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.
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.