Steel Band Evening: Report & Photos

On October 27th, 2014, posted in: Archive, Culture, Galleries, Music, News, Recent Highlights, Steel Band by

Wynberg Boys' High School Steel Band Evening 2014Keenan Oliphant has been teaching steel bands at the school for six years. He also arranges much of the music and in his spontaneous style, conducts the bands with a balance of fun and technical savvy.  The sound created by his students is easy on the ears and sophisticated, and there were many toes tapping to the infectious rhythms at Friday night’s concert.

The Grade 8 band started the evening, with Keenan explaining that this band needs to be technically confident because they don’t have a drummer to hide any mistakes! For many of these boys, this is the first time they’ve tried this instrument and they don’t all know how to read music, so it was truly impressive to hear them play with such enjoyment and skill.

The Grade 9 band displayed a growing understanding of Latin rhythms in their first number and they showed their romantic side by ending with Keenan’s arrangement of “I Like” by South African leading rock band, “Freshly Ground”.

With a fusion style Kaapse-klopse version of “Wake Me Up” and a Stevie Wonder classic, the Grade 10s showed a growing appreciation for the clever complexities in steel band music.

The Grade 11s will be going to Grahamstown Arts Festival in 2015 and the proceeds for the evening paid for the band’s application to be in the Festival’s Fringe. The crowd cheered during their performance of contemporary songs, with a parent commenting that the older the boys get, the more they “move in the groove” behind their drums.

Before the Grade 12 band took to the stage, Keenan explained that the Music Department sees these boys go through their steel band experience from Grade 8 to Matric – from young, enquiring boys to the men that they become. This particular Grade 12 band held a special place in Keenan’s heart because they were the first Grade 8 group that he taught as a professional teacher and they had grown into being the top Steel Band in the Western Cape, finally being recently awarded the Blues that they’d been working so hard for.

In this – their last performance together, the band performed a range of fast and intricate Latin music, original compositions, a touching version of “Weeping” by “Bright Blue”, local Cape jazz and Pharell’s “Get Lucky”.

In heartfelt thanks to Keenan, Matriculant Jono Abrahams spoke of his experience in the steel band over the years and how Keenan has shown real care and talent through his leadership of the steel band, major productions, the choir and chamber choir.

Many thanks to Micaiah Christopher, Che Charles and Connor Grey who played a key role in staging this proud and truly enjoyable showcase of Wynberg’s talent at the Alf Morris Centre, packed to capacity. Maybe next time, it should move to the school hall, making more space for the audience that seems to grow in numbers every year.

Report courtesy Ann Coltham

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