Meet the Steel Bands: RASPO

Meet Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO), an award-winning Steel Band based in Reading, Berkshire.

Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO)

Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra is an award winning steel band, providing entertainment for events, parties, carnivals and festivals, and educational workshops.

Steel Band (1951/1951)Notting Hill Carnival

Where does the name 'RASPO' come from?

The name commemorates TASPO (the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra; pictured), who were the first live steel band to play in the U.K. at the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO) (2016/2016)Notting Hill Carnival

When was RASPO founded?

RASPO was formed in 1997 with instruments and tutors from Mangrove Steel Band.

Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO) (2006/2006)Notting Hill Carnival

What are RASPO's aims?

RASPO welcomes all age groups, nurtures talent, provides access to music, and creates professional performance opportunities at places such as: The Royal Albert Hall, WOMAD festival, Glastonbury, and the London 2012 Olympics, live on BBC and ITV.

Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO) (2018/2018)Notting Hill Carnival

RASPO and Notting Hill Carnival

RASPO perform annually on the road at Notting Hill Carnival, bringing a smile to the faces of everyone that hears their music.

Mary Genis FRSA

Mary Genis is the founder and leader of RASPO, which was set up as a community project in 1997. As the Artistic Director of CultureMix Arts, Mary mentors RASPO players to become professionals. She is a board member for Carnival Village Trust and the chair of Black mentoring charity Reading Refocus. 

Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO)Notting Hill Carnival

Notable Band Members

Alongside Mary, Key RASPO members include:

Ailsa Harris, a founding member of the band who joined in 1997. She is now Chair of the CultureMix Arts Board.

Nathifa Jordan joined the band in 2006, before becoming Band Captain in 2008. She manages the band’s bookings as the Business Director for RASPO’s management company, CultureMix Arts. 

Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO)Notting Hill Carnival

Notable Band Members

Paul Jr Watson joined the band in 2006 as a tutor from Slough All Stars Steel Band. He became the band leader for RASPO’s Panorama appearances and is now the Musical Director for CultureMix Arts.

Dani Richardson joined RASPO in 2006 as a tutor, leading arrangements for the band and for schools. He co-arranged for RASPO’s appearance at Panorama in 2018.

Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO) (1998/1998)Notting Hill Carnival

RASPO on 'Rosie and Jim' (1999)

In 1998, RASPO filmed an episode for popular children's programme Rosie & Jim.  

The episode, titled 'The Steel Drum', features Bubbles as the pan maker and young members of RASPO in the early days of the band. The filming took place at Blake's Lock in Reading and was broadcast on ITV in early 1999. 

Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO) (2018/2018)Notting Hill Carnival

RASPO at the U.K. National Panorama Competition (2018)

For Panorama 2018, RASPO performed Marlon Abner's 'Mad Man', arranged for the band by Dani Richardson and Paul Jr. Watson, where they tied for fourth place. 

Alongside their forty-one players, RASPO also brought eight master percussionists from Northeastern Brazil's Ylê de Egbá, who contributed authentic Afro-Brazilian afoxé rhythms to the performance.

RASPO for Notting Hill Carnival: Access All Areas (2020)

RASPO has been busy despite the COVID-19 pandemic, performing in the digital Notting Hill Carnival: Access All Areas. If you've enjoyed getting to know RASPO, be sure to follow them on their socials:

Instagram: @raspouk
Twitter: @RASPOUK
Facebook: @RASPOUK

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