Audience members participate by screaming and whistling during BYUH’s Shaka Steel outdoor twilight concert

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Members of Shaka Steel during their concert on June 18, 2021.

Photo by Monique Saenz

A group of more than 50 members of the BYU-Hawaii community gathered outside the unmasked Cannon Activities Center under the evening sky to enjoy a musical set from the Shaka Steel Band. The group is a group of students, faculty and community members led by Dr. Darren Duerden from the Faculty of Culture, Language and the Performing Arts. Toes tapped and children danced as the group performed nine songs on June 18, 2021, surprising listeners with several different musical genres.

Ryo Oshiro, a member of the Laie community and former BYUH student, said he enjoyed attending his first Shaka Steel concert since moving to Hawaii 14 years ago. “It was great. I attended a number of concerts on campus, but it was my first time sitting down during the entire concert.

“There were a lot of genres. I didn’t expect to hear music from classical to contemporary. It was surprising but awesome.

Lexi Naea, a business management student from Utah who stars in Shaka Steel, said, “We have a lot of really fun plays. One of my favorites is called “Jungle Rain”. It has a very pretty jungle setting, and [Professor Duerden] ask the ensemble members to make jungle noises, such as the sounds of birds and the whistling of wind. The group even added a choreography to add to the music. “It’s fun for the audience to watch,” she said.

Duerden asked listeners to add their own animal sounds to the song, encouraging them to ‘ignore Polynesia’, referring to the Polynesian Cultural Center just behind the fence and in front of the ACC, and to create their own African safari. . The audience members howled like monkeys and whistled like birds throughout the song, adding an exciting sonic layer to the piece.


People in the audience stared ahead, a masked man, the others unmasked, with two umbrellas in the background, one black, one black and one green.

Spectators watch the Shaka Steel concert.

Photo by Monique Saenz

Oshiro said he was impressed with the audience’s participation. “Everyone was so engaged, even the audience. I wish I had more energy to be with them right now. The performers also seemed to be having fun.

Naea said she starred in Shaka Steel for two semesters. She said she joined the band with no drumming experience but a willingness to learn. “It was a bit confusing at first, but it got easier. There were a lot of new people together at the time, so we were all learning together and figuring things out. ”

She described what the class was like every day saying, “You come in and take your drum, and Dr. D. is in the middle. He’s got this big battery. We start playing the drums and go through the music. This is very fun. Steel pans have this really nice sound which is really cool and really happy.

“You can’t be unhappy about playing the steel pan,” Naea said.

Dr Duerden said: “I started playing steel drums when I was a student at BYU in Provo in the late 1980s. Steel drums have always been a part of my life from then on. moment. He said he had studied percussion music and had been introduced to steel drums. “I fell in love with it. I started to like it because it was a percussion instrument, but I liked the sound. The music always seemed to transport me to a different place.

“The steel band is a kind of magical ensemble, unlike any other ensemble, because the music is always happy, fun, light and makes people smile and dance.”

Naea said the drum also took him to different places. “It always puts me in a good mood. It is a happy instrument. All the music we play is super catchy and interesting and there is a lot of really lovely stuff. It’s amazing the types of moods and settings you can do with a steel pot. It’s just a fun instrument, ”Naea said.


The band members, dressed in green leafed shirts, play on steel drums.

Photo by Monique Saenz


When it comes to preparing for a concert like this, Duerden said that “the selection of music is huge”. He said he strives to choose music that is fun for players to play, interesting to teach, and entertaining for audiences to listen to. He is also looking for music with different themes and which matches the ability of the players. “Over the years I have collected, bought, arranged, begged and borrowed stolen steel band arrangements,” Duerden said with a laugh.

Shaka Steel has performed songs like “Cat Samba”, “Field of Dreams” and, an audience favorite, “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid”. “It’s exactly what you think of when you imagine ‘The Little Mermaid’,” Oshiro said.

The band played quite a few classic steel band tracks, said Duerden, including a few arranged by his wife, Jennifer Duerden, who is also with the band. The band mixed it up with a pop track, show pieces, and a few sweet tracks that highlight the unique sound of the drums.

“You will often hear the catchy beat which is the kind of energy that makes it dance where sometimes the beauty of the steel drum gets lost, so I like to add mellow tracks. The group prepared nine different songs to play over the eight-week spring semester.

Duerden said he enjoyed teaching his class the history of the instrument from Trinidad, a small Caribbean island nation north of Venezuela. The instrument was created by poor Trinidadian teenagers in the 1930s, Duerden explained. The upper class citizens would suppress the lower class by taking away their means of musical expression, from drums to bamboo sticks.

Finally, said Duerden, the lower class had only metal to express themselves on the French carnival party, or Mardi Gras. “As a result of a series of accidents,” Duerden said, “they determined they could dent the metal and make it sound different. ”

From there, he said, they adapted the European scale pitches of the notes and created a family of instruments. “It is the only family of acoustic instruments created throughout the 20th century, [and it was because of some] children in the dumping grounds of Trinidad.

The steel drum made its way to America in the 1970s and exploded in the 1990s, Duerden explained.


The band members, dressed in green leafed shirts, play on steel drums.

Photo by Monique Saenz

Duerden said he liked the Shaka Steel set because beginners and professionals can play together and the two can still have fun. “The ensemble can involve percussionists and non-percussionists… There aren’t a lot of ensembles where you can do that.

In class, Naea said, “There is a good mix of students. Quite a few of them are music majors or minors. Anyone can read music in the classroom. She explained that there were community members in the class, including students from Kahuku High School and BYUH professors Perry Christensen and Mark Wolfersberger, both in the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

Beginners are welcome to the Shaka Steel class, Duerden said. “Almost no one comes to the steel band with any steel drumming experience.” He said he enjoyed teaching inexperienced students to play steel drums so that he could train musicians who could play steel drum music without worrying about their preconceptions or bad learning habits.

The steel band class accommodates around 15 students each semester, and seats are open based on the number of people who continue to play since the last semester. If students are interested in joining, Duerden said, they can contact him for more information.


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