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Steel Pan Family

Posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2009.

Seitu, Amir and Tunisia Solomon come from three generations of steel pan musicians. As early as three years old their father taught them how to play and their uncle Phil made the drums in his factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Amir explains if you want to know what a steel pan looks like, “just look at a garbage can in the streets.” The creation of a steel pan is work intensive. It starts out as a 50 gallon oil barrel then each steel pan is hammered, sculpted and tuned by hand.

The entire Solomon family travels together playing Soca, Calypso, Rumba and classical music at weddings and shows to the delight of audiences. While all three mentioned being in the spotlight and getting attention as highlights of performing, they emphasized that the real benefit is being part of a musical family. “There’s always something we can agree with at the end of the day because everyone plays music. It’s special to have a family that can come together, go downstairs and just perform and practice,” says eldest sibling Amir.

Seitu agreed. “I really like it. Any song that I hear I can refer to anyone in my family to help me learn. It’s good to have them there. My family can adjust to any mistake that I make. If I mess up or miss my cue for a melody they all just shift accordingly to help me out,” says Seitu.

Amir appreciates the family bond as well. “There’s usually not a lot of communication in a lot of households, but with music the communication has to be there. You have to understand when the bridges are coming up. If you don’t communicate then it’s not going to be a complete song and the band won’t continue. A lot of families don’t have that thing that they can all come together and do. One kid likes basketball, one kid’s a nerd, one kid who likes getting in trouble, (with us) the music brings everyone together.”

At the end of the interview to demonstrate the range of his talents, Seitu broke out his chrome tenor single drum and played Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca and the Carribbean classic, Fire Fire, that filled the booth with a warm island sound.

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