SOLID STEEL: OUR BAND’S MUSIC

Live Caribbean music for hire and so much more

We know hundreds of songs and perform from the following playlists:

  • Caribbean calypso, soca & island ‘folk’ music
  • 21st Century modern pop music
  • Reggae & ska music
  • Classic pop & soul music
  • Classic Latin American music
  • Special theme music (eg. Disney, Indian)
Most traditional steel bands principally play ‘Caribbean Folk’ music consisting of calypso and touristic Harry Belafonte ‘island music’- along with some old Latin-American ‘standards’. We really enjoy playing these wonderful melodies but, we also meet the modern demand for our steel band to play the pop and reggae that is familiar to younger audiences and is the most requested these days. Because we offer vocals within the band itself, we’re more suited as a steel band to meet the demand for modern pop covers that might be unrecognisable if played just instrumentally on steel pans/drums.

When required to be fully-instrumental and unplugged, most often we’re hired to play as a fully instrumental and entirely ‘unplugged’ acoustic 3-piece, or ‘steel trio’- a unique steel band format that the Cherrie family helped forge in London in the early ‘50s. In this format we mostly play ‘cover’ tunes that are very strong melodically whether they’ve originated from the Caribbean or not and irrespective of how ‘traditional’ or ‘modern’ they are.

Solid Steel has performed around 300 of these different songs over the years, but please investigate some of our playlists in the FAQ section below if you’d like to make a few special song requests before your event.

In addition, please explore the studio recordings & ‘live’ video samples of Solid Steel’s music in various band formats shown in the players on this page.

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Caribbean calypso for hire, but so much more!

Our steel band instruments

Our steel band instruments

The instruments we play are Caribbean ‘steel pans’ or ‘steel drums’, the national modern folk instrument of Trinidad & Tobago and arguably the most dynamic new instrument in world music.

Many players and administrators within ‘The Steelband Movement’ are striving to achieve a level of recognition for the instrument that would place it on a par status-wise with instruments that were developed many centuries ago. I applaud their efforts and support their goals, but whilst I wouldn’t want pan players (and yes, the term is preferable to ‘steel drummers’ and the awful ‘pannists’ in my humble opinion) to remain as eternally marginalised as bagpipe players, for instance, we have to be realistic and understand that the ‘steel drum’ or ‘steel pan’ is still a folk novelty for many people outside of Trinidad and Tobago its pan-loving diaspora and that it will take some time yet before this is likely to change. Excellence in the playing and sound of the steel bands allied with a progressive view in terms of the music chosen to play on steel pans can only help to move things forward in this respect.

Solid Steel’s steel pans are quite typical and would be instruments played in any steel band, but our musicians select only the finest and most beautifully tuned steel pans worthy of professional steel band entertainment.

We are fully committed to exclusively using steel pans/drums in our band when requested to do so, but if hired as a larger steel band we augment them with some other non-steel band instruments as and when required.

Generally, our musicians play a second instrument at a professional level. This enables us to deliver varying formats offering vocals and other instrumentation.

Is the size of our steel band important? Well, only a minimum trio size offers all the elements of music necessary for a full sound including all the elements of melody (provided by the tenor pan, mainly), harmony (provided by the second pan, mainly), bass and rhythm (provided principally by the bass pan player who also plays maracas, tambourine and assorted hand percussion).

Whatever the size of the format we can provide you, our steel band is unique in having both the history and passion to play the traditional Caribbean songs authentically and the progressive approach that embraces all genres of popular music where great melodies can be found.

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Learn more from Common  FAQs

No. We give that job to the experts who specialise in doing it. Most pan players aren’t great tuners and vice versa. There are still too many steel bands playing with old, out-of-tune pans. We would never find this acceptable. So our focus is on playing the most beautifully tuned steel band instruments to the professional level required of full-time musicians on any other instrument.

