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Steel Drum Band Makes Magic on Zuiderdam

Shane Einsphar, Zuiderdam’s cruise director, sent us this interview and photo with guest entertainers Island Magic. According to Shane, the band has been on Zuiderdam all season and has been “blowing audiences away.” They play classical music on steel drums, and some popular and Broadway music as well.

Island Magic.

Island Magic.

Shane Einsphar: How did the group get started?

Island Magic: I played for a band at home in Trinidad. The manager from that band had a contact from a ship company that needed a four-piece band, this was in 1993. We started as a regular normal pool-side steel drum band playing poolside music. Around six or seven years later we realized that we wanted to make a push to be headline entertainers in the main theater. The main theater seemed like the place to be, the highest step of the on-board entertainment ladder.

S.E.: How did you come up with the idea to do classical and Broadway music on steel drums?

I.M.: The typical music on the drums is mainly calypso, reggae and island songs. To get into the main theater we had to do something totally different to separate us from other groups that were playing similar music, doing similar roles. We decided a fitting alternative was classical music, which is very difficult on these instruments, and Broadway music, which is very popular. This combination of music seemed to be a good match for the guests.

S.E.: How do you pick the songs for your show?

I.M.: In picking the Broadway tunes, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s music was very appealing. In 1998 we were sailing out of New York City for the summer and that was a perfect opportunity to see the Broadway shows first hand, understand what they meant, observing the set, the lighting, the mood, the feelings, so on and so forth. That way when we put the songs on the steel drums, we had an idea of what each song really meant, and also understood its relationship to the musical. This was true for ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ ‘Cats’ and ‘Evita.’ For the classical selections, I decided to choose some of the more popular classical pieces, and then make them slightly shorter for our show, highlighting the popular portions of the songs, thus making them easier for the guests to recognize. These selections, including ‘Ave Maria,’ ‘The Sleeping Beauty Waltz’ and ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ are very long pieces, and our show is around 45 minutes in length, we had to shorten them in order for everything to fit. We have also been doing an afternoon show later in the cruise that includes favorites from the Beetles, Elvis, Frank Sinatra and ABBA to name a few. The show also includes a few surprises that I won’t tell you about now — you’ll have to come to the show!

S.E.: How would you describe the steel drum to someone who has never heard of this instrument?

I.M.: The instrument started as a regular 55-gallon oil drum that was heated, pounded with different sizes of hammers and then tuned with yet different hammers. Each drum can imitate any conventional instrument, including violins, cellos, guitars, basses, etc. The drums we use in our show include a melody drum (violins), chords drum (cello) and bass (string bass or double bass). The instruments are all handmade in Trinidad and tuned by pounding, therefore, they can easily go out of tune by pounding, especially from using harsh surfaces or hitting the drums harshly. The melody drum actually has 36 notes, which means 36 different indentations on one drum.

S.E.: How long are you scheduled to perform your show on the Zuiderdam?

I.M.: Right now we are scheduled to be on the Zuiderdam until April.

13 Comments
  • carol

    We had two opportunities to see this group. It’s amazing the range of music (pop, show, Schubert’s Ave Maria, and more. Performances were held before a group of mostly very senior citizens who enjoyed the amazing talent of these four individuals who made for a totally entertaining and moving ensemble.

  • John Brown

    Wife and myself recently (Mar 31-Apr 10) did the Panama Canal cruise. Island Magic was just outstanding. Never knew how great steel drums could be. Not only were they talented performers, but genuinely nice people as well. Saw the main stage show, then an interview with questions and answers and another show in the main theater in the afternoon. Am hoping they will do a complete ABBA album one day. The highlight of this cruise and we have been on three Holland America cruises.

  • Carol

    This is an amazing band. Get the CD Broadway to Beethoven and Beyond it is Magic.

  • Meredith & Rick Cheney

    We took the December 13th cruise on the Zuiderdam and were pleasently surprised to find Island Magic on board. Not only the best entertainment on board, the best steel drum band I have ever heard but old friends from years ago on Dolphin & Premier Cruise Lines. What a pleasure to reconnect with my “Dear Friends” and see how their talent has grown.

  • Betty Lemon

    I have been cruising since 1957 and have seen many shows. This was the best. Awesome and fantastic! How can I order a copy of the Broadway tunes. I didn’t buy one on the ship and that was a mistake!

  • Beverly Boxley

    This was my third cruise with Holland America and my first cruise on the Zuiderdam. All of the 10 days were wonderful but the highlight was listening to the Island Steel Band twice. They were received with standing ovations. I have the CD in my car and I can listen to it wherever I go. Just great.

  • Joe King

    My wife and I have sailed 4 times on Holland America and have another booked for this coming Christmas. Three of the cruises were on the Zuiderdam, as is our next cruise. While on our Southern Caribbean Cruise, a Christmas Cruise, we had the honor and pleasure of seeing, hearing and meeting the Island Magic Steel Drum Band and they were absolutely fabulous. Both times they preformed in the Vista Lounge, they played to a full house and received standing ovations. If you ever get a chance to see and hear them, do not pass up the chance.

  • KYM

    You can get both their albums online at their website http://www.islandmagicsteelband.webs.com
    It is mailed directly to you no extra shipping cost.

  • Peg

    The Island Magic Steel Band was a complete surprise and the best part of our recent Caribbean Cruise on the Eurodam!! We just can’t get over it. They really were magic and their talent outstanding. I am hoping they will one day soon be “discovered” by some philharmonic orchestra that will allow them the chance to guest star. The public will get a real musical treat.

  • Bernice Dubel

    My husband and I were astounded by the precision and beauty of Island Magic on our Panama Cruise. As they perform music from all genres their movements reflect their own enjoyment of their music and of the audience. The music takes you to a place of joy and happiness! We bought the CD to bring back memories of the delight we felt in their presence!

  • mullen fisher

    Great band, best entertainment in a long while.
    Also, not to loud, I mean most of everything on ships are too loud.
    Also they were very respectful group.

  • Larry and Susan Cronin

    This Band is truly Island Magic, I love their CD and play it often. Wish we could see them again aboard ship. Keep up the great work .

  • Richard Mohre

    I saw the band on the Eurodam last October 2014!!! Outstanding they were! Two concerts and were they ever appreciated by all that saw them! Humble, polite and very professional! Had the pleasure to run into the main man in the Lido lounge and had a delightful conversation with him and he took the time to tell us all about the band! Second best act we ever saw on a HAL cruise. Still number #1, Joel Mason!!!

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