A UNIQUE SOUND

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - GRA­HAM ROCK­ING­HAM grock­ing­ham@thes­pec.com 905-526-3331 | @Rock­atTheSpec

De­je­han Hamil­ton broke new ground five years ago by be­com­ing one of the first stu­dents at Bos­ton’s pres­ti­gious Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic to claim the steel pan as his prin­ci­pal in­stru­ment.

Now, Hamil­ton — born and raised in the north end of the city that shares his name — is break­ing new ground by mix­ing his vir­tu­os­ity on the chrome-plated Caribbean drum with his love for con­tem­po­rary R&B.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 2016 with a four-year de­gree from Berklee, Hamil­ton re­turned home, per­form­ing his unique blend of soul, Soca, R&B and reg­gae un­der the stage name Luck­y­stickz.

At first, he wor­ried that he’d be­come known as “that steel pan guy” in­stead of a con­tem­po­rary pop artist. But Hamil­ton soon learned to em­brace the quirk­i­ness of his cho­sen in­stru­ment.

“I wanted to be my own guy, an artist who hap­pens to play steel pan,” Hamil­ton, 24, says be­tween mouth­fuls of choco­late cake and sips of a mango/or­ange drink at the Mul­berry Café on James Street North. “I’m an in­di­vid­ual, the steel pan is an ac­ces­sory.

“But Luck­y­stickz isn’t Luck­y­stickz with­out the steel pan. We both have to get along in this mar­riage.”

He had started writ­ing songs in Bos­ton, added a few more in Hamil­ton, and this year de­cided to record them with the help of his long­time friend Chris Wil­liams, a lo­cal key­board player and pro­ducer. The re­sult is a six-song EP called “Ev­ery Day Bat­tle.” (You can down­load it from luck­y­stickz.com.)

At first, steel pan wasn’t in the pic­ture for “Ev­ery Day Bat­tle.” But as Hamil­ton and Wil­liams were work­ing on the EP’s first sin­gle — an up­beat piece of pop called “Magic” — they found a place for it.

“Steel pan wasn’t go­ing to be in Magic at first,” says Hamil­ton, an ac­com­plished drum­mer who first took up steel pan as a mem­ber of the Hamil­ton Youth Steel Orches­tra.

“We wanted to do a nice lit­tle Afrobeat pop tune. We were lis­ten­ing to the start of it, with just the key­boards. I had a steel pan in the trunk of my car, and I said, ‘Do you think we should use the steel pan in­stead?’ And that’s how it hap­pened.”

The sleek steel pan intro on ‘Magic’ fits like a glove. As a mat­ter of fact, the av­er­age lis­tener might have dif­fi­culty iden­ti­fy­ing it as the sound of a steel pan. That suits Hamil­ton fine. “The chal­lenge was to use the steel pan and not make it sound like the is­lands,” Hamil­ton says. “I was try­ing to stay as far away as pos­si­ble from the Caribbean box it usu­ally gets put into.”

At Berklee, which he at­tended on a schol­ar­ship, Hamil­ton honed his per­for­mance skills play­ing with funk-fu­sion and Latin en­sem­bles. He gained con­fi­dence in his vo­cal skills when he was se­lected to sing at a spe­cial Berklee trib­ute to the great Harry Be­la­fonte. He also per­formed in Sin­ga­pore with Sin­ga­pore-Amer­i­can fin­ger­style funk gui­tarist Shung Ng and worked with R&B singer and multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist Brian McKnight.

Since re­turn­ing home, Hamil­ton has made the tran­si­tion from en­sem­ble player to front­man and solo per­former. Some of his live shows in­cor­po­rate a full band, but usu­ally he’ll play solo to back­ing tracks.

“That’s the thing that makes the Luck­y­stickz brand unique,” says Hamil­ton, who also works as an in­struc­tor for An In­stru­ment for Ev­ery Child and runs sum­mer mu­sic camps for chil­dren. “In my shows, I play drums, steel pan, I sing and I dance. You’re get­ting the whole Luck­y­stickz ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Luck­y­stickz per­forms Fri­day, Dec. 8, in Burling­ton at In­fu­sion, 1235 Fairview St., be­tween 6:30 and 10 p.m. He also per­forms at the Hamil­ton Caribbean Women’s Group New Year’s Eve Ball at the Hamil­ton Con­ven­tion Cen­tre (By Car­men’s).

COUR­TESY OF DE­JE­HAN HAMIL­TON

Steel­pan vir­tu­oso De­je­han Hamil­ton per­forms un­der the name Luck­y­stickz.

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