Sugar Belly Walker and his Bamboo Saxophone
One of the leading lights of the Jamaican music scene in the 1950s was Wilfred Fitzgerald Walker, better known as Sugar Belly. Sugar Belly built his own saxophone-like instrument of bamboo, cardboard and tin. With no formal music education, he taught himself to play it with facility, style, passion and joy. The popular music of the day was a style called mento, closer in mood to the easy good-times feel of the old Trinidadian calypso than to the Jamaican ska and reggae that were to come later, and even when he later played reggae, Sugar Belly always had that fluid, swaying feel of the older music.
Excerpt from Shake Up Adina, played by Sugar Belly Walker
An article on Sugar Belly and other bamboo saxophone makers appeared in the Experimental Musical Instruments (Dec 1993). Sugar Belly’s irresistible Shake Up Adina was one of the tunes included in CD collection Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones, while more information on the man, his life and his music appear in the accompanying book. You can hear an excerpt from that track by using the sound tool above.