LEGENDARY MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST Bayo Bello‘s name is synonymous with the Steel Pan or Steel Drum, an organic melodious percussion instrument originating in Trinidad, made out of an oil drum with one end beaten down and divided by grooves into sections to give different notes.
He is the only known African professional Steel Pannist or Steel Pan Player in the US/Diaspora. Extremely talented, Bayo Bello was surrounded heavily by music while growing up in Lagos, Nigeria where he hails from, he also plays the Saxophone, Keys, Percussions, Flute, Vocals, Guitar and maybe some more that we might not even be aware of.
As a young lad, he was a regular known face at Fela Kuti’s organization and had internal access to the afrobeat pioneer’s presence, music and library where he was heavily influenced by his PanAfrican values and outlook. Bayo Bello’s musical journey started when he enrolled at the renowned Peter King College of Music in Nigeria and was the first student ever admitted into the school. He later became a member of the PK Band playing Afro Jazz music, sometimes covering other instruments when the musicians were MIA. He toured various parts of the country with the PK Band and established a stage presence while developing his musical skills tremendously. Peter King will remain his most impactive musical mentor till date.
He moved to the US in 1984 to continue his education at the Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) where he studied Accounting. He co-formed a band called Tyehimba while he was there. The band played Highlife, Reggae and traditional African songs. He then picked up playing the Steelpan with Pan People Steel Band in Atlanta and became the Arranger for the Band.
He later played with numerous bands like Addis Ababa (a Reggae band), Panorama Steel Band, Tropical Steel, Mombasa and Songhai International before forming his own band – Crucial Vibes in 1994. Crucial Vibes performed cross-genre music including Highlife, Reggae, Calypso, Soca, Jazz and Bossa Nova. Crucial Vibes was the resident Band for the Jamaica Tourist Board, Air Jamaica and the Jamaican Olympic Contingent. In all the bands, he played multiple instruments including the Saxophone, Pan (Steel Drums), Rhythm Guitar, Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Flute and Percussions. Bayo has performed in numerous venues and festivals including the Montreux International Jazz Festival at Piedmont Park, March of Dimes, Cherry Blossom and others in different states.
He took a pause from making and performing music to focus on fatherhood and raising his two children who are now young adults, a decision he made with no regrets. In the meantime, he changed career paths to become a software engineer/developer while music took a back seat. In 2021, with motivation from Atlanta based Nigerian Singer/Songwriter, Tosinger, he was inspired to come back to the music scene and together they formed a collective duo/band named ‘ABiKE Music’ He plays the steel pan with so much spirit and soul as a soloist with a unique twist, a rare occurrence with steel band players who usually play in a group or orchestra setting.
Here is an interview where Bayo speaks more about his musical journey.
Bayo is currently working on producing and releasing original recorded music soon. He plays tennis and dances Salsa in his spare time, in fact, he is very well known in the Latin Dance community in Atlanta. What a renaissance man!
Follow on IG @bayobellomusic