Modern UK steel band music
Defining your own music can be a veritable minefield. This is because, if you differ greatly from your audience’s perception of it, you run the risk of sounding pretentious! Therefore, we just hope ours reflects our history and the music we enjoy listening to and playing outside the band.
It’s important to note what distinguishes us from other steel bands, musically. For one thing, most of our musicians also have a second instrument we play at a professional level. Furthermore, we also love to communicate musically with each other in performance in an organic, improvised way. Whilst not all of us are jazz fans, we do share the musical sensibilities of jazz musicians we like. All of whom were or are also great entertainers! Although our style of playing defines us musically, so does the music we play. Because of the folk roots of the steel pan we would still define it mostly as ‘Caribbean Folk’. Post-internet it is often labelled as ‘World Music’ or ‘Global Music’. However, that’s just I-Tunes style labelling and more than a little lazy!
Caribbean Folk Music and More
Regardless of what other steel bands choose to play at their engagements, we like to include a lot of traditional Caribbean material, much of it ‘calypso’ which is the national folk music of Trinidad & Tobago, some (but not all!) of which will be familiar to the average UK audience. Therefore, as a fully-instrumental and unplugged acoustic steel band the melodies that we play need to be long and strong and our own traditional Caribbean music fits the bill.
But of course, we play other melodic music which we also love, particularly Pop and Latin American standards. Nonetheless there are a lot of other great songs. Comparitively though, they may not have particularly strong melodies but instead have catchy ‘hooks’ and are very strong rhythmically. We like to play this music too, just not as an all- acoustic steel band trio without vocals, please!
But regardless of repertoire, the main reason I would always describe Solid Steel as a Caribbean Folk band is due to our instrumentation. Because, whatever we choose to play the appeal of our music doesn’t depend on the familiarity of the songs we play. Above all, it’s in the sound. To clarify, steel bands of any particular size will sound very similar to many ears. Nevertheless, Solid Steel’s musicians sound exceptional, so we always encourage people to do back-to-back comparisons with similar bands.