A night of harmonious rhythms with steel drums

Daily Sundial

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The idea of a band consisting of more than 45 musicians, each banging out harmonious rhythms on steel drums is alluring, and the sound is distinct.

Gigi Rabe directed the Steel Drum Band in its celebratory 10th annual concert on campus Nov. 12.

The concert began with a slow methodical introduction of Tropical Breeze, a smaller organized group of six from the larger Steel Drum Band personnel. The music continued its rise in volume and energy as more members of the band emerged from the stage to merge with the cadence.

Within minutes percussionists collectively and fluidly moved and brought an ambitious syncopated attitude toward songs that were not originally written for steel drums.

Rabe said due to budget cuts, their fall concert moved from the larger theatre to the rehearsal room in Cypress Hall. Despite limited room to perform, more than 20 students had joined the steel band for the first time this semester.

With the brevity of their situation, together as an ensemble, they still formed a cohesive group.

The simple bass licks and gentle drumming of Tim ‘Hotstix’ Spier allowed for the unassuming harmonies of the percussive steel drums to flow seamless as a group.

Powering through the Bolero Medley, the energy in the group heightened, and their expressions seemed to beg action, or even reaction from the crowd. The audience sat almost motionless, seemingly uninfluenced by the production before them. It did not stop a few enthralled listeners to display their feeling for the music through smiles and movement.

The steel drum band suffered as individuals, but soared as a group. Many times a noticeable flaw of certain individuals was the reluctance to hammer out a note for its length of time. It ended up giving the feeling of a musical stutter at certain points in the pieces, but the excellence of the group as a whole made up for any lack of technical abilities on the part of a few.

Also featured alongside the Steel Drum band that evening was senior music major Kensuke Hirako’s arranging abilities with the talented performance of the Sushi Power Combo. Director Gigi Rabe joined his combo in an ambitious rendition of Chick Corea’s Samba song.

The arrangement demonstrated Hirako’s keen understanding of the balance of instruments. Each participated in a definitive and confidant manner which made them an essential part of the combo. Hirako’s own staccato playing of his saxophone at certain segments allowed the steel drum performance by Rabe to shine rather than become drowned out.

Hiarko’s own ability in improvisational saxophone playing was superb. His abilities had an air of sophistication as a musician and understanding the delicate intricacies of an inspiring soloist whose precision and simplicity magnified his abilities even more.

Despite the fantastic harmonious rhythms of the steel drum band, the crowd remained mostly sedentary. That was of course until the limbo-stick made its way to the front of the band, and volunteers were invited up to limbo. Isshin Oikawa showed off his limbo abilities after the intermission and the audience seemed to get involved with the music.

The culmination of the evening’s musical presentation was the energetic rendition of Cassell’s famous, “Hot Hot Hot.” The band was visibly motivated and all smiles after the crowd began to move in their seats.

Chris Daines can be reached at ane@sundial.csun.edu.