Jamaica, Farewell

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As some of you may know, Cherry Ripe is a family run business. It’s earliest existence took the form of Grandpa Max – the patriarch and oldest living member of the Cherrie family -organising gigs for his steel band, The Cherry Pickers after he came to England back in 1952 . Well, over the years the business has evolved into what it is today, but family has always been at the crux of who we are. On some gigs, there are even inter-generational Cherries playing together but even the members of Solid Steel who don’t carry the name Cherrie are still considered to be family. This post comes as a bittersweet dedication to family. One family member in particular, by the name of Valerie Cherrie who sadly passed away a few weeks ago. In true Caribbean spirit, this post will mourn her death by celebrating life.

Val came to this country in the 60’s from Jamaica and joined our family in 2004 when she married Grandpa Max. With her vibrancy, sage advice and joyous demeanour – not to forget her absolute bosslady skills in the kitchen, Val fit in perfectly. She became famed amongst us for her delicious Jamaican food and her Jamaican spirit. So, this blog comes as a dedication to her and all Jamaicans who left their imprint on British culture.

Here at Solid Steel we believe music to be at the forefront of culture and so we shall solely focus on Jamaicans’ impact on British music. As let’s face it, if we were to consider the effect of Jamaicans on all aspects of British culture, we’d be here all day.

A large range of British music is indebted to Jamaica. In the 60s, when the UK’s Jamaican community began to emerge and our dear Val arrived in this strange island, there was Ska. This genre that combined elements of Calypso with jazz and traditional R&B encompassed Jamaica, and its popularity travelled to the UK along with its patriates. Interestingly, in spite of the worldwide presence of Jamaicans in various countries, Ska music only really cottoned on in the UK. In 1962, three music labels releasing Jamaican music existed in the UK – Melodisc, Blue Beat and Island Records. Tracks such as “My Boy Lollipop” took Britain by storm and breathed a breath of life into Britain’s music scene that has still kept blood pumping to this day.

Arguably the most identifiably Jamaican musical influence, Reggae became incredibly popular – especially in Birmingham in the 1970s and 80s. The city was the home of Britain’s leading reggae groups, including UB40, Steel Pulse. As a result of era defining punk and reggae, Two Tone was born. Clearly, Two Tone bands were inspired by slower Jamaican Ska records of the 60’s, thus Two Tone was seen as the second wave of Ska. Bands like The Specials, The Beat and Madness were bastions of this particular sound.

A decade after this, sound system culture emerged in Bristol. This culture was a vein from the same artery that gave life to the development of digital sampling technology in trip hop. It’s distinctive concoction of heavy baselines, complex arrangements and sampling was being championed by artists such as Smith and Mighty, Massive Attack and Portishead.

Following the initial wave of house music in the 90s, the rhythmic influence of reggae produced the much-loved genre of jungle, where you could hear sped up beats mixed with reggae sounding dub baselines and MCing. By the end of the decade, this genre became widely known as drum ‘n bass with its prototype now being referred to as “oldschool jungle.”

There are many other genres of British music who owe their life to Jamaicans living in the UK. Notable mentions include Grime, Funky House and Dubstep. The Jamaican influence on the music scene is so vast that the butterfly affect is still going strong to this day and we will continue to live in the shadow of it’s beautiful consequence for many years to come.


What is the Best Era for Christmas Music?

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It’s that time of year when Noddy Holder’s voice perennially screeches in our mind. That’s right, it’s Chriiiiiiiiistmas! This means it’s the time of year when consumerism reaches its saturated peaks and along with it, comes the saturation of Christmas music. But we’re still in mid December, so we’ve not yet felt the shiver of dread that comes with hearing the morally dubious “Baby its Cold Outside” for the thousandth time in the space of a month.

iPhone Pictures 099However, it very much isn’t all doom and gloom! There is a certain nostalgic warmth to Christmas music that warms even those of us with the grinchiest of hearts. This nostalgia is something of interest to us here at Solid Steel, as we’ve come to reflect on which era is the best home for Christmas music.

Blinkbox conducted a study in 2014 into Britain’s favourite festive songs – and while referencing a poll created in 2014 may seem incredibly retro of us, bear in mind there hasn’t been a decent Christmas song produced in the past 20 years. In this poll, 36% of people voted for the 80s as the decade that produced the best seasonal classics, with the 70s coming as a close second at 25%. The 90’s came third with 10%, The 60s earned 7% and the 50s got a measly 5%.

