Apr 222022
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Last year, a study by Fender and YouGov of Americans between 16-34 revealed that 16 million people had taken up the guitar since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking to Insider about the study, Fender CEO Andy Mooney estimated that “as many as 72 million people are playing the guitar right now.” These are impressive statistics, and something to be celebrated. However, it’s hard not to wonder if the prominence of instruments like the guitar might be pushing other, less-well known instruments to the sidelines.

One person doing a lot to change this is London-based percussionist Rosie Bergonzi. Rosie has a YouTube channel dedicated to the handpan, a unique flying-saucer shaped instrument that can trace its roots back to the Trinidadian steel drum. The channel is a goldmine of information, featuring lessons, interactive livestreams, and an eclectic selection of covers arranged especially for the handpan.

“I first started playing the handpan in 2015,” Rosie tells Cover Me. “A few years before, I heard a busker playing in the street, and I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard–I was determined to have one! So after a lot for searching I found my own handpan and have kept up with it from there.”

The handpan itself was created in Switzerland in 2001 by steel drum makers Sabrina Scharer and Felix Rohner of Pan Art, based on a suggestion by hand percussionist Reto Weber. For its first twelve years of existence the instrument – originally known as the Hang drum – was extremely hard to come by, available only by sending a special request directly to Pan Art. However, once Pan Art ceased production of Hang drums in 2013, the instrument became widely available from other makers, soon becoming known as the handpan.

How does Rosie go about choosing songs to cover?

“I’ve found that the tunes have to be very melodic for an instrumental cover, so rap, for example, is really hard to make effective as it’s all about the words. It’s always surprising ones that work well, so I ask around a lot for song suggestions – any genre!”

And what about arranging the songs for the handpan?

“I get the chords down, normally while singing the tune. Then I work out the melody. The harder job is working out how to play the two at the same time. My handpans have limited amounts of notes (9-17) so getting the melody to sing clearly is an interesting challenge. My favorite part is working out the arrangement, sometimes playing with the speeds to make it feel really different to the original.”

To demonstrate this process, Rosie started a series called Covers Done Quick, where she selects a song a random and adapts it for the handpan in just one hour.

Let’s look at some of Rosie’s other handpan covers…
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Oct 152021
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Isto

Here’s a great example of how internet rabbit holes work. I wanted to find out if the Broccoli family that produced the James Bond movies was named after the vegetable or the other way around (answer: inconclusive but leaning toward the former). I learned that broccoli was considered a delicacy in America in the early 20th century. Then I remembered the famous New Yorker cartoon. Well, I thought, that explains that, and went to learn more about that. This was where I learned that Irving Berlin wrote a song called “I Say It’s Spinach (And the Hell With It),” so of course I had to go find it on YouTube.

This is how I discovered Isto.


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Jul 082021
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

boygenius

Do supergroups still exist these days? Definitely! Fans of these folks might not think they are quite under the radar, but these groups are either generally framed less as supergroups or their prior musical experiences may have been under the radar themselves. There are many more supergroups under the radar to explore. Tell us about your favorites in the comments!

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May 202021
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Bob Dylan tribute band

As we’ve talked about before, tribute bands don’t deserve the bad rap they get. There are musicians who love an artist enough to want to play their songs and play them well for an audience, just as there is an audience that loves an artist so much they want to experience their music in a live setting. It’s also a way to separate wheat from chaff – seeing a tribute act can guarantee that you won’t hear Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” on your night out. On the other hand, maybe you want to see a Seger tribute band that will guarantee you do get to hear it.

With over five hundred songs in his catalog and a fanatical following, Bob Dylan is a prime candidate for the tribute band treatment. As Dennis Bailey, founder of the Bob Band, wrote in his excellent essay about forming a tribute act (he prefers “cover band”), “To me, a Bob Dylan cover band is a genre band, like a blues band or a country band. Bob Dylan is a genre all its own.” So it follows that there are plenty of tribute bands out there ready to salute that genre, whether by playing the music or listening to it. Here’s a sampling of some of those who’ve made it their life’s work to bring Bob Dylan to the masses, whether they’re Bob Dylan or not.
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Apr 122021
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Terry Reid covers

There are very few articles about Terry Reid that fail to mention his falling at the first hurdle of being asked to join Led Zeppelin, and, I am afraid, this isn’t one of them. It seems the one fact anyone knows about this still-performing singer, and one that, understandably, always irks him. Not so much that he regrets it, more he just regrets it being the only part of his life and career anyone asks him about. Or seems interested about. Which is a shame, as there has always been a good deal more to Terry Reid than that.
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Feb 092021
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Goose covers

Goose, whose name was inspired by an inside taco-related joke between bandmates Peter Anspach, Ben Atkind, Trevor Bass, and Rick Mitarotonda, formed in Connecticut in 2006. Many point to their performance at the Peach Festival in Scranton, PA in 2019 as the moment that elevated them from local heroes to more widespread fame.

Following in the footsteps of great jam bands before them (yes, they get compared to Phish a lot), Goose is known for keeping the vibe going with extended instrumentals. They’ve been keeping busy during the pandemic, even profiting from a “Bingo Tour” where they live stream a setlist determined in real time by random draws of bingo balls and raising money for charity.

Throughout their different gigs they’ve performed quite a few covers. Let’s check out a sampling of them.

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