World Steelband Festival vol.1 ‘Classic In Steel’

  1. Piotr Tchaikovski ‘Marche Slave’, opus 31
    by Witco Desparadoes (9:56)
  2. Nicolai Rimski-Korsakov ‘Scheherazade’, opus 35
    by Tropical Angel Harps (13:45)
  3. Richard Wagner ‘Rienzi Overture’
    by Solo Harmonites (12:05)
  4. Carl Friedman ‘Slavonic Rhapsody n°2’
    by Valley Harps (10:06)

Total time: 45;40
Recorded live in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, 1988.
Re-issue on Tropical Music, Germany, 1989.

Richard Wagner on steel drums, anyone? Arguably, the weirdest music you’re likely to hear this week, this CD gathers 4 competitors to a Trinidad steel drum gathering, the 1988 ‘Pan Is Beautiful V’ contest. Two of the bands on World Steelband Festival vol.1, namely Witco Desparadoes & Solo Harmonites, were created in the 1960s and are still active today, taking part in all the yearly competitions. I assume the choice of 19th c. classical music was decided by the organizers of the contest, to help them sort out the best orchestra with difficult music. The quality of the arrangers is key – each orchestra has one – and may also be taken into account in the final note. Most striking in the music on this CD is the tonal range of all orchestras, from low drum rumbles to high xylophone-like sounds. Each band has a regular drummer as well, helping in the fortissimo passages. And nothing can prepare you to the deluge of sounds on some tracks here, produced by tsunami-like orchestras unrelentlessly striking their steel pans. But musicians are also able to conjure mysterious, ambient passages of subtle intricacies. Incredibly strange music for my most jaded readers.


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