• nationalistic UK steel band


A band with a professional history & heritage

Our steel band’s history begins with the Cherrie family who originate from Trinidad. Yes, Trinidad – the home of steel pans and the home of steel band. Our family has been proudly playing the steel pans and steel band music professionally in Britain since the early 1950s.

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Solid steel pans in early years

Solid Steel as a steel band trio in 1985

Playing steel pans in 2020

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 work experience on a wide variety of events including:

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Playing steel pans on future events

Unquestionably, 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. A steel band that is also informed by all forms of music- not just the music other steel bands play. Or, indeed, the steel band music other steel pan players play. In doing so, we’ve always wanted to provide something special for our audiences.

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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 English-speaking people, but we can trace their roots back to Africa, India, China, the Middle East, Europe, and the Mediterranean.

Trinidad and Tobago is also the home of Caribbean Carnival. And it’s also the home of calypso, the music which consequently fuels steelband music there. The evolution of the steel pan started in the capital, Port of Spain, in the 1930’s. Thereafter, the steel pans playing of calypso in the annual carnival became an increasingly significant feature.

However, steel pans and calypso are just two of the many musical forms to be found in Trinidad. Because there are also 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, owners brought slaves 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. They also played it as a method of communication.

The Europeans in Trinidad did not like this music at first. It was very different to the classical music that they liked to listen to. Because of this, the authorities banned all drum parades in the late 1800s. But the Africans simply found a way to carry on playing music. Instead of using the drums, 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 received bans 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. The Iocal musicians subsequently discovered that if you hammered in different dents onto these steel drums, they would make different sounds of various pitches. From that point on, musicians began to tune them so that they could then play melodies and harmonies 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. In the first place, Paul and Mark’s fathers, the Cherrie brothers Max and Ralph, both played piano as their first instruments back in Trinidad. After 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.

To further explain, 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. Consequently and deservedly, they have received recognition with OBEs as rewards for their achievements. To emphasize, these achievements are ones the Cherrie family partly shares with them by 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, invited the Russell Henderson Steel Band to a street festival in 1964. The aim, of course, was to highlight the multi-cultural richness of the area. Under those circumstances, the festival ended up with a parade that the band instigated itself. The musicians knew well the joys of playing ‘pan roun’ neck and parading Trinidad Carnival-style. Straightaway, iIt was a sensation and the local people followed the band dancing behind them in the street. So, despite the fact that the Notting Hill Carnival wasn’t officially born until 1966, it was undoubtedly 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, however. Subsequently, 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 taken part in a long time because of that- despite its Notting Hill Carnival heritage.

Steel band musicians named ‘Cherrie’

Significantly, there are several Cherries who have played steel pans in the UK. In summary, 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

In summary, 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 received a booking for a multi-cultural awareness event in Milton Keynes, Bucks.
  • A 3-piece steel band with vocals received a booking for a wedding in Loughton, Essex.
  • There was a hire of our 3-piece traditional steel band 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

Playing steel pans in Greater London

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.

Playing steel pans in UK cities, towns & villages

We’ve played in other cities and towns, as well, 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.

Playing steel pans in counties and other UK countries

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

To clarify, 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 who play steel pans 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

As has been noted, we do 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 steel pan whilst simultaneously playing hand percussion. As a result, 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. This consisted largely of calypso (the national folk music of Trinidad & Tobago) and Harry Belafonte-styled ‘island music. Additionally, they would also play some old Latin-American ‘standards’. We still love these songs and we really enjoy playing these wonderful melodies on our steel pans. Hence, when clients hire us as a fully-instrumental and unplugged acoustic steel band we always play some of them.

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.

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. Furthermore, it’s also sometimes required in a recording studio session.

Panorama and steel band music contests

We don’t play in competitions because playing music on the steel pans or any other instrument is not a sport. It’s art- unquestionably so! Thus, the appreciation of it is largely subjective with no individual more qualified than everyone else to judge it!

Our steel band and other musicians

As I have noted, steel pans sound fantastic when played alongside a wide variety of different instruments. For example, these instruments might 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, too. Finally, in addition, all percussion sections that include conga drums and Latin percussion, generally, are highly complementary.

Touring steel band music outside the UK

To clarify, we’ve played in several other countries outside the UK as well. These include European countries such as Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, Monaco, Turkey, Greece, Poland, Russia and Kazakhstan.

However, we’ve also toured further abroad in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Tunisia, Djibouti, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Dubai, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Qatar and Kurdistan.

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, many of which are unfamiliar with the sound of steel pans. So, given that, 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. Furthermore, as musical instruments go, steel pans are excellent travellers!

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’s 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. We encourage phone calls between real humans and we handle emails and messages of all kinds 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 you fairly challenge us 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

  • Extra 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! We hope as many people as possible stay safe and well during this pandemic. Therefore, 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 venue. To emphasise, we would prefer that your venue be open air- where we can socially-distance under a photogenic gazebo 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 playing our distinctive steel pans. 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 starred 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 there is no fame for steel pan players or steel bands to achieve 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.