SOLID STEEL-BAND HISTORY

A band with a professional history & heritage

Our steel band’s history begins with the Cherrie family who originate from Trinidad – the home of the steel band. We have been involved in playing steel band music professionally in Britain since the early 1950s.

Our steel band was founded by Paul Cherrie in 1985, after an apprenticeship served with his father Max’s band, ‘The Cherry Pickers’ that started in 1974. By 1980 Paul was occasionally deputising as a bandleader for ‘The Cherry Pickers’ as he embarked on a full time teaching career. Meanwhile, Ralph’s son, Mark, also started playing pan on the professional circuit and it was his work as a multi-instrumentalist and home record producer that principally helped launch our steel band and promote it to all the leading UK entertainments agencies of that era.

The band quickly became a favourite of these agencies which led to it playing gigs all over the UK and on foreign residencies across the world, including prestigious venues in Damascus, Djibouti and Monte Carlo.

Read more
Solid teel band early years

Solid Steel as a steel band trio in 1985

Our steel band for hire in 2020

A steel band for hire today

As you can see most clearly from our Instagram feed we are a small family of musicians- and yes, there are a few Cherries amongst us!

We have a lot of experience of a wide variety of events including:

Paul is still leading the band and is fully active performing. His musical signature is his simultaneous playing of the bass pan and maracas whilst singing. Nonetheless, he is also involved with managing and playing with ‘The Cherry Pickers’ steel band which is now based in Manchester and shortly celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Though still very much involved with Solid Steel, Mark has gone on to become arguably the most highly respected pan player on the jazz circuit in Britain today. Whilst he leads his own jazz quartet, several other contemporary members of the band also pursue parallel music careers.

A versatile steel band for hire

An important part of the Solid Steel brand has always been that most musicians within it also sing and/or have another instrument they also play at a professional level.

The band continues to work with a couple of agencies, but far more now with a few great event organizing companies. Post-internet, the majority of our clients do come to us by personal recommendations or after discovering our websites!

So we still travel all over the country and abroad, playing our steel band music live to audiences at events. Some of these events have a tropical theme like Caribbean nights and product launches. But many of the private parties, wedding receptions and corporate events have no Caribbean theme, whatsoever. These events are held in prestigious and not-so-prestigious venues as diverse as hotels, festivals, schools, tv and radio studios, village halls, shopping centres, pubs and restaurants. In playing our music in these diverse situations, we do always hope our steel band transports the collective imagination of our audience to the sunshine paradise of the best Caribbean holiday ever!

Read more

A steel band ready for future bookings

We have kept our primary ambitions when we first started performing.  This is to play music on the steel pans in a band that is well-educated musically and informed by all forms of music not just those played by other steel bands or other steel pan players. In doing so, we’ve always wanted to provide something special for our audiences.

We’ve always enjoyed playing our steel pans with other like-minded steel pan players who listen well and can improvise well. Furthermore, we’ve also always enjoyed playing with other instrumentalists like guitar, keyboard, drum and horn players in ‘steel combos’ – and will continue to do so.

In addition, we’ve always loved entertaining our audiences by playing for dancing when we also show our vocal talents.

We have conducted a lot of steel band workshops in schools over the last 10 years and our ambition is always to improve as educators and continue to deliver musically-literate lessons to schools in more counties than ever before.

We have always loved recording steel pan and steel band music in Mark Cherrie’s studio and will continue to do that when we’ve been commissioned to do so. And quite often when we’ve not been!

Finally, we have always embraced the changes in technology that have arrived- and welcomed them. Staying modern, staying fresh by being adaptable. It did not take the pandemic that arrived in 2020 to encourage us to play for virtual events. We were already there- using the best cameras and microphones to deliver the very best audience experience possible for steel drum and steel band performances on Zoom, MS Teams and Webex.

Read more
Disney-themed-event-450

Our steel band’s younger generation

Common steel band history FAQs

Steel band music history

Steel pans come from the Caribbean. Specifically, they come from the island of Trinidad. The island of Trinidad is made up of almost 1.4 million people English-speakers, but their roots can be traced back to Africa, India, China, the Middle East, Europe, and the Mediterranean.

