UD Steel Bands Concert stays on beat


Steel Band One

Emily Wang, Staff Writer

Steel Drum ensembles brightened the Recital Hall on Tuesday evening with their infectious stage presence and vibrant pink shirts. The performers’ energy was magnetic as the audience moved along to reggae pieces from Trinidad and Tobago, the birthplace of steel drums.

“I like to make sure each of my groups plays at least one calypso song from there,” Steel Drums teacher Alan Bates said. Steel Band One’s performance featured popular reggae songs “La La Jam Back” by Robert Nelson and “Rat in Mi Kitchen” by UB40. 

The concert also showcased famous pop songs requested by students in the bands. They performed the well-known “JoJo’s Theme” by Yugo Kanno, while Steel Band Two wowed the audience with Bruno Mars’ hit “Locked Out of Heaven.”

The overall favorite was “Dreadlocks” by Mungal Patasar, Bates said. “It’s an exquisite blend of European, African, and Indian music.” During the concert, Bates emphasized to the audience the diversity of Trinidad culture reflected in the piece as he introduced the song.

Since the two bands do not have the opportunity to work together before the day of the concert, many students are accustomed to improvising and performing impromptu tasks, Steel Band One member Nate Ogiste (10) said. On the day of the concert, he was asked to perform percussion during Steel Band Two’s piece “Crazy Love.”

Bates also added other layers of percussion into the pieces, since Calypso music, a Caribbean genre, usually has full percussion, he said. In “Low Rider,” performers clapped their mallets above their heads as part of the rhythm, an artistic choice made by Bates.

Bates kept the concert upbeat with brief, and sometimes comical introductions to pieces. Before performing “Forget You” by CeeLo Green, he assured the audience that Steel Band Two would be playing the clean version of the song as opposed to the explicit one. 

One of Bates’ favorite aspects of the concert was joining the two ensembles together. “It’s almost like being a part of a club there,” he said. “It’s a nice camaraderie.” Before the concert, the bands got food, did a soundcheck rehearsal, and mingled.

Although the concert lasted less than forty minutes due to only having two bands, Bates kept the mood light, joking at the end that nobody would complain about ending early on a school night. 

Ensemble members’ quick takes:

“Usually I’m looking up at people like, ‘good job, guys!’ But this time, I was focused. I was looking at my foot like, ‘you’re going to do the right thing.’ Drumming is physically demanding. It’s insane because that’s the thing about the drummer: you don’t hear them until they make a mistake.”

  • Nate Ogiste (10)

“My favorite part was being able to play an instrument that’s a big and prominent instrument in my family and culture.”

  • Danil Harding (10)

“My favorite song that we did was ‘Dreadlocks.’ It was our last song and the hardest one to learn, so it was nice to see it come together.”

  • Sienna Correia (9)

“I really liked ‘Bang On A Drum,’ because that’s where we could get more into the music and move around to the beat. Hannah [the other bass player] and I didn’t play for a part, so we clapped our mallets to the beat of the song and had our own solo after.”

  • Maya Westra (12) 
Steel Band Two