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Laidback guitar man Tony Voisin dies

The trinidad Guardian / Having fallen on ill health in recent years, former Charlie’s Roots guitarist Tony Voisin, 64, passed away on Tuesday. The nephew of late parang queen Daisy Voisin, Tony was the dynamo of the Roots frontline as he slapped his trusted axe in the band’s frontline with late bassist Eldon Oliver, percussionists Clarence Ross and Colin Stephens, drummers Vernon Headley and Vonrick Maynard. Voisin’s musical colleagues will remember him as the laidback guy in the band at the original Roots bandroom at the corner of Oxford and Dundonald Street, Port-of-Spain.

Bassist Albert Bushe and fellow guitarist the late Junior Wharwood subsequently teamed up with Voisin and Roots with the exit of Oliver and guitarist Johnny Blake.

The first Charlie’s Roots tour to North America, Canada to be exact, was in 1978 and Voisin was an important cog in the band’s wheel. That year Calypso Rose won the calypso monarch crown and Road March title, with calypsoes arranged by Roots musical director Pelham Goddard.

A member of the original Charlie’s Roots, Steve Sealey revealed yesterday: “I knew Tony from the origin of Charlie’s Roots as we were both original members. He was always a very nice guy; always batting in his crease. Tony was effective as a laidback musician. He taught young musicians a lot, showing them how to sit down in the pocket of the music and not overplay themselves. Tony was a super friend to everyone. When factions were warring he was the person who would try to bring things together.

“Tony used to bring some very high jokes, and you had to wait a few seconds to get them. But he loved bringing jokes.

“I remember when Tony used to ride a motorbike, along with two other Roots musicians, Clarence and Eldon. After Clarence got in an accident and damaged his hand, Tony realised that his hands were his music and he couldn’t risk falling off a bike and destroying his career. Tony said if he ever got into an accident which hand will play the chords and which will strum. So he gave up the motorbike.

“As a musician I give Tony a nine out of ten. The reason for taking away the one was his inability to be satisfied with what he did or played. Getting affirmation from Pelham (Goddard) was always important to him.

Another dynamic guitarist I met through Tony was the late George Victory who I met playing with The Commodores when they performed at a Spektakula Promotions’ show in the (Queen’s Park) Savannah.”

In a 2014 feature, former Roots vocalist Adrian Philbert said of Voisin: “Tony hated the fragmentation among musicians in general, which is still very much a problem today. He used to say: ‘If music is about love where is the love in the music?’”

Philbert remembered Voisin, so preoccupied with his music, walking around with a music book and always reading literature on guitars. “He was a perfectionist when it came to playing the guitar. And someone who was extremely serious about his career as a musician,” said Philbert.

Goddard described Voisin as “people person” and a “fun-loving guy.” He recalled whenever the band would travel or had a performance, Voisin would be the last person to get on the plane or stage, because he always had to stop and chat with the people or fans who greeted him along the way.

“When he finally reached on the plane we would give him a round of applause,” Goddard told the Guardian.

Voisin spent three decades devoting his time to playing the guitar, not just for the band but his work was featured on so many recordings that have travelled through time, generation to generation.

His work appeared on a range of albums and singles like the late Mighty Duke’s 21st Century Man, Gabby’s ‘Til Now, Gillo’s Ban Fai, Raw Kaiso Volumes One and Two and Big Up, the Grammy-nominated album by British reggae group Aswad. In his spare time he taught music voluntarily at the Birdsong Music School in Tunapuna.

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