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Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

Jamaica Observer

BY KEDIESHA PERRY

Ravon “Steely” Rhoden

THE American state of Michigan is best known for its music out of Motown. Jamaican steel pannist/vocalist Ravon “Steely” Rhoden is, however, expecting a warm embrace with his Caribbean brand of music at The Steely Experience slated for July 6 to 11.

Now in its fourth staging, The Steely Experience is billed for shows in Grand Rapids, Ludington, Silver Lake Hart, and Pentwater.

“I hope to achieve great success from the performances and also more experience touring-wise, and, of course, more followers and fans,” the 30-year-old told the Jamaica Observer.

The Montego Bay native has been playing 'the pan' for 19 years. He said while playing on a cruise in 2017, audience members fell in love with his multi-genre set and encouraged him to start the tour.

“I actually met a group of people who wanted me to come play in their town, and we worked it out where multiple venues in that area were interested in booking me, so we formulated The Steely Experience and made it a tour and something to look forward to in the summertime there,” he explained.

Since its inception, each show has attracted an audience of 200 to 250 people.

Rhoden, who was taught to play the steel pan by former neighbour and mentor Errol Caseley, has a repertoire of approximately 3,000 songs, including original pieces and covers from every genre, although he specialises in Jamaican music.

Caseley died in 2007.

“I play almost every Jamaican crossover hit songs and hundreds more of non-crossover songs. My own songs that I write are about Jamaica. Jamaica has a lot to offer the world musically, and I am using my instrument and voice to spread Jamaican music and the culture to the many that knows only little about our culture,” he said.

Rhoden, a past student of Knockalva Technical High School, said there is growing appreciation for the instrument among Jamaicans.

“I always believed that the group [Watcha Steel Band] that I grew up playing music with played a major part in steel pan recognition, in all age groups, all over the country because we were doing television performances and we were fully booked because of the diverse song selections we had, not just calypso and soca music, which is often portrayed when you think of steel drums,” he said.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, steel pans emerged in the 1930s. It is widely regarded as the only musical instrument invented in the 20th century. Discarded oil drums were used as percussion instruments, but at some point, they began to be tuned.

Rhoden also experiments with regular drums and other percussion instruments, as well as the piano and guitar. However, his passion lies with the steel pan.

“When you play steel drums you don't feel the desire of playing any other instrument.

All we had was some out-of-tune steel drums in MoBay and we make them sound like any instrument we could've imagined at the time,” Rhoden said.

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