PAN-JUMBIE

Charleston’s Seitu Solomon honors Guyanese roots with steelpan solo project

US – Seitu Solomon’s steelpan sounds are perfect for Charleston’s island setting, but the local musician got his start in his hometown of New York City — as a toddler.

“I’m told — and I can’t remember back when I was three — but I’m told that when I was three was when I started playing [steelpan],” Seitu says. “I know we recorded our first session when I was five. So there’s actually footage of me playing at that time, but my dad says that from three I basically picked up the sticks and started playing.”

Seitu was born into a musical family unlike most. His father, who moved to New York at age nine, is from Guyana, a South American country considered to be part of the Caribbean, which is where the family’s steelpan culture originates, while Seitu’s mother is from Saint Lucia. Together, they raised up a family band, with each member — including Seitu’s older brother Gella and younger sister Tunisia (Tee Tee Solo is her solo stage name) — a steelpan player, be it six bass, tenor pan, double tenor, or guitar.

The five-piece steelpan family band has performed as Steel Impressions — at everything from weddings, like a recent one in Mt. Pleasant, to special events, including last year’s Marley Cup — all of Seitu’s life. “The five of us, we were the Jackson Five of steeplan,” he says. “A pretty cool situation that I was born into.”

But the family wasn’t solely raised on steelpan. “All of my siblings grew up playing every type of instrument,” says Seitu, who himself is adept at piano, guitar, bass, soprano sax, vocals, and tenor steelpan. “I was able to learn a lot musically just living in my house essentially with my family.”

Read more