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SOLID STEEL-BAND’S MUSIC

Live Caribbean music for hire and so much more

Steel band music can cover many genres with our professional steel band. This is because we know hundreds of songs. Consequently, we can perform from playlist that include:

  • 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).

Live Caribbean style popular music

Most traditional steel bands principally play ‘Caribbean Folk’ music consisting of calypso and touristic Harry Belafonte ‘island music’. Additionally, they tend to supplement this typical Caribbean material with some old Latin-American ‘standards’. We really enjoy playing these wonderful melodies but we also meet more modern demands. As a consequence, our steel band music includes the pop and reggae that is more familiar to younger audiences. This is the music that is more often requested these days- especially at weddings. Because we offer vocals within the band itself, we’re more suited as a steel band to do this. This is because many modern pop covers are difficult to recognise if played just instrumentally on steel pans/drums.

When required to be fully-instrumental and ‘unplugged’, most often we’re hired to play steel band music as an all acoustic 3-piece. This 3-piece format- or ‘steel trio’- is a unique steel band format that the Cherrie family helped forge in London in the early ‘50s. As a result, we’re very proud of our musical heritage and like to play ‘cover’ tunes that are very strong melodically. This is regardless of whether the tunes originated from the Caribbean or not or how ‘traditional’ or ‘modern’ they are.

This has led to Solid Steel performing around 300 of these different songs over the years. However, 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, you’re welcome to 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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calypso music with a steel band

Caribbean calypso for hire, but so much more!

steel band music instruments

Our steel band instruments

Our steel band’s musical instruments

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

Caribbean folk instrument

Many players and administrators within ‘The Steelband Movement’ are striving to achieve a level of recognition for the instrument. That level would, consequently, place it on a par status-wise with instruments that were developed many centuries ago. Without reservation, we applaud their efforts and support their goals. Nevertheless, 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. In other words, we need to 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. Hence, it will take some time yet before this is likely to change.

However, excellence in the playing and sound of the steel bands together 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.

Playing steel drums and music professionally

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 on request. But, if you hire us as a larger steel band we augment them with some other non-steel band instruments as and when you might require that.

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

Is the size of our steel band important? Well, basically only a minimum trio size offers all the elements of music necessary for a full sound.  Thus 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) are included here.

Given these points, whatever the size of the format we can provide you, our steel band is unique. This is on account of us 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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Common steel band music FAQs

Steel drum tuning

No. We give that job to the experts who specialise in doing it. This is because most pan players aren’t great tuners and vice versa. However, there are still too many steel bands playing with old, out-of-tune pans that they try to tune themselves. We would never find this acceptable.

So our focus is on just playing the most beautifully in tune steel band instruments. And doing that to the professional level required of full-time musicians on any other instrument.

Steel band with vocals and other instruments

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.

It’s important to note that the band’s personnel has changed in subtle ways over the years. This is because our musicians have taken time off. The reasons for this are as diverse as recording commitments, tours with pop bands, and parenthood, however! Through all this time, regardless, it has always been our policy to only include musicians that share very important qualities. In the final analysis, our musicians are musicians first and pan players second. They play other instruments as well as pans and can improvise, but they also understand that to be a good musician is as much about listening as it is about playing! Hence, playing in a small steel band like Solid Steel is a great outlet for people with these musical sensibilities and this level of ability.

It’s clear to see that the skill sets we require are quite different from those one might need in a large community steel band. That’s because there, pan players are drilled into learning musical parts by rote that are part of someone’s arrangement. Thus, a player in such a band can perhaps aspire to play the music of a talented arranger. However, in Solid Steel a musician is moreable to express his or her musical individuality and improvise.

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.

Song requests & bespoke playlists

Please feel free to make a few requests before your event and at your event, too. Because, if we know the songs we will definitely play them for you.

We can also provide bespoke playlists, if required. However, please bear in mind that on the average gig we may only get to play 25-30 songs. Furthermore, 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. In addition, we do know how to guage an audience at any particular time- given our considerable experience. As a result, we advise you to take full advantage of that experience and not attempt to write a whole set for us!

To sum up, this experience and our abilities on other instruments enables us to better serve more bespoke musical demands. Therefore, playing in alternative formats offering vocals and additional instrumentation is easy for us. Evidence to illustrate this can be found on our videos, sound files and playlists.

Calypso and soca from Trinidad & Tobago

  • 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

Reggae bands & reggae songs

Unusually for most steel bands, the answer is most definitely ‘yes!’ Because several of us also play in specialist reggae bands as well as steel bands and have Jamaican heritage. Specifically, two of those bands, We Be Jammin’! and Trenchtown Experience are part of the Tropical Entertainers stable of talent.  Aside from Solid Steel, Cherry Ripe Management manages these artists too.

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

Playing steel drum pop songs

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

Latin American & Brazilian songs

Because Calypso rhythms are very much an offshoot of Latin American rhythms, the classic old Latin American melodies that have become ‘standards’ are a very popular choice for us. Therefore, we also have a 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

Steel band playlists

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

A steel band for ceremonial music

Yes. Aside from the numerous versions of ‘Happy Birthday’, our steel band has also played all manner of ceremonial tunes including the UK’s National Anthem. Unsurprisingly, 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