Trinidad and Tobago is the home of Caribbean Carnival. It is also the home of calypso, the music which fuels steelband music there. The steel pan evolved in the capital, Port of Spain, in the 1930’s. Steel pan playing and calypso are just two of the many musical forms to be found in Trinidad alongside strong traditions of dance, literature, sculpture and painting.

The history of steel band music in Trinidad

In the 1800s, when Trinidad had many sugar plantations, people were brought to the island from West Africa to work on the plantations. These Africans brought their music with them. This music was based around lots of drumming accompanied by singing. The music was often played in religious ceremonies and other celebrations. It was also used as a method of communication.

The Europeans that had brought the Africans to work on the sugar plantations did not like this music. It was very different to the classical music that they liked to listen to. Because of this, all drum parades were banned by the authorities in the late 1800s. But the Africans simply found a way to carry on playing music. Instead of using the drums that had been banned, they used bamboo sticks that they would hit together to beat out a rhythm. The groups of musicians that would play the bamboo sticks became known as tamboo bamboo bands. These too were banned in the 1930s.

These tamboo bamboo bands preceded steel pan bands. During the Second World War, the U.S.A had used the island of Trinidad as a military base. When the war was over, the Americans had left behind big, 55 gallon oil drums. It was discovered that if you hammered in different dents onto these steel drums, they would make different sounds. From that point on, musicians began to tune them so that melodies and harmonies could be played on what we now call ‘steel pans’.

UK steel band history

We weren’t the first professional steel band in the UK, but we are most definitely descended from it. Paul and Mark’s fathers, the Cherrie brothers Max and Ralph, both played piano as their first instruments back in Trinidad. Then on emigrating to England, they were amongst the first of their generation to play steel pans professionally in the UK with Russ Henderson’s steel band. Russ- also a pianist- and another band member, Sterling Betancourt- who had stayed in the UK after playing with TASPO (the Trinidad All Star Percussion Orchestra) at The Festival of Britain- are regarded as pioneers of professional steel pan playing in the UK. Deservedly, they have been recognised with OBEs awarded for their achievements- not least of all for being part of the steel band that led the first carnival parade in Notting Hill.

Steel band music at Notting Hill Carnival

The Notting Hill Carnival was born when community activist, Rhaune Laslett, in aiming to highlight the multi-cultural richness of the area invited the Russell Henderson Steel Band to a street festival in 1964 which ended up with a parade that was instigated by the band itself who knew well the joys of playing ‘pan roun’ neck and parading Trinidad Carnival-style. It was a sensation and the local people followed the band dancing behind them in the street and although the Notting Hill Carnival wasn’t officially born until 1966, it was conceived then by Russ and his band which included Sterling Betancourt and Ralph Cherrie.

It was not until the mid-80’s until some of those Windrush generation players really got back to playing regularly at the Notting Hill Carnival that some Solid Steel band members then individually joined them playing ‘pan roun’ neck’ on the road. But Solid Steel is a small professional band typically in great demand elsewhere over an August Bank Holiday weekend, so hasn’t been involved in a long time- despite its Notting Hill Carnival heritage.

Steel band musicians named ‘Cherrie’

There are several Cherries who have played steel drums in the UK. The list that play or have played steel pan on a professional gig so far is:

  • Max Cherrie
  • Ralph Cherrie
  • Paul Cherrie
  • Mark Cherrie
  • Chris Cherrie
  • Maxine Cherrie
  • Tania Cherrie
  • Elliot Cherrie
  • Monica Cherrie

Events best suited to the hire of our steel band

Here is what we’ve provided to the most suitable events at some great venues in the last couple of years:-

Events outside Greater London & The South

  • A 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a wedding in Stoke, Staffordshire.
  • Our 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a University staff barbecue in Cambridge, Cambs.
  • One 4-piece funky steel band with vocals played for a birthday party in Derby, Derbyshire.
  • A 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a wedding in Didsbury, Manchester, Lancs.
  • A 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a corporate fun day in Cardiff, Wales.
  • The 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a charity event in Chester, Cheshire.
  • Our 3-piece acoustic steel band performed for a Caribbean Association in Milton Keynes, Bucks.
  • A 3-piece steel band with vocals performed for a 21st birthday party in Alderley Edge, Cheshire.
  • The 5-drum acoustic steel band played for a wedding in Bristol, Avon.
  • A 3-drum steel band played for a wedding in Crosby, Liverpool, Lancs.
  • Our 5-drum acoustic steel band played for a wedding in Leeds, Yorkshire.
  • A 3-piece acoustic steel band performed at a civil partnership in Wilmslow, Manchester, Lancs.

