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Published on August 5th, 2017 | by Robbie Joseph


Marcus Cumberbatch-King – Humble, Shy and Talented Musician!

Meet Marcus Cumberbatch-King. Panpodium has known this young and talented individual since he started playing the steepan instrument. He is definitely one to watch.  

In 2002, Marcus started playing the steel pan at his primary school, St. Thomas’s Church of England, at the tender age of six, under the tutelage of Darren Francis. He was then later introduced to the Stardust Steel Orchestra with his twin brother at the age of seven by a family friend called Elston, who was very involved with steelpan having played for many years and had vast knowledge about it.

Marcus continued to play steelpan in school but was then taught by Samuel Dubois. He started on double guitar and in 2006 he played in his first UK National Steel Band Panorama with the Stardust Steel Orchestra. After playing with Stardust for five years and competing in two Panoramas, he was taken to play with CSI Steelband when it had just started with as little as 5-6 players. As the band grew quickly in size and popularity they entered their first panorama in 2008, playing, ‘Hooked’ arranged by Brent Holder. 

Marcus was then taught by Crystal Holder, Jason Constantine and Chris Cox in order to become a more diverse in terms of technicality, fluid player. This then enabled him throughout his seven years playing with CSI to play the Three-pan, Four-Pan and Quads at different panoramas and gigs.

PP: When was your first panorama? 

MK: In 2006, with Stardust Steel Orchestra

PP: First band you played for?

MK: Stardust Steel Orchestra

PP: What made you want to start playing pans?

MK: It was introduced into my primary school, where I was taught by Darren Francis and then later on by Samuel Dubois. I was then introduced to Stardust Steel Orchestra through a gentleman named, Elston, who I believed played for the Metronomes Steel Orchestra at the time.

PP: When did you start playing pan?

MK: At the tender age of 6

PP: What steel bands have you played for?

MK: Stardust Steel Orchestra, CSI Steel Orchestra, Ebony Steelband and Renegades Steel Orchestra in Trinidad.

PP: If you could play for any band in the world what band would you want to play with?

MK: I’d honestly have to say Ebony Steelband, they are pretty much family and there is nothing better then doing what you love with family. However, other than Ebony I would love to play with Pan Elders Steel Orchestra in Trinidad.

PP: What steelband competitions have you taken part in?

MK: The UK National and Junior Steelband Panorama competitions, Trinidad National Steelbands Panorama (at both semi’s and finals). Trinidad Schools’ Panorama, Pan Explosion, International C Panorama and Perfect Pitch.

PP: What was the most challenging thing you have done to do with pans?

MK: Playing four pan for the late crystal holder at her funeral. That was incredibly tough as she taught me so much especially how to play with grace and meaning. And so to have the honour to play her pan at her funeral that was exceptionally hard but I hoped and believed I did her proud

PP: What’s been the most inspirational moment in your life?

MK: Playing with Ebony Steel Band at ICP. That was my first year going to Trinidad. So walking across the massive stage in the savannah, and performing in Trinidad for the first time with the band I love. That was awe-inspiring and such a magical moment. I thought I was going to cry!

PP: Have you toured and if so where have you performed?

MK: Geneva, Holland twice, Amsterdam, Seychelles, Trinidad and I think that’s it.

PP: What is your favourite pan to play?

MK: Triple seconds. Is just so thrilling to play and really challenges the mind and wrists

PP: Who are your inspirations both to do with pans and musically?

MK: Crystal Holder – deceased was very much my inspiration. She played so effortlessly. Had so much control and poise it was fascinating to study and watch. Joelle George, the way she teaches children and brings them together is absolutely amazing. Samuel Dubois, Delphina James, David Ijudola and Marlon Hibbert are also inspirational. These pan musicians know about chords and I love chords!

PP: What are your hopes for pan?

MK: I truly hope someday pan can be considered as a conventional instrument and that people begin to understand that this instrument is like no other. In order to get the perfect sound, tone etc. there are certain ways you have to play and execute.

PP: What is your vision for pan in the future?

MK: It becomes a lot more common in schools and on the curriculum, that it is introduced a bit more around the world and also that the pan community could come together a bit more. I don’t feel we are as united as we could be. As we are such a small community as it is. It is important that we remain united and we begin to build our community and expand it. Remember that old saying – Unity is Strength!!

PP: What are your musical aspirations for the future?

MK: I hope to be studying music this year as well as learn a new instrument. I am currently trying to help a small steel band in Nottingham that has asked for help, which is really cool. In a year or two, I hope to go to an underprivileged country and possibly introduce steelpan there, the ability to express yourself through it and the benefits of music. It is unfortunate that there are poor people out there that could never get to experience the benefit of music or the steelpan instrument, so my goodwill would be to visit disadvantaged countries and introduce them to steelpan and its music.

PP: What do you think needs to happen in the UK for the steelpan instrument and its culture to be more widely recognised on all musical platforms?

MK: I think we need to possibly promote our events to the wider community and beyond. I also believe that we need to push a bit harder and take the steelpan into avenues that people believe it cannot go. What those avenues are unfortunately, I do not really know however where there is a will there’s a way. Lastly remaining united as a community. Not everything has to be a competition. We must remember that we are all doing this because of our love for the steelpan and its music. Not because we are trying to prove who is better. It is important that we demonstrate a united front as I have seen the younger generation begin to develop the mentality about whose band is better. And it should never be that way at their age. It should be about enjoying the instrument, the eagerness to want to learn more and progress on your musical journey.

Finally, I would like to say that how you choose to express yourself through steelpan music is your own personal and individual thing and let nobody tell you otherwise. It does not matter how good or bad you are (although in my opinion everyone is good in their own right) as long as you are enjoying yourself, you’re catching or creating a vibe and performing with the people you love that is all that matters!

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