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Mahomet Public Library will host a unique performance this weekend as part of the Boneyard Arts Festival. I-Pan, a steel drum ensemble based in Champaign-Urbana, will perform from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 14.
"The sound of the pans is really unique," said Tim Berg, who plays tenor pan in the ensemble. "You hear it and it just kind of hits you."
The group was founded in 1993 by members of the University of Illinois' steel drum ensemble who wanted to continue to hone their skills.
Berg, who joined in 2008, said that membership in I-Pan is a good venue for percussionists who want to write and arrange music. "It's a really good way to get professional experience," he said.
He characterized the group's sound as an "island feel." People often associate steel drums with reggae music from Jamaica, he added, but the instrument actually originated in calypso from Trinidad and Tobago.
Many of the pieces in I-Pan's repertoire are calypso pieces. They also play Soca, a fusion of soul and calypso, as well as arrangements of popular songs.
In addition to the tenor pan that Berg plays, I-Pan currently includes two other drums, electric bass and percussion.
Berg, who is working toward a master's degree in percussion performance at the U of I, has also worked with band students at Mahomet-Seymour for the past several years. He helps rehearse the Marching Bulldog drumline and teaches individual students.
While percussion instruments are often thought of as more rhythmic than melodic, a steel pan drum is "a really beautiful melodic instrument," Berg said.