Events in London

  • A 3-drum traditional steel band played a for wedding reception in Chelsea, London.
  • Our 4-piece acoustic steel band played for a company barbecue in Mayfair, London.
  • The 3-piece unplugged steel band played for London Zoo, Regents Park, London.
  • A 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a champagne reception in Notting Hill, London.
  • A 3-drum steel band played for a pub in Harrow, Middlesex.
  • Our 3-drum traditional steel band played for Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.
  • A 7-piece steel combo with vocals played for the Horniman festival in London.
  • Our 6-piece acoustic steel band played for a company barbecue in London, Middx.

Events in Southern England

  • Our 7-piece steel combo with vocals played for a barbecue at an army barracks in Camberley, Surrey.
  • A 3-piece steel band with vocals played for a 40th birthday party in Sandbanks, Dorset.
  • Our 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a wedding in St Ives, Cornwall.
  • A 4-piece acoustic steel band for a Government Office in Southampton, Hampshire.
  • Four 3-piece acoustic steel bands performed for race meetings at Sandown Park racecourse in Esher, Surrey.
  • The 3-drum steel band format was hired for a multi-cultural awareness event in Milton Keynes, Bucks.
  • A 3-piece steel band with vocals was booked for a wedding in Loughton, Essex.
  • Our 3-piece traditional steel band was hired for a wedding in Haslemere, Surrey.
  • The 3-piece acoustic steel band performed at a wedding in Maidstone, Kent.
  • Our 3-drum band played for a Bar Mitzvah in St Albans, Herts.
  • One 3-pan unplugged steel band performed at a wedding in Oxted, Surrey.
  • A 3 steel pan traditional steel band played for a Thames Cruise from Windsor, Berks
  • Our 4-pan acoustic steel band entertained at a corporate awards event in Brentwood, Essex.
  • A 3-piece acoustic steel band played at a pub barbecue in Winchester, Hampshire.
  • One 3-piece acoustic steel band played for the Church of Scientology in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
  • A 3-piece acoustic steel band performed at a wedding in Exeter, Devon.
  • Our 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a wedding in Henley-On-Thames, Oxford.
  • A 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a wedding in Ascot, Berkshire.
  • Our 3-piece acoustic steel band played for a wedding in Gerrards Cross, Bucks.

Providing steel band music nationwide

Of course, if we take it back far enough we have already performed extensively throughout the UK. In London, we’ve played in just about every borough including Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith, Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster, Greater London, Barking and Dagenham, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton and Waltham Forest.

We’ve played in other cities and towns such as Aberdeen, Aldershot, Andover, Ascot, Aylesbury, Banbury, Barnstable, Bath, Basingstoke, Bedford, Birmingham, Bodmin, Bournemouth, Bracknell, Bradford, Bray, Brecon, Bridgwater, Brighton, Bristol, Burton-Upon-Trent, Cambridge, Cardiff, Carmarthen, Cheltenham, Chester, Chichester, Cork, Coventry, Crawley, Crowthorne Derby, Dorchester, Dublin, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Eton, Exeter, Farnborough, Farnham, Glasgow, Gloucester, Gosport, Guildford, Harlow, Havant, Hemel Hempstead, Henley on Thames, High Wycombe, Hungerford, Kidderminster, Leamington Spa, Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Lincoln, Liverpool, London, Luton, Maidenhead, Maidstone, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newark, Newbury, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northampton, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Oxford, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Reading, Redditch, Redruth, Reigate, Rugby, Salisbury, Sandhurst, Shrewsbury, Slough, Southampton, St Albans, Stafford, Stevenage, Stoke-On-Trent, Sheffield, Sunderland, Sunningdale, Sunninghill, Swansea, Swindon, Tamworth, Taunton, Telford, Thame, Thatcham, Truro, Tunbridge Wells, Wantage, Watford, Winchester, Windsor, Wolverhampton, Yeovil, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

We’ve also performed in every county including Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cheshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, East Anglia, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Kent, Monmouth, Middlesex, Norfolk, Northumberland, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire and Yorkshire, throughout England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland.

