Different drum – steelpans resonate (in New Zealand)


Ros Demas, 78, marches to the beat of a different drum – the steelpan–Shelley Greco reports for Stuff.co.nz

Mrs Demas plays the large instrument as a member of Caribbeanz Southern Stars, believed to be New Zealand’s first and only steelpan band.

Her husband was born in Trinidad and she grew to love the sounds of the Caribbean island.

“It’s the beat,” she says. “Right from my 20s I have known about calypso and enjoyed it, so lived with the music all the time.”

The Caribbeanz Southern Stars was formed in 1995 by a small group of Caribbean islanders living in Auckland.

Their name reflects the origin of the steelpan and the heritage of some of its members, who play a combination of instruments including the congos, bamboos and maracas.

The steelpan originates from Trinidad and Tobago, the two most southerly islands in the Caribbean.

During World War II, the American bases in Trinidad and Tobago created a demand for oil, using 55- gallon drums to transport it.

Discarded by the oil refineries, the drums were cut to provide a musical source.

It was found that by indenting the surfaces of these drums a range of musical tones could be made.

The length to which the drums were cut permitted complete scales from the bass to the soprano.

The steel bands were readily accepted by youth from other low-income communities and soon music from the steelpans filled these neighbourhoods.

Next week, the band will bring the sounds and instruments of the Caribbean islands to Three Kings for their annual fundraiser.

Mrs Demas says the fundraisers are always fun occasions.

The retired school teacher started playing the steelpan five years ago after hearing a voice of Carribean descent.

“I met one of the founders and I heard this voice.

“I raced up to her and hooked myself on to whatever she was doing and one of the things was the steelpan,” she says.

“I had no intention of playing but I couldn’t get my daughters involved so I stayed on and slowly learned.”

For the original report go to http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/manukau-courier/9731208/Different-drum-steelpans-resonate

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