Well, we also offer vocals (because, yes, voice is still the instrument that ‘connects’ us humans the most!) whilst piano, keyboards, guitar, bass guitar, drum kit, conga drums and timbales have been other instruments also used in performance so far by the various band members. The band’s personnel has changed in subtle ways over the years with our musicians taking time off for reasons as diverse as recording commitments, tours with pop bands, and parenthood! Through all this time, it has always been a policy to only include musicians that share very important qualities. Our musicians are musicians first and pan players second. They play other instruments as well as pans and can improvise, but they all understand that to be a good musician is as much about listening as it is about playing! Playing in a small steel band like Solid Steel is a great outlet for people with these musical sensibilities and this level of ability. The skill sets required are quite different from those required in a large community steel band, where pan players are drilled into learning musical parts by rote that are part of someone’s arrangement. With these bands a player gets to play the arranger’s music, but with Solid Steel a musician is able to express his or her musical individuality and improvise.

Defining your own music can be a veritable minefield. If you differ greatly from your audience’s perception of it, you run the risk of sounding pretentious! Solid Steel’s music we hope reflects the music our musicians like listening to and playing outside of the band.
Much of what distinguishes us from other steel bands musically is that most of our musicians also have a second instrument we play at a professional level and we 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- those who 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 most of it is best defined as ‘Caribbean Folk’. Post-internet it is often labelled as ‘World Music’- but that’s just I-Tunes labelling and more than a little lazy!. 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. 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, but there’s a lot of great songs that don’t have particularly strong melodies yet 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. It’s in the sound. To many ears steel bands of any particular size will sound very similar. But Solid Steel’s players are exceptional, so we always encourage people to do back-to-back comparisons with similar bands.

Please feel free to make a few requests before your event and at your event too. If we know the songs we will definitely play them for you. We can also provide bespoke playlists, if required. Please bear in mind that on the average gig we may only get to play 25-30 songs and that the style of song we choose at any given time is a result of what we perceive to best suited for the particular band format that you’ve booked and the audience at that time- given our considerable experience. We advise you to take full advantage of that experience and not to attempt writing a whole set for us! This experience and our abilities on other instruments enables us to better serve more bespoke musical demands playing in alternative formats offering vocals and additional instrumentation. Evidence of this can be found on our videos, sound files and the playlists below.

  • Bahia Girl – David Rudder
  • Ban Moin En Ti Bo – Traditional
  • Brown Girl In The Ring – Traditional/Boney M
  • Brown Skin Gal – Traditional
  • Dollar Whine – Colin Lucas
  • Don’t Stop The Carnival – Alan Price
  • Hot, Hot, Hot – Arrow
  • Island In The Sun – Harry Belafonte/Traditional
  • Jamaica Farewell – Harry Belafonte/Traditional
  • Linstead Market – Traditional
  • Mango Walk – Traditional
  • Obeah Wedding – Mighty Sparrow
  • Old Lady Walk A Mile And A Half – Lord Kitchener
  • Sloop John B – Traditional/The Beach Boys
  • Sly Mongoose – Traditional
  • St. Thomas – Sonny Rollins
  • Sugar Bum Bum – Lord Kitchener
  • Under The Sea – Disney
  • Who Let the Dogs Out – Anslem Douglas
  • Yellow Bird – Harry Belafonte/Traditional

Unusually for most steel bands, the answer is most definitely ‘yes!’ Here is our Reggae & Ska playlist:-

  • Three Little Birds – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • Help Me Make It Through The Night – Gladys Knight/John Holt
  • One Love – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • Red Red Wine – UB40
  • I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash
  • I Shot The Sheriff – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • Israelites – Desmond Dekker
  • Jammin’ – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • Johnny Too Bad – Jimmy Cliff
  • Kingston Town – UB40
  • Monkey Man – Toots & The Maytals
  • Montego Bay – Freddie Notes & The Rudies
  • Mysterious Girl – Peter Andre
  • No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • Rivers of Babylon – Boney M
  • Stir It Up – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • Sweat (A La La La La Long) – Inner Circle
  • Tide Is High, The – Blondie
  • Waiting ln Vain – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Here is a playlist of our 21st Century Pop Covers:-

