In three weeks time, Dejehan Hamilton will introduce an instrument to a part of the world where its never yet been performed.
The 20-year-old musician from Hamilton’s north-end will be the first to perform the steel pan in Singapore. Ever.
“It’s overwhelming to think I’ll be performing for the first time,” he said. “It’s a historic moment.”
'People say ‘I didn’t know the steel pan could sound like that.' - Dejehan Hamilton
Hamilton –stagename Luckystickz – is a second-year student at Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music and he's committed to taking his instrument not just to new places, but to new genres, beyond its roots in Caribbean music into Jazz, Gospel and more.
He was invited to be one of six students from Berklee to travel across the globe to perform in a Christmas concert on Dec. 22, sponsored by his school and a Singapore-based production company.
“I’ll be introducing the steel pan to Singapore,” he said. “They don’t have any steel presence at all.”
It was at age 8 that Hamilton first got a drum kit and developed a passion for music. He played at the Hamilton Church of God on Stone Church Road, where his family had been attending for generations.
A few years later, the Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra was looking for a youth drummer, and he got the gig. At a practice, he started messing around with a steel pan.
“’You’re a natural,’ [the conductors] told me,” he said.
Hamilton has stuck with the instrument ever since. He’s the first Canadian to attend Berklee on scholarship and specialize in the steel pan, and he’s drawing attention because he’s doing something unique.
The steel plan is traditionally a Caribbean instrument, and Hamilton has roots in Trinidad and Tobago, but the music that comes from that part of the world is not his specialty.
“What I’m doing is trying to break down barriers that you can only play the instrument a Caribbean setting,” he said. “I’m trying to implement it in jazz and Motown.”
While playing the Beantown International Jazz Festival in Boston with a Motown and gospel group, Hamilton changed the traditional sound of the steel pan to mesh with a different style of music.
His style is in demand. Hamilton played several Berklee concerts this year, as well as an event at Harvard University for Trayvon Martin’s mother.
“There is a big interest factor,” he said of his mission to make the steel pan more mainstream. “People say ‘I didn’t know the steel pan could sound like that.’”
Hamilton has been practicing with his colleagues for the past month leading up to their Singapore performance when his instrument will blend with other percussion instruments and voice.
He’s expecting a lot of questions from Singapore about how the instrument works and where the sound comes from.
“I hope to leave the essence of the instrument in the country,” he said. “It needs more global presence.”
Hamilton isn’t leaving for Singapore without performing in his hometown first. He’ll play with the Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra Sat. Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. at the Dundas Little Theatre.