MARK CHERRIE

MARK CHERRIE - STEEL PANS

Photograph by Greg Heath

"A great musician in his own right and a great steel pannist".
JazzFM

"...a cd of sophistication, constant interest and sheer joy. Highly recommended."
Steve Rubie, 606 Club, London


"Russ and my father (Ralph Cherrie) had arrived in the UK from Trinidad in the mid 1950's and quickly found that they could make a good living playing the steel pan over here. They were both accomplished musicians; Russ was a well known piano player in Trinidad and my father not only played the piano too but also the double bass and the electric bass. Together with Sterling Betancourt on drums, they played many of the society engagements of the day, flitting between playing conventional instruments, as well as their steel pans. And of course, taking to the streets of Notting Hill in 1964, with pans around their necks, they effectively forged the beginning of the Notting Hill carnival.

Whilst playing the steel pan professionally for well over 40 years myself, I played keyboards professionally as well, working with many different artists such as Jimmy Ruffin, Edwin Starr, The Drifters and many others. I also began a career writing music for TV and film in 1993 and have been fortunate enough to have music featured on programmes like E.R., The Fresh Prince, Buffy, Friends and literally 100s of others.

Flash forward to the present time and the steel pan is now a widely known instrument, both here and all over the world. But still, the perception of the instrument is still one of novelty. I still have to field questions like: “Does it play real musical notes?” and even “Do you just play by numbers?”. The reasons for this are several, in my opinion. . Firstly, although the instrument is taught extensively in schools, a lot of the time the teachers teaching it do not necessarily have a firm foundation in music theory either and I have seen at first hand many different ways of notating for the instrument in school which remarkably don’t seem to utilise the conventional stave. Secondly many of the schools themselves don’t see the steel pan as a serious instrument like the piano or the guitar, for instance, but as something musical and fun and a quick way of ticking an ethnic diversity box whilst providing some ethnically conscious entertainment at the end of term. Maybe graded exams might help to make the steel pan be viewed more seriously? Then of course, there is very little of the instrument itself heard outside of it’s expected Caribbean setting."