Web Posted - Wednesday September 29, 2021
When Steel Talks

The golden era of the great Brooklyn African-American drum and bugle corps - predecessors to Brooklyn Steel Orchestras

When Steel Talks Special

Wynn-Center Toppers

Andy Akiho
Andy Akiho - (first on the left)

Third from left (back row) - Jonathan Scales
Third from left (back row) - Jonathan Scales

Brooklyn, New York - The world recognizes the musical works of these outstanding panists. But before their success as performers and composers who took the steelpan instrument into captivating and unexplored musical expanses, Jonathan Scales and Andy Akiho were once proud members of a drumline. Both played bass drum. And now both are New York residents. Coincidences?

It was not very long ago when you could literally see 100-player steel orchestras rolling rhythm racks, and chariots with the complete family of steelpan instruments, through the streets of Brooklyn (and - no, this was not for the Labor Day parade). From Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, East Flatbush, East New York, Brownsville and Harlem, they came and converged on the Brooklyn Museum grounds for the annual Steelband (Steel Orchestra) Panorama competition. Similarly, great marching bands used to march through the streets of Brooklyn as they converged on Bushwick Avenue for their participation in the Brooklyn Day Parade.

Educator and drumline instructor Harold Craig Barber gives an upclose and personal account of the Golden Era of Brooklyn drum and bugle corp.