  • Despacito – Justin Bieber ft. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee
  • Shape of You – Ed Sheerhan
  • Budapest – George Ezra
  • Human – Rag’n’Bone Man
  • Let Me Love You – DJ Snake and J. Bieber
  • Sexual – Neiked
  • Happy – Pharell Williams
  • Sorry – Justin Bieber
  • Thinkin’ Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
  • Rude – Magic!
  • Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
  • Stay With Me – Sam Smith
  • Get Lucky – Daft Punk
  • All About That Bass – Megan Trainor
  • Rather Be – Clean Bandit
  • PIMP – 50 Cent
  • If I Ain’t Got You – Alicia Key
  • Like Glue – Sean Paul
  • Make You Feel My Love – Adele/Bob Dylan
  • Hey Ya – OutKast
  • Price Tag – Jessie J
  • Rolling In The Deep – Adele
  • Smile – Lily Allen
  • I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
  • Someone Like You – Adele
  • Somewhere Only We Know – Keane
  • Turn Me On – Kevin Lyttle
  • Umbrella – Rihanna
  • Valerie – Amy Winehouse
  • Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye

Calypso rhythms are very much an offshoot of Latin American rhythms, so the classic old Latin American melodies that have become ‘standards’ are a very popular choice for us. This is our playlist we call Cuban & Brazilian Styles:-

  • Blue Bossa – Kenny Dorham
  • Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil) – Ary Barroso
  • Cachita – Rafael Hernández
  • Chan Chan – Buena Vista Social Club
  • Girl From Ipanema – Astrud Gilberto
  • Guantanamera – José Fernández
  • La Bamba – Ritchie Valens/Los Lobos
  • Lambada – Kaoma
  • Meditation – Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Moliendo Café – Hugo Blanco
  • Never On Sunday – Melina Mercouri/Nana Mouskouri
  • Oye Como Va – Tito Puente/Santana
  • Peanut Vendor (El Manisero) – Moises Simons
  • Piel Canela – Bobby Capó
  • Quizás, Quizás, Quizás – Osvaldo Farré
  • Samba De Orfeu – Luiz Bonfá
  • Sunny – Bobby Hebb
  • Sway – Dean Martin
  • Sweet And Gentle – Alan Dale
  • Tristeza – Astrud Gilberto

We do have quite a few, but here are the main ones.
Classic Pop & Soul:-

  • Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers/Michael Jackson
  • And I Love Her – The Beatles
  • Breezin’ – George Benson
  • Dancing Queen – Abba
  • Englishman In New York – Sting
  • Fields Of Gold – Sting/Eva Cassidy
  • Here, There And Everywhere – The Beatles
  • Imagine – John Lennon
  • Killing Me Softly – Roberta Flack/Fugees
  • Lately – Stevie Wonder
  • Let It Be – The Beatles
  • Lovely Day – Bill Withers
  • My Girl – The Temptations
  • Spanish Harlem – The Drifters/Aretha Franklin
  • Sunny – Bobby Hebb
  • The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
  • What’s Goin’ On – Marvin Gaye
  • Walking On The Moon – The Police
  • Yesterday – The Beatles
  • You Are The Sunshine Of My Life – Stevie Wonder
  • You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon

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Yes. Apart from the numerous versions of ‘Happy Birthday’, our steel band has played all manner of ceremonial tunes including the UK’s National Anthem. We also do have a playlist called Wedding Ceremony Tunes:-

  • “Bridal Chorus” from the opera Lohengrin, by Richard Wagner
  • “Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major
  • “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”, by George F. Handel
  • “You’re So Cool” from the film ‘True Romance’, by Hans Zimmer
  • “Wedding March from a Midsummer Night’s Dream” — Mendelssohn
  • “Ode to Joy” – Beethoven
  • “One Love” – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, by Stevie Wonder