Set in Akron and the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago, both programs feature The University of Akron Steel Drum Band. They are the first documentaries about steel drum music ever shot in high definition.
Documenting the compelling and conflict-torn history of steel drum music, “Hammer on Steel: Bad Boys and Genius” is a 30-minute documentary that explains the Trinidad-Akron connection and details the instrument’s early development in Trinidad.
The second program, “Hammer on Steel: The Concert,” captures the UA Steel Drum Band’s 30th-anniversary concert with Calypso singer Relator and percussionist Andy Narell at E.J. Thomas Hall on the UA campus.
Forged less than 100 years ago in the heated struggle for independence in colonial Trinidad, steel drum music was often the source of tremendous conflict. As quickly as authorities seized and destroyed the handmade and hammered pans, Trinidadians would rebuild. Now the music has become a source of community pride, national identity, and economic development.
“We made ‘Hammer on Steel’ to tell the world about this wonderful music and the self-taught musicians who created it from the beginning — many of whom are now elderly and won’t be with us much longer,” explained Larry Snider, The University of Akron music professor who founded the UA Steel Drum Band in 1980.
“We also wanted to tell the unlikely story of how the Caribbean sounds of the steel drums have also found a home in less-than-tropical Northeast Ohio,” said Snider.
Both “Hammer on Steel” programs were produced by Phil Hoffman, a faculty member in The University of Akron School of Communication and an Emmy award-winning documentary producer for Western Reserve PBS; Matt Dudack, the band’s artistic director and a faculty member and graduate of the UA School of Music; Richard Maurer, an audio engineer and graduate of the UA School of Music; and Snider. Tim McCarty directed the concert footage.
Support for the programs was provided by The University of Akron’s Office of the President, College of Creative and Professional Arts, School of Music, and School of Communication;
The Kenneth L. Calhoun Charitable Trust; Radiation Oncology Physicians, LLC; Drs. Mark and Sandy Auburn; and numerous individuals.