Timeless music, that’s what the boys of the band STEEM hope to stream to the eyes and ears of their peers.
In a Covid-19 era of social distancing and restrictions on mass gatherings, the St Mary’s College music graduates have come together with the goal of spearheading a reawakening to calypso and soca music among teens.
Shomari Nichols, 18, lead guitar; Ta’zyah O’Connor, 18, vocals; Elijah Humphrey 18, rhythm guitar; Ekundayo Kayode Charles, 18, drums; Michael Jagdeo, 17, bassist; Daniel Kistow Davis, 18, vocals; and Stephan Bellamy, 20, vocals, are determined to stamp their own style and signature sound on a rich and diverse cultural landscape.
On Saturday, they took the first step when they officially launched the band they first dreamt up in the music classrooms of the college via livestream from Monarchs on the Avenue, Ariapita Avenue, Port of Spain.
“The music we’re into is broad. I myself like jazz. Ta’zyah likes calypso. Michael, as a percussionist is into the performing arts and folk music. Elijah, being a church person, is into gospel.
“We are still in the process of figuring out our sound, but we are trying to create a sound that creates a certain mood, a sound that has not been made as yet. But a sound that is not too far-fetched and puts our culture in a perspective our audience can understand,” Nichols, the band’s secretary, told the Express on Wednesday.
Convincing a tough crowd
STEEM is an acronym of the founding five member’s first names: Shomari, Ta’zyah, Elijah, Ekundayo and Michael. Daniel and Stephan joined the group later.
The musical pedigree is surely there to create something new. Front man Ta’zyah O’Connor, son of former national calypso monarch Duane O’Connor, is already a champion junior calypso performer. Bassist Michael Jagdeo, son of paranderos Alicia Jaggasar and Wayne Jagdeo, has been performing with the family band, Los Alumnos de San Juan, since he was in diapers.
It will be an uphill task however to win over a young audience already enthralled by local dancehall music and American hip-hop.
Nichols acknowledged and embraced the Herculean task, saying the band has stirred some sugar into the medicine by “giving them some of what they want to hear”.
“It is true that some of the young audience is not so much into soca and calypso, but we talk a lot to our peers and we would ask them the kind of songs they would want to hear, and we would push towards that to work on the performance aspect.
“We want to grab an audience. We want them to feel it, to groove with us. Soca and calypso can take them back in time and then bring them back to the present,” Nichols said.
The guitarist said the right performance can win over any crowd. And while younger audiences tend to request dancehall and hip-hop music ahead of soca and calypso, they have little choice but to join in when the groove is undeniable.
“That’s where the performance aspect comes in to play. We perform so well that even if they don’t particularly like the genre, they can still feel the vibe. We push that energy towards them in a way that you must feel it,” he said.
Ultimately, STEEM is about fusing sounds and surprising the audience he said.
“When you listen to (jazz musicians) George Benson and Django Reinhardt, their music was outside the box. You would hear notes that not supposed to be there, but they make it fit because of where they play it and when they play it. I found that really cool, to be like, ‘Ooh, what’s that?’. It’s a spontaneous sound.
“Our ultimate vision is to create that different kind of sound. The band STEEM, we like to mix tunes and fuse songs to keep you guessing,” he concluded.