Seitu Solomon's steelpan sounds are perfect for Charleston's island setting, but the local musician got his start in his hometown of New York City — as a toddler.
"I'm told — and I can't remember back when I was three — but I'm told that when I was three was when I started playing [steelpan]," Seitu says. "I know we recorded our first session when I was five. So there's actually footage of me playing at that time, but my dad says that from three I basically picked up the sticks and started playing."
Seitu was born into a musical family unlike most. His father, who moved to New York at age nine, is from Guyana, a South American country considered to be part of the Caribbean, which is where the family's steelpan culture originates, while Seitu's mother is from Saint Lucia. Together, they raised up a family band, with each member — including Seitu's older brother Amire and younger sister Tunisia (Tee Tee Solo is her solo stage name) — a steelpan player, be it six bass, tenor pan, double tenor, or guitar.
The five-piece steelpan family band has performed as Steel Impressions — at everything from weddings, like a recent one in Mt. Pleasant, to special events, including last year's Marley Cup — all of Seitu's life. "The five of us, we were the Jackson Five of steeplan," he says. "A pretty cool situation that I was born into."
But the family wasn't solely raised on steelpan. "All of my siblings grew up playing every type of instrument," says Seitu, who himself is adept at piano, guitar, bass, soprano sax, vocals, and tenor steelpan. "I was able to learn a lot musically just living in my house essentially with my family."
Since moving to Charleston with his brother five years ago, Seitu has been steadily writing his own songs, collaborating with local musicians, and appearing regularly at beach venues like Loggerhead's (catch him there on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. all summer). The decision to start fresh in the Lowcountry came after visiting the area all his life — the Solomons spent Christmases in Hilton Head — and realizing it's the ideal place to play his kind of music. "The vibe here is perfect for the steelpan," he says, "just the whole island, summer vibe; the season is much longer here than in New York. It may be snowing there now for all we know."
Seitu is now set to release his debut single, "Good Day," this summer — it's a track he says is all about good island vibes. "The island sound is always incorporated, and I tend to make positive music," he says. "I use the music platform as a way to express myself, and it's also how I react to whatever I'm going through, whatever I experience throughout life."
Part of a growing collection of songs he hopes to turn into an album soon, "Good Day," was written the day before this year's Folly Gras. And it's — surprise — about living the good life, and appreciating it. "In Charleston it can be a beautiful day but we're running around and doing all of our things for work or school or whatever," he says. "But you forget to just acknowledge how good of a day it is, that the sun is shining, not too many worries — that you're alive, essentially."