Founded in 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin, Panchromatic Steel has blazed an entirely new trail in the city’s music scene, fusing island styles with pop hits, rock and jazz into a high-energy blend that is hard to categorize but easy to love. With top-shelf multi- instrumentalism and wide-ranging appeal, Panchromatic’s music brightens any day, transports listeners to their happiest moments in the sun, and threads the needle by being artful yet accessible to virtually everyone.
At the heart of Panchromatic’s sound is the steeldrum, or “steelpan” as it's known in its native Trinidad & Tobago. The instrument is a sawed-off 55-gallon oil drum with the top stretched into a bowl and hand-hammered to create tone-producing dents that ring when struck by rubber-tipped mallets. Its tropical associations are hokey to some and delightful to others; but either way, the cliches tell only part of the story and mostly just obscure the instrument’s fierce but woefully under-appreciated musical tradition, which boasts levels of complexity, creativity and energy rivaled by few other musical artforms.
Panchromatic embraces the steelpan’s Caribbean origins while pushing forward into new musical territory. The band includes vocals, horns, flute, keyboards and multiple percussionists, and its all-gender musicians are as diverse as the instruments they play. With its multicolored (ergo “panchromatic”) palette, the band tackles everything from highly technical, jazz-inspired art pieces to danceable favorites by the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, Led Zeppelin, and Stevie Wonder, taking them to new, uniquely memorable heights.