steelpan Competition. Unfortunately Joseph passed away in 1992.
Yearwood, the pan maker was known not only in London but in other towns and cities throughout England. His name was synonymous with acquiring steelpans because of the quality of his instruments and his tuning spoke for itself.
However, because of his unselfish nature, Yearwood began to tutor a new generation of pan tuners. He eventually enlisted his son Grafton, after much persuasion, and he is now an accomplished international steelpan tuner.
Yearwood passed away on 13 September 2007. Word of his family’s loss spread throughout the Pan World almost immediately.
Source Panpodium via When Steel Talks
The steel pan community in Europe lost a great pan tuner and tireless worker within the British steel pan community.
Biggs Yearwood, age 72, died in the early hours of Thursday 13th September 2007.
He was without doubt one of the finest pan tuners of his generation and an inspiration to many. Biggs was everything that is best in our fraternity, a strong able body, a sharp mind, wide and awe-inspiring as the Kaieteur Falls when it came to skills when making steel pans. And in the opinion of the pan tuners who were very close to him, to name a few – Riley Maynard, Haslam Paris, Tony Charles, Toussaint Clarke, Gerald Forsyth, Eamon Thorpe, Sterling Betancourt, Dudley Dickson and Grafton Yearwood – he was second to none.
Biggs grew up in St Vincent, in the Caribbean where he learnt to play the steel pan and also honed his skills as a tuner. He arrived in Britain as a young man with aspirations of making a better life for himself. He worked in the Fords in Dagenham, then as a peripatetic steel pan music teacher in London’s schools, and later as a full time pan tuner for which he has had his greatest success. He was the founder of Pantonic Steel Band which is one of the oldest steel bands in East London.
Pantonic was a top steel band in its days, achieving two second places at the UK National Panorama (steel band) competition under his leadership. Biggs unselfishly was instrumental in passing on the tuning skills to Grafton, Terrance, Kerry, Roger, and many more.
Gary Trotman and the miracle steel drums
Here I am pictured playing a set of Double Seconds steeldrums which i purchased from Biggs back in the early 1990’s
I call them mu miracle babies, because since the day I took delivery, they have never been tuned nor blended … never seen a hammer!! veteran of 1000’s of performances and even Studio recordings with music sold world wide.
The AutoStrobe™ 590 is our most popular tuner for Steelpan tuning. It’s a true mechanical strobe tuner which can operate automatically or manually, and includes a 5 octave tone generator. It is capable of displaying fundamental and partial tones necessary for making quality Steelpan instruments.