Just when we need a break in our endless desert summer, Steel del Sol comes to the rescue, bringing the shimmering sounds and infectious Afro-Caribbean rhythms of steel music to the Arizona Senior Academy stage.
Under the expert guidance of David and Tina Walton on steel pan and Jeff Rodenkirch on electric upright bass, Steel del Sol will explore the musical Caribbean via Trinidadian calypso, Brazilian samba, Jamaican reggae, and much more. The cruise begins at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday (Aug. 1). Don’t miss it.
Steel-band music is one of the most popular music genres around the world, yet 75 years ago few people outside the islands of the Caribbean even knew of it. It took the invention of the modern steel pan in Trinidad in the 1940s to bring the music to an international audience.
The street musicians who had created tuned percussion instruments from pots and pans, hubcaps, and other metal debris discovered a better discard in used 55-gallon oil barrels. Tuning a steel barrel to the desired pitches by hammering impressions on the surface resulted in an instrument with richer tonal qualities.
Steel pan design has advanced since then and so has the music.
Today, steel band programs are offered in high schools and colleges across the country, and Tucson is home to a few of the finest.
The Waltons, who both have DMA degrees from the University of Arizona, have played a major role in teaching the new generation. David Walton, a founding member of the UA steel program, is a former director of the Empire High School steel band, which performed many times for ASA audiences. He currently teaches at the St. Gregory School. Tina Walton teaches six steel bands at Catalina Foothills High School.
Written by Caroline Bates, Academy Village Volunteer