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At the Small Steelband Pan Finals at Skinner Park, San Fernando, this evening, Fusion Steel will perform Dike Samai’s arrangement of Out of the Box from 2015 composed by Mark Loquan and Seion Gomez.
Samai who is a composer, arranger, teacher and performer, breaks the norm as the only Panorama arranger who is a film score composer. He is a full-time music teacher at St Benedict’s College in La Romaine after getting first a music certificate and then a bachelor’s degree at UWI.
Raised in San Fernando, Samai was entranced at the age of 11 on Carnival Tuesday seeing a young woman playing tenor pan in T&TEC Electrosounds where his older brother was playing. He was convinced he could do it and soon joined Electrosounds but within a couple years joined NLCB Fonclaire where he came under the influence of their arranger, Darren Sheppard. When after several years, Sheppard went to form Kaizen Fusion Steel, Dike Samai was one the youngsters who followed him.
Having fingers in many pies Over the years, Samai has risen to be its captain, arranger and musical director as Fusion grew to be three groups — the larger Fusion Steel Orchestra competing at Panorama, Fusion Steel Ensemble a performing group with two albums out ( Jazz and Christmas), and the amazing NexLevel Fusion, a unique pan/soca fusion with hints of hip hop, RnB, rap and more who were guest performers at the Junior Panorama finals on Sunday. Samai was also one of the adjudicators at the Junior Panorama finals for the Elite Category earlier in the night, won by the bpTT Renegades Youth Steel.
Besides all his work with Fusion, Samai is a dedicated music teacher at St Benedict’s College for the last several years and leads their two steelpan ensembles which have been winning competitions at SanFest with arrangements by himself and his students. Indeed, part of his role as he sees it is creating arrangers out of his students and passing on opportunities for his students the way Darren Sheppard created ones for him.
If that isn’t enough he has performed in three distinctly different forums. He plays tenor pan for the last three years with a contemporary gospel group The Chosen. He has been involved in the Presentation College Mixed Choir while a student and now as an alumni.
Then he acts and performs with the group Caricomedy who even have comedy videos online.
Music for the silver screen beckons Dike But if all that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Samai is also one of Trinidad’s few film soundtrack composers, which is something he dreams he may one day do full time. That dream started several years ago when watching a Harry Potter movie.
He was captivated when one death scene left him transfixed by the power the soundtrack had over the audience and the ability to control the audience’s emotions, make them feel anger, excitement, dread and sadness.
He knew then and there that film composing is what he wanted to do. His dream led to him taking a year-long online course (Composition for Film and TV) with Berklee College of Music while reaching out to film makers in Trinidad.
He has gone on to compose music for four short films and then for the local revised version of the action thriller feature from director Michael Rochford Pendulum which was released last Fall around the country.
This was Samai’s most difficult film work to date as he had to write almost 50 minutes of music in a relatively short period of time. He wrote full complex orchestral sequences for the action scenes which was a major challenge. He had created music with a lesser number of instruments for other scenes and also included steelpan in certain scenes, meshing his two loves. “I want to integrate pan in film. It’s an unused resource,” said Samai.
So far, local films do not have the budget to work with a live orchestra and right now Dike Samai is creating electronic symphonic scores but he longs for the day he works on a score with a budget to support a live orchestra.
But right now Samai is focused on Fusion Steel Orchestra and today’s Panorama final, fine tuning his arrangement. He feels his Panorama arrangements inevitably influenced by hisongoing exploration of the world of film scores. “All of my arrangements for pan try to bridge Panorama and film scoring, reveals Samai. “I love film scores; I love Panorama music. In chord progressions, film music tends to come out
Playing Out of the Box for Panorama
He was drawn to Out of the Box from the first time he heard it and immediately told people he was sometime going to arrange it for Panorama. Samai continued: “I like songs that have a lot of music in them, the verse, chorus, different chord progressions. I love cello pan solos and for me, the chorus in Out of the Box is one long mad cello solo. Since I started working on it, I was just getting the vibe.”
Samai can’t wait for tonight’s small band National Panorama final and Fusion has many irons in the fire after Carnival but he wants to make a shout out to any filmmakers, TV producers and video game designers that he is available for scoring work, so check out his website www. dikesamai.com
Ray Funk is a retired Alaskan judge and a Fulbright scholar who is passionately devoted to calypso, pan and mas.
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