Becky Bass brings some Caribbean soul to The Blue Room

Posted 3/27/24

A native of St. Croix and a graduate of Brown University, Becky Bass has a way of combining her soulful voice, stellar steel pan playing and excellent stage presence to create a vibrant dynamic on …

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Becky Bass brings some Caribbean soul to The Blue Room


A native of St. Croix and a graduate of Brown University, Becky Bass has a way of combining her soulful voice, stellar steel pan playing and excellent stage presence to create a vibrant dynamic on stage. Folks can see her perform weekly with the reggae act Natural Element as part of Foundation Mondays at The Parlour on 1119 North Main Street in Providence, and she has a few other projects going on as well. One of them is a trio that has Jhony Keys on piano and Osi Brathwaite on drums joining her to forge rhythmic sounds. At The Blue Room on 2197 Broad Street in Cranston, Bass, Keys and Brathwaite will be performing on April 3. The show starts at 7 p.m. and it promises to be an ideal way to get through the middle of the week.

Bass and I had a talk about what drove her into becoming a musician, her theater career and what she has going on with both fields in the near future.

Rob Duguay: What would you say was the catalyst for making you want to become a musician? What was the initial inspiration?

Becky Bass: My father is a musician as well and he played the steel pan, so I’d say that he was definitely my first inspiration. Music was constantly in my life when I was a kid and I started playing the pan when I was two years old. Then I started taking classical piano and then I started singing, so I really think my dad was the catalyst for my love of music. To do it professionally, really and truly my time at Brown was the catalyst for me pursuing music and art as a career.

RD: Very cool. Outside of music, you’ve done a lot of acting for in plays such as “Rent”, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hairspray”, films including “Space Oddity” and “Love, Weddings & Other Disasters” and commercials for Ocean State Job Lot, AAA and Kohl’s among other businesses. Is acting something you’ve been doing since you were a kid as well? How did you initially get into that field?

BB: My first production ever was in fourth grade. “The Wiz” was auditioning at our school and I got cast as the lead munchkin (laughs), so that was kind of the beginning of me loving acting. I acted all throughout middle school and high school, but it wasn’t until college where I made a choice. One of my mentors at Brown opened the doors for me to really see that being an artist and an actor was something very possible to do as a career. Growing up in St. Croix, most of the community down there truly believes that acting, music and anything like that is only a hobby and cannot be a career.

Coming into Brown with all of that being my passion but still having this understanding from my community that I couldn’t do it as a career, I was initially a chemistry major. It wasn’t until I started attending there that I began to discover that if I really love it then I can give it a go as a career option. That was my beginning of pursuing acting professionally.

RD: You mentioned that you started playing the steel pan when you were two years old, so with that fact, do you consider music to be your first love?

BB: Yes. Life is funny because music was my first love and acting came second, but then I ended up getting my degree in Theatre Arts & Performance Studies and I thought I was going to pursue acting but that’s not how the universe works. Literally right after I graduated, a lot of amazing things lined up so that music became my first career. Even though music was my first love, there were a lot of things that led me down a different path which eventually brought me full circle back to it.

RD: It’s funny how the universe sometimes works like that.

BB: I know! (laughs)

RD: For this upcoming show with your trio at The Blue Room, you’re going to be singing along with playing the steel pan. In your opinion, what makes the steel pan stand out to you? Is it the versatility it provides while performing or is it something else?

BB: First of all, the obvious answer to what makes the steel pan stand out is that it’s a very unique instrument. Not a lot of people play it, especially up here in New England. There’s definitely a few, but I’m probably one of the only ones playing this instrument who is originally from the Caribbean and grew up playing it. The steel pan is literally the first instrument I have ever played on, so that in itself already kind of makes it unique. The ability to both sing and play, which is also very rare to see with the steel pan, I feel like that sets me apart from other steel pan players and other musicians because it’s such a unique instrument in itself.

Also, I would say that this instrument, since I grew up with it and my dad played it while eventually introducing it to me, even in our schools where you could take band and choir, you could also take steel pan. It was part of the curriculum and of course, the school I went to my dad was a teacher and he instructed everyone how to play the steel pan. (laughs) I literally grew up playing this instrument since I was young all the way through school until my senior year of high school, so for me, it actually wasn’t a unique instrument. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the steel pan because you know when your parents force you to do something and you don’t want to do it, so the steel pan was like that for me. I knew it very well, but I just wanted to sing so when I got to college I put it down for four years and I didn’t touch it until my senior year.

There was this theater production that needed musicians and singers and I thought “Oh, ok. Well, I guess I’ll let them know that I play the steel pan and sing.” That was the beginning of this journey where I’m able to play this instrument and sing at the same time, it was right there. It was right at that moment where I found my love again for the steel pan and now I can’t see my life without it as a part of my world.

RD: That’s a great story behind how you became familiar with the instrument. We just got into the spring season, so what are some things you have going on with either music or acting over the next few months?

BB: I do have some music directing projects that I’m a part of, which is very exciting, for different theater productions. The first one is in Boston, which goes up in April, and another one that I’ve been working on here in Rhode Island is with the Rites and Reason Theatre at Brown University. It’s such a cool place, it’s one of the oldest black theaters in America, so I’m working on a project there where I’m music directing and also the lead vocalist and co-composer of the music that people are going to hear. That reading is in May and then we’ll have a full production at some point either in the fall or next spring.


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