Sunday, May 3, 2009

 

An Inimitable Caribbean Invention – The Steel Drum

Who would have thought that a musical instrument fashioned out of an empty 55-gallon oil barrel could turn out to be the source of such pleasant entertainment? The steel drum (or steel pan) has become practically synonymous with the Caribbean these days and, often, people even refer to Caribbean music, in general, simply as 'steel drum' music.

While percussive in nature, and occasionally featured as a stand-alone instrument, most frequently it is accompanied by additional instrumentation, which provides a rhythmic backdrop for the pan steel melodies. Caribbean beats, such as Soca-Calypso and Reggae, are the most commonly associated rhythms and, indeed, these rhythms themselves ideally compliment the tropical music experience that the steel pan conveys.

The steel drum instrument can be played in a single-note melody but, because the twin mallet sticks can be struck simultaneously, a musical chord can also be played. Additionally, because of the 'bouncing' percussive attack the mallets provide, multiple notes can be repeated in quick succession, which can have the effect of hearing a continuous, melodic tone. These sustained notes can resemble the elongated sound that is an attribute of organ music, and the effect can be especially soothing to the listener.

The Houston, Texas-based musical group IRIE TIME features the steel drum sound predominantly throughout their performances. While the band also integrates a range of lead and harmony vocals in their repertoire, the group consistently features extended instrumental solos that rely, thematically, on the steel pan sound as intrinsic to the Caribbean ambiance they provide. The band is comprised of skilled musicians that maintain creative and varying instrumental passages throughout the scope of their performances.

IRIE TIME also features a host of additional tropical sounds that infuse variation into the melodic soundscape of the music. Vibes, marimbas, flutes, and brass can all lend themselves to a festive, tropical musical texture, and provide stimulating variety in the course of a sequence of songs that comprise the typical set of music. Yet, the sound of the steel drum returns again and again as the intrinsic basis and theme for the Caribbean music the band is noted for.

As stated previously, Calypso music (now known as Soca) is possibly the most common rhythmic accompaniment to the steel pan. This may be, in part, due to the fact that both Soca music and the steel pan instrument itself were invented on the Caribbean island of Trinidad! The percussive nature of the pan, along with the up-tempo, percussion-laden Soca are a perfect mixture. The spirit of the Caribbean shines forth in this pairing, and puts every listener in the mood for dancing and celebration. “It's in the air – celebration time; Music's sweet – captivates your mind” are the lyrics to the world-famous song “(Are Your Feeling) Hot Hot Hot.” Anyone who has visited the Caribbean is immediately drawn back to recollections of their tropical 'fun in the sun' when they hear this music. The steel drum sound is an instant connection to the beach, clear blue waters, palm trees and peaceful breezes blowing on an island paradise. One instrument that can transport the imagination of the listener to so specific a locale could not be more unique in all the world.

The band IRIE TIME has been performing Caribbean Reggae and Soca music for over a decade, and has released numerous all-original CDs, which are distributed worldwide. More information can be obtained at their website or by contacting IRIE TIME directly at 713-398-3798.


IRIE TIME is based out of Houston, Texas and commutes to locations throughout the United States by means of the city's two international airports, enabling the band to provide entertainment services to all 50 states including Washington DC, Nashville-Davidson, Tennessee, Las Vegas, Nevada. Portland, Oregon, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Tucson, Arizona, Long Beach, California, Atlanta, Georgia, Fresno, California, Sacramento, Ca.

IRIE TIME also performs events internationally and has agency representatives in Europe, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America.

IRIE!

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