The Album: The Bacao Rhythm and Steel Band: The Serpent’s Mouth (2018)
Steel pan/drum music emerged out of Trinidad and Tobago over the course of the 1950s. Its tinny yet melodious timbre was unique and it soon became a signature style within the diverse soundscape of Afro-Caribbean music. The tourism industry compelled steel drum bands to adapt pop hits into their repertoire and by the late ’60s and early ’70s, it was common to hear soul and funk tunes being given a steel pan makeover. Even Morgan’s stepfather, Bob Sharpe, got in the action as part of the Salt N’ Pepper Steel Band, whose lone album includes covers of the Jackson 5 and Johnny Nash (and Oklahoma too!).
The Bacao Rhythm and Steel Band, formed by Germany’s Bjorn Wagner after a few years living in Trinidad & Tobago, is directly influenced by that earlier era. Across their two albums, 55 (2016) and last year’s The Serpent’s Mouth, Bacao tackle any number of surprising hits, many of them drawn from hip-hop as well as soul/funk, plus their own original compositions. If you ever wanted to hear Gang Starr deep cuts get the steel pan makeover, you came to the right place.
The Serpent’s Mouth was the album pick of DJ Garth Trinidad, whose been a radio fixture in Los Angeles since the mid-90s, when he first started at KCRW and rose to fame on his weeknight Chocolate City show. He continues to hold down a 8-10pm slot when he’s not busy music supervising or hosting concerts at the Hollywood Bowl.
More on Garth Trinidad
More on The Serpent’s Mouth
- Oliver’s review (NPR’s All Things Considered)
- Whosampled.com breakdown
- Track-by-track review (Monkey Boxing)
Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Serpent’s Mouth unless indicated otherwise):
- The Original Trinidad Steel Band: Cissy Strut
- Salt n’ Pepper Band: My Way
- Bacao Steel and Rhythm Band: Round & Round
- 1 Thing
- Jake Shimabukuro: Dragon
- 79.5: Terrorize My Heart
- The Poets of Rhythm: What You Doin’
- Bacao Steel and Rhythm Band: Dog Was A Doughnut
- All for the Cash
- Crockett Theme
- I Love You
- Maracas Bay Boogie
- The Katzenjammers
About the show
Hosted by Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes, every episode of Heat Rocks invites a special guest to talk about a heat rock – a hot album, a scorching record. These are in-depth conversations about the albums that shape our lives.
Our guests include musicians, writers, and scholars and though we don’t exclusively focus on any one genre, expect to hear about albums from the worlds of soul, hip-hop, funk, jazz, Latin, and more.
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