FILM | Event blog: Luke Walker Steelpan Performance

Text by Christa Swanepoel

On Saturday the 16th of July the David Krut Bookstore at The Blue House on 151 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, hosted a mesmerizing steelpan performance by Caribbean musician and composer Luke Walker. The performance was filmed by videographer Paul Mills. Take a look at the video and read more about this event below.

Click HERE for more information about professional filmmaker and videographer Paul Mills who captured this wonderful performance.

A unique musical experience…

On a brisk Saturday morning enthused guests arrived through the gates at The Blue House for a unique musical performance. Despite it being a July morning, the sun was shining brightly and the air was filled with anticipation. Guests took their seats in the pleasant sunshine on the patio amongst the lush plants, still blooming in the garden of The Blue House despite it being mid-winter, excitedly awaiting the performance. Infront of them stood a unique metallic instrument on a stand. The glow of the sun glistened delightfully on the polished concave surface of the instrument, and illuminated the face of Luke Walker as he took his place behind his beloved instrument to greet the audience…

Left: Visitors were seated on the patio at The Blue House. Center: David Krut gave a warm introduction to Luke Walker. Right: Heidi Fourie’s exhibition On Soft Ground can be seen through the entrance into the gallery, something that Walker enjoyed seeing. He expresses in the video that this exhibition was very inspirational to see.

About the musician…

Luke Walker is a composer, performer and improviser from Trinidad and Tobago.  Growing up, he was nurtured by the oldest steelband in the world, Invaders Steel Orchestra, where he was a frontline player for ten years. The band’s extensive repertoire steeped him in the traditional music of Trinidad and Tobago while exposing him to a wide variety of music from around the world.  

Walker’s influence and career…

Building on a long legacy of adapting classical music to the instrument, he has been a featured soloist in symphonic orchestras in Trinidad and Tobago and Great Britain. Luke recently graduated from Harvard College where he was a student of Vijay Iyer and Esperanza Spalding, a member of the Harvard Jazz Band led by Yosvany Terry and a founding member of the Harvard New Music Ensemble led by Claire Chase. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in contemporary performance at the Berklee Global Jazz Institute under the mentorship of jazz legends such as Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano and John Pattitucci. He strives to blend all of these disparate influences into a unitive sound that pushes the boundaries of the steelpan.  

The unique sound of the steelpan…

Enraptured by the majestic sounds created by Walker, some guests closed their eyes and engrossed themselves in the melody. Inspired by interpretive jazz and the unique sound of the steelpan that is an imperative part of his Caribbean heritage, Walker employs a great deal of intuition to create his compositions. However, he explains that intuition alone does not make a good composition: countless hours of practice, music theory and mastery over the instrument is required to create these sounds that seem so organic and mesmerizing, which makes the seeming effortlessness with which he plays even more impressive. Steel pans only have about a one and half range octave which is not very much when compared to other instruments, however visitors on Saturday describe the performance as sounding as if there was an entire ensemble of musicians.  

About the steelpan…

The steelpan, a percussion instrument made of metal, was created and influenced by Trinbagonians. It is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, and is a source of great pride and true resilience for its citizens. Musicians who play the steel pan are referred to as pannists. 

The steelpan originated in Trinidad and Tobago, after the French arrived in Trinidad with their slaves during the French Revolution. In 1880 percussion music was banned in the country and in the 1930s orchestras began to appear with instruments of dustbin lids and oil drums. When the U.S. Navy arrived in the early 1940s they were introduced to the steel pan and its popularity around the world spread. The first steel pans were made from used oil drums but are now manufactured as an instrument all on their own to specific requirements.

Left: Luke Walker pulls the print he created from the press. Right: Walker created two monotype prints during his visit the the David Krut Workshop. One of which he took with him as a souvenir to commemorate his visit, the other will become part of the David Krut Projects collection.

To inquire about this print send an email to [email protected].

A musician experiences printmaking at the workshop…

After his performance, Walker visited the David Krut Workshop at Arts on Main for a guided tour, where it was discovered that his artistic prowess is not only limited to music, but that he is quite adept at creating images as well! With the guidance of the workshop team, Walker created his first ever monotype print, which he says was a wonderful new experience for him.

At the end of that day Walker had created two magnificent abstract watercolour monotype prints, showcasing his intuitive artistic abilities. He took one of the prints home with him as a souvenir to commemorate his visit. The other print will form part of the David Krut Projects collection to commemorate this collaboration of different artistic practices coming together for one unforgettable event.

To inquire about this print, contact [email protected].

All those who attended the performance had a wonderful time, and the David Krut team are proud to have been a part of Luke Walker’s experience in Johannesburg. We look forward to seeing how Walker’s career flourishes as he continues on his journey in the pursuit of music.

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