Ask any Caribbean musician in the San Francisco Bay Area if he's heard of Harry Best.The answer is a resounding "Yes."
In fact, Harry is a true Caribbean steel drum music pioneer in the area. Yet some have the mistaken impression that his steel drum band Shabang is something new on the scene?
Well, for many years, Harry was content to remain in the obscure but lucrative circuit of corporate events and private parties. But the "dot-com" crash together with the 9/11 cataclysm changed all of that.
Like a phoenix, Harry Best and Shabang have arisen from the ashes of these fiascos with a tight fresh steel drum pan sound that has people asking: "Who are these guys?" "Where are they from?"
A native of St. Lucia, Harry is a seasoned songwriter whose music has had more notoriety than his steel drum band. For years, he's written hit songs for artists such as the Caribbean international star, ‘Arrow’.
His lyrics are arresting, his melodies sweet, and the rhythms infectious. He is just as comfortable being the romantic, the rebel or the mystic. Add to that his accomplished skills on the steel drum pan and you have the foundation of Shabang’s music.
But ask Harry and he'll tell you that the real secret to Shabang's charm is their fun-loving approach to their performances.
"We go out to have fun with each other, first of all,” Harry says, “and we project that in our music. For the audience, the contagion is hard to resist."
A feature of Shabang's music is the enchanting sound of their steel drums. Affectionately known as "pans", steeldrums are handcrafted and finely tuned from 55-gallon oil barrels.
Dexter Bruce, a native of Trinidad and Tobago and a veteran steel drum pan player, formerly of Our Boys Steel Orchestra brings that special radiance to the Shabang steel drum sound.
Bass player Ed (Mac) McCarver is the pillar of the band. Says Harry: "Most of my compositions are written off bass lines...and I know I can depend on Mac to be in the pocket with an almost digital precision."
Mac's versatility and facility with the different Caribbean music genres give that consistent pulse that is the special trademark of Shabang's steel drum music.
Drummer Tyrone Gray is also another veteran musician from the Our
Boys corral of talent that's spread all over the Bay Area. He creates that pocket for Mac that translates into a tight groove.