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Liberace and the Trinidad Tripoli Steelband
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    Van Dyke Parkes
    In 1971, Van Dyke Parks -- legendary producer, songwriter, arranger, composer and musician -- traveled with Liberace and the Esso Tripoli Steelband and Liberace and later produced the band's album, "The Esso Trinidad Tripoli Steelband."

    Listen Listen to Parks describe his first encounter with a steel band.

    Listen Hear Parks describe touring across America with the Esso Trinidad Tripoli Steelband.

    Cover of band's first album, 1971
    Cover for the Esso Trinidad Tripoli Steelband's 1971 LP, produced by Van Dyke Parks

    The All Stars, one of Trinidad's largest steel pan bands, rehearsing for the final night of 2002's Panorama competition
    The All Stars, one of Trinidad's largest steel pan bands, rehearsing for the final night of 2002's Panorama competition
    Photo: Davia Nelson

    Van Dyke Parks -- legendary producer, songwriter, arranger, composer and musician -- has worked with such varied artists as Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Ry Cooder, U2, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Natalie Cole, Arlo Guthrie, Sheryl Crow, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, The Mighty Sparrow and Randy Newman.

    In 1971 he traveled with the Esso Trinidad Tripoli Steelband and Liberace, filming an hour-long documentary about the band. He later produced the band's album, The Esso Trinidad Tripoli Steelband. To this day, he still says that the Tripoli Steelband was "the greatest group I've ever had the privilege to produce.

    "In 1962, I worked with my first steelband," Parks says. "It opened my eyes to what I think is the greatest music of the 20th century, on a popular level -- calypso music.

    "Like Ulysses, I went on an adventure with calypso music. Steel drum impressed me a great deal, because I had always been interested in tuneful percussion. The best group to express the love that I had for calypso was the Trinidad Tripoli Steelband. Tripoli, why Tripoli? Shores of Tripoli, the movie -- an homage to the Yanks. Trinidadians grew up on American movies, and they commented on them in their calypsos.

    "The Trinidadians have a rhythm that is very interesting. Hugh Borde, the leader of the group, taught me about the rhythm 'whip the lion.' All of the beats are pushed -- all of them are ahead of the beat. Forward, forward, backward. Forward, forward, backward.

    "Rhythms have a great importance in a lot of civilized activity," Parks says. "There are so many different purposes to the rhythms of our lives. These rhythms are the starch..."

    Parks now lives and works in Los Angeles, writing scores for movies and television.

    Other Resources

    The Liberace Foundation

    The Music of Van Dyke Parks

    History of the Esso Trinidad Tripoli Steelband

    Trinidad Tripoli Steelband discography

    Percussive Arts Society

    Emile Borde's personal Web site, SteelDrummers.com

    Mannette Steel Drums

    Tout Puissant Konono No. 1, a "tradi-electric" band in Kinshasa, the Congo, with instruments very similar to Trinidad steel bands.





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