Associate local steel band musicians

Solid Steel is not just a band, it’s a steel band company. Although it originated in London and still performs a lot within the M25, there are about 10 associate members of the band scattered around the country. For this reason- and because travel is seen as an adventure and not a chore by the band’s principal members, Paul and Mark, we are able to perform in most areas of the UK for similar rates.

Steel band musicians’ instruments

We like playing as a trio. Alot. Although in the early days Russ Henderson’s band played as a 4-piece, it was really the Russ Henderson Trio that became the flagship format that other professional steel bands then followed. For that reason, Solid Steel sees the trio as its legacy and has championed it on its CD ‘Three’ accordingly. The three basic types of steel pan/drum we play in this format are a tenor pan that plays melody, a second pan (think ‘rhythm guitar’ in terms of its harmonic strumming role) and bass pans with hand percussion. Max Cherrie was the first steel band musician to ever play bass pan whilst simultaneously playing hand percussion and Solid Steel’s bandleader Paul understandably champions that role and the entertainment it supplies for both the eyes and ears of its audience!

Traditional and modern steel band music

Most traditional steel bands, especially first generation Caribbean ones like the Russ Henderson Steel Band and The Cherry Pickers principally played ‘Caribbean Folk’ music consisting of calypso (the national folk music of Trinidad & Tobago) and Harry Belafonte-styled ‘island music’- along with some old Latin-American ‘standards’. We still love these songs and when hired as a fully-instrumental and unplugged acoustic steel band 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 drums.

Steel band musicians with classical training

Yes, we do sometimes read music whilst we play if we’ve been tasked to play specific requests or arrangements. It’s also sometimes required in a recording studio session.

Panorama and steel band music contests

We don’t play in competitions because music is not a sport. It’s art- and the appreciation of it is largely subjective with no individual more qualified than everyone else to judge it!

Our steel band and other musicians

Steel pans sound fantastic when played alongside a wide variety of different instruments. These instruments include acoustic instruments such as piano, upright bass, drum kit, saxophone and flute. Electric instruments such as electric guitar and bass guitar also work well for us, whilst all percussion sections that include conga drums and Latin percussion, generally, are highly complementary.

Touring steel band music outside the UK

We have played in several other countries too, such as Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Italy, Monaco, Turkey, Greece, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Djibouti, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Dubai, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

International tour ambitions

Wed’d love to return to every country we’ve played in the past with maybe a couple of exceptions, which will remain unnamed. Additionally, there are other countries we’ve yet to visit. So we still have many travel ambitions!

Affordable steel band music internationally

Our steel band’s more mature members are more interested in the adventure provided by travel opportunities than high fees for their performance. As a result, this makes our band more affordable than ever before for foreign clients.

Solid Steel’s brand

Solid Steel is a steel band and all steel band music is stereotypically cast in the European market as a bit of happy-go-lucky, jaunty, light musical entertainment. However much we can and do satisfy that stereotype, Solid Steel has a lot more about it. Our unique selling point- or USP- in terms of our band’s musical performance is that we are the only band that offers a 3-piece steel band which includes a professional level vocalist who also sings. But there are a few more elements to Solid Steel’s brand:

  • The band is a family band, but also a long-established professional band that is professional in its organisation. With authentic origins that originate from Trinidad it is built from a professional steel band legacy. That it was christened ‘Solid Steel’ was and is a real statement of professional intent with its offering an extremely wide variety of steel band services to the TV & Film industries, the corporate world and, of course, private individuals who require our steel band for their private party and wedding celebrations.
  • Musically we excel with a long reputation for only hiring the very best professional steel pan musicians to perform for you or teach you in workshops in a well-informed way, musically.
  • Entertainment is our business. We don’t only play well, but we sing well too- if required. For 99% of steel bands this is not an option regardless of the size of band performing. But also we smile, we laugh, we wear good costumes, we interact with the audience- and we enjoy ourselves! In our experience this is the best way- if needed- to encourage an audience to enjoy itself too!

