"" Writer's Wanderings: Two Old Salts At Sea

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Two Old Salts At Sea


Friday was another sea day and started with our usual walk after breakfast. The sea was a bit choppy and as the ship was cutting through waves it was creating a salty mist that blew up onto the Promenade deck. It was refreshing but salty and by the time we were done with our walk, we could taste the salt on our lips. I wondered if there were any benefits to the skin, a free natural facial perhaps?

I spent the morning writing while Bob attended another interview session with the cruise director. She's definitely Dutch. I love to hear her talk with all of the soft "d"s she puts into the English words.

After lunch we went to a future cruises talk with the onboard booking agent. We are still contemplating another world cruise in 2024 and trying to find a way to fit in all the ports we wanted to see when our disastrous grand voyage ended. The pyramids and the holy land as well as the island of Gibraltar are still on the bucket list. She tempted us with some alternatives to a world cruise that would get us the ports we wanted. We're still thinking and weighing pros and cons.

It was what Holland America calls "gala" night. It's not necessarily black tie although we did see a couple of tuxedoes and long dresses. And it's not supposed to be casual. It should be at least smart casual but just as we were seated we noticed a couple of t shirts and shorts. To each his own I guess but I did think it a bit disrespectful to other diners when they could have eaten dressed that way in the buffet upstairs.

The best of the night was to come though. We sat and listened a bit to the dual pianos in the area called the Billboard. The two musicians played and sang songs from the sixties and we all sang along. Now that tells you a little of the ages of the guests onboard. 

Following the sixties tunes, we found seats in the theater, the Main Stage, for the evening's show. We knew it was to be a steel drum band but what we experienced was so much more. Now everyone thinks calypso and Caribbean rhythm when you think of steel drums. This was everything but that. This group of four talented musicians played everything from Do Re Mi and Alfred Llyod Weber music to classical music including the William Tell Overture. There were times I closed my eyes and just listened to the music. You could almost swear it was an orchestra.

Steel drums or pans originated in Trinidad which is where the band was from (actually Trinidad-Tobago). Slaves were imported back in the 1700s to work the sugar cane fields. Eventually slavery was abolished in the mid 1800s but they had brought their culture from Africa and part of it was drumming to celebrate festivals like Carnival. When the celebrations got way too rowdy, the drums were banned by the ruling class because they feared they were being used to communicate secret messages. As a protest another musical movement started called Tamboo Bamboo. Yes, you guessed it the instruments were all made of bamboo.

Before long this new musical expression became violent with rival gangs fighting each other with the bamboo and it too was banned. Rhythm could not be stopped though and soon musicians were picking up pots and pans and all sorts of metal and banging on it. Soon it was discovered that if you beat the metal enough you could get different pitches and sounds from the surface. By 1948, 55 gallon drums became available from the oil refineries on the islands and several people were instrumental in creating the 12 notes of the chromatic scale on the drum.

The instrument has evolved and the pan that was played by the man who carried the main melody had 36 notes in it. The big steel drums were like the bass and the group of drums on the other end were played like chords to accompany the melody. It was amazing. Oh, and I shouldn't forget the drummer who set the pace. What an evening! They have another performance and a special Q&A later in the cruise which should be quite interesting.

If you would like to know more about this group and maybe even want some of their music, click the link to their website, The Island Magic Steelband. There are a few videos there that will give you a taste of what we enjoyed.

Tomorrow, with any luck, we will wake up to see Aruba.

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