The poll saw The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s 1987 hit “Fairytale Of New York” take top spot as the UK’s favourite Christmas song, with other ’80s songs – Wham!’s “Last Christmas”, David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy”, Chris Rea’s “Driving Home For Christmas” and the original Band Aid single – also making the Top 10.

christmas singles comp

Sam Sutton, Senior Lecturer in Music Technology at London College Of Music, said of the findings: “The nation favours feel-good Christmas pop songs with distinctive, festive musical elements. These generate emotional resonance and carry the listener on a wave of feel-good nostalgia.”

He continued: “But despite the Top 10 being dominated by such upbeat tracks, it’s the distinctly edgier offering from The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl that most appeals to our sensibilities. Perhaps the rousing squabble between the two appeals to Brits because it’s somehow more real and closer to our actual experience of Christmas – a heady and sometimes tense mix of friends, family and booze.”

And considering the fact that it’s not unheard of to hear “Fairytale of New York” outside of the Christmas Season, it’s no surprise the 80s have been voted the best era for Christmas music in the UK. The younger members of us at Solid Steel personally have an affinity for the 90s – S Club 7’s “Perfect Christmas” is up there, but obviously our vote goes to Queen Mariah.

Here’s our cover of “All I Want for Christmas is You” (renamed “All I Want 4 Christmas is Pan”), and we don’t mind telling you Mark’s pan sounds sweeter than Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce on this one!

An Open Letter to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

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Dear Harry and Meghan, 

First of all, I wish to bestow my sincerest of congratulations for the announcement of your engagement. Love is a beautiful thing and it is always a wonderful cause for celebration. As I’m sure you know, many people are speculating over what your wedding will look like. Will it be in the Westminster Abbey? Will Rihanna be in attendance? Will Meghan’s family teach the royals how to Candy? But the question that we at Solid Steel would like to know is what kind of entertainment will you book to play at your wedding? This is probably a question that is plaguing your wedding planner, so I’m going to go ahead and make things easier for you by offering our services.

As you know, steel pan music is arguably the definitive sound of the Caribbean. And what better way to celebrate your love than with the music from the part of the world that is close to both of your hearts? Why, just last year Harry, you spent two weeks touring the Caribbean – your second Caribbean trip within the past five years! Quite clearly you have a thing for liming to some Calypso. In fact, the rumours of your engagement were sparked by your joint visit to Jamaica. So yes, you’ve both got love for the Caribbean. Well, lucky for you we have just the package to put your run of the mill hymn-singing choir boys to shame.

 Our Royal Wedding Package is available to you at the unbelievable price of changing the currency to my  face. This is the ultimate upgrade from our existing Platinum Option and includes an audience participation session, that will give your A-List celebrity guests – maybe even one adorable little grumpy old lady in particular – the opportunity to play some pan. 


We promise to turn one’s frown upside down!

 If you do indeed intend to marry in the Westminster Abbey, we will not need to bring our pa system, as the acoustics are fantastic in that particular venue. So, you know… you don’t need to worry about that. 

Hopefully you will waste no time and contact us immediately, as we do tend to get quite busy in the run up to Summer and hate to disappoint. We look forward to playing your wedding! If you are still unconvinced (unlikely) and want to hear us in action, click the link below!


Christmas In The Caribbean

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Well, the clocks went back last weekend and we’re officially in winter mode here in the UK. This new season traditionally turns the thoughts of the average Brit as to when and where the next dose of sunshine can be had, because we all know that we won’t be seeing too much of it in the UK until next June!

International travel will be uppermost in the minds of Solid Steel’s musicians next week as we have been invited to perform at the World Travel Market exhibition at the ExCeL in London. We will be playing on the stand of the Barbados tourist board and it will be our privilege to promote the charms of arguably the most successful tourist island in the Caribbean.

So when do the British like to travel to the Caribbean? Most opt for the winter months when the tropical weather offers the greatest contrast to what we face at home.  Some people even prefer a Christmas holiday in the Caribbean sooner than a Christmas in Blighty. Companies like CaribbeanJourney.com (the picture above is courtesy of their site) specialise in these vacations. However, if you are considering a Caribbean break yourself for Christmas, you’d better start booking now….for 2014! Availability for the best hotels and the lowest airline fares is extremely limited and booking in advance is not only essential but also saves you money because the earlier you book, the better the airline rates available. It’s not that there is no longer any possibility for cruising, island hopping or booking a beach hotel for Christmas 2013, but prices will now be at a premium that only the most wealthy among us can afford.

Me? I’m going nowhere. Solid Steel will be busy throughout the Christmas season playing for a lot of hard-working people who, like us, can’t afford a Caribbean Christmas this year. If you take a look at our Christmas YouTube video playlist, I hope you’ll agree that if you can’t have Christmas in the Caribbean it would be best to at least have Solid Steel bring some of the sound of the Caribbean to your traditional Christmas in the UK!