Cherry Ripe Management

Solid Steel’s bandleader, Paul Cherrie, runs an office under his company’s name of ‘Cherry Ripe Management‘. Professionally. Phone calls between real humans are encouraged and emails and messages of all kinds are handled promptly and efficiently. You will receive a simple contract from us that will leave you in no doubt that the bespoke services you wanted to book and what we are providing are one and the same.

Affordable steel band music in the UK

Our prices are competitive. Despite this being our full-time job, we are not necessarily more expensive than other bands and will generally be able to match their quotes if fairly challenged to do so. Our performance packages start at short 30 minute performances for maximum affordability. We have a basic pricing structure for our services that we used in 2019 for ‘local’ events for which no travel costs were added.

Primary performance services delivered locally with prices

  • A steel pan/drum soloist for a 30 minute performance – £150
  • Steel pan/drum soloist with backing tracks for a 30 minute performance – £175
  • A steel pan/drum duo for a 30 minute performance – £250
  • Steel pan/drum duo with backing tracks for a 30 minute performance – £300
  • A steel pan/drum duo with backing tracks & vocals for a 30 minute performance – £350
  • Steel band (3-piece) for a 30 minute performance (all live & including a bass pan player) WARNING! A steel band without a bass instrument is not a proper band! – £450
  • A steel band (3-piece) with vocals for a 30 minute performance – £550
  • Steel band (4-piece) for a 30 minute performance – £550
  • A steel band (4-piece) with vocals for a 30 minute performance – £650
  • Steel band (5-piece) for a 30 minute performance – £650
  • A steel band (5-piece) with vocals for a 30 minute performance – £750
  • Steel band (6-piece) for a 30 minute performance – £750
  • Our steel band (6-piece) with vocals for a 30 minute performance – £850
  • Steel band (7-piece) for a 30 minute performance – £850
  • Our steel band (7-piece) with vocals for a 30 minute performance – £950
  • Steel band (8-piece) for a 30 minute performance – £950
  • Our steel band (8-piece) with vocals for a 30 minute performance – £1,050
  • A 20-piece steel band for a 30 minute performance – £2,500

Additional services available with most of these packages

  • Additional time: POA but a maximum of 50% of the rate of the first 30 minutes on each additional 30 minutes of playing time
  • Additional players: POA
  • Workshops (where the audience can receive some basic instruction and learn to play something simple on the steel pans): £150 for each 30 minutes
  • Gazebo (2m x 2m to weatherproof any Solid Steel performance): £50
  • Parasols (to sun-proof any Solid Steel performance): £25
  • Bose S1 Pro Wireless PA Speaker (for when vocals aren’t required but in Solid Steel’s breaks the great playlist on your phone is!): £50
  • Caribbean Party DJ (fully self-contained with PA & Lights): £750
  • Solid Steel Soloist cover version of your favourite song played, recorded & produced at Solid Steel’s own studio: £175
  • Solid Steel 3-piece band cover of your favourite song played, recorded & produced at Solid Steel’s own studio: £500
  • A Solid Steel video of 30 minutes of the performance at your event: £250

Health and safety first

Our steel band is both Covid-aware and Covid-secure! Our wish is for as many people as possible to stay safe and well during this pandemic. Our policy is to prioritise the health concerns of clients, audiences and performers alike and strictly follow government directives. Upon booking, we will issue you a clear plan of how we can perform at your preferably outside venue, socially-distanced and under a photogenic cover that we can provide ourselves.

Please take a look at the Covid-19 advice we have on our site here.

Steel band music fame

Like Bros (if you’re old enough to remeber them!) we can’t answer that. Or rather, we can only hazard a guess- and that would be “never”. But in 2020 & 2021 we do have a couple of tv and film appearances that feature our steel band. One is a movie called ‘Mangrove’ directed by Sir Steve McQueen and the other is a Warner Brothers half-animation, half-live action movie involving iconic cat and mouse characters who have historically been involved in lots of chase scenes. But we’re sworn to confidentiality on that one so we’ll just have to leave you wildly guessing its title.

The truth is no fame for steel pan players or steel bands outside of the celebrity found within the steel band community and its small fanbase.

However, Solid Steel has played for many celebrities and celebrity events in the past. And they have been just as lovely as the ordinary folk we more often play for.