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February 11, 2014

Festival bringing Caribbean beats to OU

NORMAN — It may be cold outdoors, but the University of Oklahoma’s Paul F. Sharp Concert Hall in Catlett Music Center will be warmed by music from balmy tropical islands Saturday night.

The School of Music will host its third annual Steel Band Festival. The event is free to the public.

“Fun is required, and dancing is highly encouraged,” shouts OU’s promotional flier adorned with swaying palms and surf pounding on a beach. Music for the 6 p.m. concert will be provided by steel bands from OU, East Central University and Bartlesville, Owasso, Santa Fe South and McAlester high schools.

Trinidadian traditional steel band music impresario and educator CJ Menge, of the Inside Out Steel Band based in Austin, Texas, will headline the performance.

Menge also will be leading, accompanying some of the student sets. He’s an internationally known percussionist who is scheduled to perform later this month at the world’s premier steel pan music competition, Panorama, in Trinidad and Tobago.

“CJ Menges teaches in Austin and has several bands under the Inside Out Steel Band umbrella,” Dr. Andrew Richardson said. “He also runs a music publishing company called Boxfish.”

Richardson teaches percussion as an adjunct professor at OU and has been playing steel pan since he was an undergraduate at James Madison University in Virginia.

OU’s School of Music has an arsenal of steel pan instruments. Naturally, they’re painted a deep crimson. The terms “steel drum” and “steel pan” are interchangeable.

Steel pan music owes its origins to African slaves who brought their rhythmic traditions to the Caribbean islands centuries ago. Percussion played on frying pans, bottles and trash can lids gave way to using discarded 55-gallon steel drums in the mid-20th century.

OU’s collection of steel drums are a result of when Dr. Lance Drege, director of the percussion program, sought grants to replace old ones that were beyond being tuned any longer.

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