Students of the Music Department as well as a few members of the community formed a steel drum band and performed what they had been practicing since the beginning of the semester. The show that took the audience straight to a Polynesian island took place on May 11 at the Performing Arts Center in the Student Union.
The show transcended the simple sit-down experience. When the band began performing the third song, “La Paloma,” a few members of the audience got up off their seats and began to dance, albeit in a silly yet blissful manner. The dancers were soon followed by a group of enthusiastic couples as well.
The show also did well to showcase the individual talents of many of the musicians. A set called “Latin Goes Ska” was headed by Kensuke “Sushi Power” Hirako, an alumni student of music on the saxophone.
A common misconception of steel drums is that they come from Jamaica. “The instruments actually originated in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Gigi “Gee” Rabe, the director of the band and class instructor.
Rabe began teaching the class in Spring 1995 and the original group had only 10 members. This time around, the steel drum band was 50 men and women strong.
“The most significant part of the band is known as the ‘engine room.’ It consists of drum sets and shaker instruments that the students actually made themselves,” said Rabe.
“The drums also come in different sizes and pitches that all combine to have the same effect as a classical orchestra,” she said.
CSUN school spirit emanated from the performance with the musicians dressed in shiny variations of the Matador colors. Many of them men in the band sported glittering red ties.
The show took a humorous turn during the second set that followed the intermission. A song known as “Pass the Dutchie” turned into a set of Christmas carols. The audience was pleasantly caught off-guard as they recognized a tropical version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in the middle of May.
The performance displayed a successful fusion of tropical beats played with well-known songs such as “Yellow Bird” and “Spanish Eyes.”
The audience continued to interact with the band as a few got up for some limbo during a set appropriately titled “Limbo Rock.”
The show then concluded with the familiar and very popular “Hot Hot Hot.”
For anyone who enjoy steel drums, or simply wants to learn to play a new instrument, the class that trains the band is open not only to students, but to members of the community as well.
Talin Maghakian can be reached at email@example.com.