Music often evokes time and place. Hearing a particular song that was playing at the time may vividly bring back, for example, making out with your high school girlfriend in the basement of your parents’ house, or a drunken, late night bull session with your buddies at your trashed college apartment.
Few genres of music, however, are as tied to a location as steel drum music is tied to the Caribbean islands. Perhaps ukelele music and Hawaii, or oompa bands and Germany, or koto music and Japan could compare — but that’s about it. Rock music, classical music, jazz, big band: all could be, and have been, successfully played just about anywhere. Steel drum music, though, really needs to be played outdoors, on a warm evening, with sultry breezes ruffling the leaves of lush tropical vegetation and crowds of happy, relaxed, rum-stoked people moving slowly to the ringing and tinkling sounds made by striking those gleaming steel drums. Try to imagine hearing steel drum music in a snowbound northern location, with people bundled up and their breath visible in the cold. I bet you can’t, because the juxtaposition is just too jarring.
My association of steel drum music with tropical warmth and beauty is so strong that I can make good use of it after I return home. When the cold, gray, gloomy days of winter close in, I put on some steel drum music and can almost feel the sun on my skin, smell the coconut scent of suntan lotion, and see the bright turquoise waters of the Caribbean. It makes the winter just a bit more bearable.