Surely you haven’t heard “Country Roads” quite like this.
The sounds of every Mountaineer’s favorite John Denver song are resonating through the nation’s capital in an Afro-Caribbean flavor, courtesy of the West Virginia University Steel Drum Band.
About 40 students from the ensemble are also churning out a handful of patriotic tunes calypso-style—from “Home on the Range” and “Yankee Doodle” to “America the Beautiful.”
It’s all part of the Smithsonian Institution’s 2012 Folklife Festival, which began June 27 and runs through July 8 between 7th and 14th streets on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The festival, titled “Campus and Community: Public and Land-grant Universities and the USDA at 150,” tips its hat to the 150th anniversary of the 1862 Morrill Act. The legislation paved the way for the founding of land-grant institutions such as WVU.
As you can see and hear in the accompanying video, the band kicked off the festival with performances that stirred young and old to bust a move and sing along.
The “father of the modern steel drum,” Ellie Mannette, joined students on their opening night performance. Mannette, a National Heritage Fellow, started WVU’s Steel Drum Band in the 1990s and served as a faculty member and director of the University Tuning Project until 2008.
Mannette found a home at WVU after a storied career that involved the development and evolution of the steel drum—a journey that took him from his native Trinidad to all points of the globe.
“I gave up most of my life to develop this instrument— it started with trash cans,” Mannette said. “Eventually, I brought it to academics and higher learning. There’s a gratification in it for me to get young people to carry on the legacy of the steel drum.”
For a full schedule of events, go to http://www.festival.si.edu/2012/schedule_06_27.aspx.
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