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BEST CARIBBEAN BAND Miami 2003 - 21st Century Steel Orchestra

Michael Kernahan's 21st Century Steel Orchestra is Miami's strongest link to the steel pan music of Trinidad and Tobago. Kernahan, a Trinidad native who builds the pans (more commonly known as steel drums) he plays, has put together an ensemble that numbers as many as 40, though he plays with more manageable groups at local venues. "They're the leading steel pan band in South Florida," says Stephen Stuempfle, curator of the South Florida Historical Museum and a steel pan scholar. The music has roots in the Caribbean, but before that, Africa -- though much of it consists of adaptations of jazz and calypso standards. "Michael Kernahan is really a student of the music, and when you hear him, you're hearing the real thing," Stuempfle says.

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Chuck LaBow
Chuck LaBow

The 21st Century Steel Orchestra, led by Big Mike, is an exceptional group. Their repertoire consists of everything from the expected,island pan sound to incredible renditions of traditional, Christmas music. The full orchestra actually sounds like a massive theater organ, with all the "toys" in full, working order.

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