Darren Sheppard for Rhapsody in Steel

By Brian Bonitto

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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VETERAN musician Darren Sheppard will be showcasing the latest in steel pan technology when he performs at Rhapsody in Steel scheduled for the Karram Speid Auditorium on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew, on Sunday.

The event, which starts at 5:00 pm, is being hosted by the Church of St John the Evangelist.

Sheppard, a Trinidadian based in Canada, will be on a seventh tour of duty to the island. He said he has something special for patrons attending Sunday's soiree.

"They should be expecting great music and a showcase of new pan technology in the form of the Percussive Harmonic Instrument (PHI), developed in the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus, by Professor Brian Copeland and his team," he told the Jamaica Observer.

Percussive Harmonic Instrument or PHI (pronounced 'Fie'), is an electronic steel pan which made its first appearance in 2007. Using Musical Instrument Device Interface controllers, it allows musicians to utilise equipment on a digital network to create, perform, and manipulate music.

A 34-year veteran of the steel pan movement, Sheppard first performed in Jamaica at Jazz in the Gardens in Kingston in 2007. He said this appearance, however, would be different.

"This performance will be for a totally different audience. Being of a younger age group, as well as members of the church community," he said.

"I'll make sure that I wear the national colours, as an adopted Jamaican," he continued.

At seven, Sheppard learned to play steel pan in his home town of Fonclair, Trinidad. He performed and arranged for the Fonclair band, at the National Panorama finals.

In 1990, he migrated to Toronto. That year, he performed at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York, where he placed third in an amateur night competition. Since then, he has been a staple on the North American and Caribbean jazz circuit. He has two albums to his credit-- Calabash and A Different Angle.

Currently, Sheppard is the musical director of Fusion Steel, a steel pan group with vocal presentations.

"I have almost completed the first album with Fusion Steel. The album will feature various genres of music from jazz to reggae, soca and even soca parang. There is a beautiful rendition of Tessanne Chin's Hideaway, featuring Kizzy Huggins, one of my band's vocalists," he said.

Rhapsody in Steel will also feature cabaret singer Maria Myrie, musician Harold Davis and the University of the West Indies' Panoridim Steel Orchestra.




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