Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Silver Birds Steel Orchestra — celebrating it successes.

Published:Tuesday | November 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Drummer Desi Jones joins the party at West Lake Avenue for Silver Birds Steel Orchestra 11th Anniversary celebration.
Junior 'Chambah' Stevens entertains the audience with his moves to Michael Jackson hits played by members of the steel orchestra.
Saxophonist Dean Fraser at the Silver Birds Steel Orchestra anniversary celebration.
Members of Team Three in the Silver Birds Steel Orchestra show off their pan-playing skills and choreography.

A steel orchestra that can make it past five years in Jamaica has a chance at long-term survival. After a decade, you become a bona fide franchise. Such is the story of Silver Birds Steel Orchestra, which celebrated it 11th anniversary over the weekend.

Last Saturday, the music of steel drums, bass guitar, keyboard and saxophone echoed through Richmond Park - it's an engaging sound that the community has grown familiar with over the years, says Junior 'Chambah' Stevens, one of the senior 'birds'.

"It is something we do every year - not only to acknowledge a milestone, but to give back and show our gratitude to persons who have contributed to our success," said Stevens, who recently returned from performing in China with some of his bandmates. He added, "It always gets a good turnout. I believe it is because we are not a normal steel pan composition playing under a coconut tree - with the Silver Birds, it is a package."

One of the premier steel orchestra in Jamaica, The Silver Birds have captured the attention of the hotel circuit not only because of their pan skills, but also because the team is comprised of singers, deejays and dancers.

Master drummer and Silver Birds founder Dean Barnett, accompanied by popular musicians Desi Jones, Dean Fraser, Adrian Henry and Christopher McDonald, kick-started the evening's performances with renditions of Bill Wither's Just The Two Of Us.


Growing family


Speaking to the members of the band, the recurring theme is that of family. Stevens told The Gleaner, "Jamaica has its own set of unique challenges. Keeping a band together has its own set of challenges, but one thing that has added to our growth is keeping God at the head of our family, and I also think that our involvement in charity has added to our blessings."

Barnett notes that with the addition of over 20 new members within the past year (another one of its accomplishments), it has managed to keep a level-headed group by splitting them into four teams, as what started with seven members - friends and family in 2007 - now boasts over 50 young talents.

The performances for the evening incorporated local genres, but also added soca, afrobeat, jazz and pop, all played with the highest clarity and energy. The first to show off their skills on steel was team one, led by Carmela Johnson - awarded best team and top team supervisor for the year. Team one's strong performance of international hits Power of Love, Dancing Queen and Try To Love Again was pleasing to the ear, and in keeping with the joyous nature of the proceedings. Teams two, three and four followed with a similar show of well-honed musicianship and versatile dance choreography, which included a fair amount of acrobatics.

Soaring through all facets of the music industry, the orchestra also celebrated the success of its music production arm - Silver Birds Records, which was created out of a need to not only play hits, but also create them. It was named Hapilos Producer of the Month for October.