Alvin Rostant has performed all around the world, at large scale events like the Olympics and for royalty. An adopted Aussie since 1974, today you might hear his songs on Big Brother or discover his group acts, such as The Banana Joe Show. He’s doing it all with his steel drum, a once rare instrument slowly making its way into Top 40 Billboard R&B hits.
When you play a big event like the Olympics, how does it happen? Do people place a phone call looking for the best, or do you have to approach them?
In the past, music agents usually contact us, and we quote for the job. However, these days, organizing bodies can contact us directly via the Internet. We are happy to work both ways. Many musicians dislike working through agents as they feel the middle man gets the most, however, this is not our perception.
What do you love about Australia that made you never want to leave decades ago?
The climate was particularly attractive as I feel the cold. The lifestyle, the fact the Australia plays cricket (I sing the anthem for the WI Cricket team at the Ekka, Wakka, MCG etc. when they visit), great people, happy good looking women, good opportunity for my music.
How have Aussies embraced your music?
The music, especially live, is always well received, even in regional Australia.
What does it take for mainstream radio to embrace Caribbean sounds who, well, isn’t Rihanna?
Yes, that’s been hard. The radio stations haven’t taken it up like in the USA, etc. Its been hard to make an impact as R&B, blues and country are so entrenched. It’s also been challenging to encourage Aussies to embrace the steel drum. Although its a fabulous instrument to play, it remains still quite rare in Australia. All over the world, the steel drum has ben embraced with large orchestras in Europe, the USA and England, but it’s only now just starting to be embraced in Australia. We had the inaugural steel band festival in April 2013.
Speaking of her, she has a great song called “Man Down” with that very island sound, probably the most of any of her singles. Have you ever thought about producing for hip-hop/R&B artists?
Is playing the steel drum a spontaneous instrument performance, like performing a jazz show, or do you have to stick to the original beat?
How can the steel drum sound sad, romantic or party-ready? In other words, how does it have emotions?
What originally made Caribbean music so happy?
Where can we see your next performances and other exciting things going on for you?