ITHACA, N.Y. — Intense crescendos and intricate layers of piano melody weave through each of the demos of Remanu Steele’s upcoming album, “Panther on Piano.”
Steele, also known under the performance moniker Remanu Panther, is active in the Ithaca music scene. He performs hip-hop music and plays trumpet in the Fall Creek Brass Band. His latest project, “Panther on Piano” will be a six-track piano and hip-hop album aimed at inspiring environmental action. Steele began a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to professionally record and produce his album . The fundraiser, which will end on Feb. 3, has raised $2,145 of its $2,223 goal as of Monday night.
Steele said he decided to pursue this project after more than two decades of playing piano. He said he realized despite the amount of time he has spent playing piano, he has yet to create his own professionally-produced album. Steele began playing at age five, and throughout his childhood, his mother supported his musical endeavors and paid for classical lessons.
Steele said he has little background with production and wants to leave the job up to sound recording professionals. He has a sampling of the songs he plans to include on the album posted on his Bandcamp, but he said the fuzzy, low-quality recordings he made himself don’t do his music justice.
“I figured after all this time playing the piano, I should probably have something to show for it, some sort of album or way to showcase my work. I tried to do that with the resources that I had, which were not very expensive, illustrious studios, and came up with really amateur recordings,” Steele said.
Steele said after he shared his recordings with some of his friends, they recommended getting the songs produced professionally. He plans to record his album at Rep Studio in Ithaca, as he admires what he’s heard from other local bands who have worked with them.
Ideally, Steele said, he wants the tracks to sound crystal clear, mixed and mastered, without fuzz or background noise getting in the way of his messages and artistry.
Donations will help fund the production process, the opportunity to play on a finely-tuned grand piano and the creation of accompanying music videos.
One of the music videos, Steele said, has already been created, and uses intense imagery to portray the issues of factory farming.
Steele said the environmental theme of “Panther on Piano” is his way of combining his passion for music with his concern for the earth.
“I have my own passions with music and ideas and visions that I want to get across, but I also recognize the state that the world’s in with tragedies and issues and such,” Steele said. “I want to combine the two to be able to explore my passions and use my talent, but also offer solutions to the tragedies and issues.”
The majority of the songs on the album will be instrumental, constructing songs from a combination of spoken-word, instrumental improvisation and piano parts he has composed in the past. The final product will be a fusion of hip-hop and classical music.
Steele’s strategy in bringing to light his environmental mission is mainly through titling his songs with messages he hopes with inspire listeners to act. Titles like “Think About the Earth” and “Remember the Environment” read as suggestions to act.
“If you listen to the song or look at the title or both, it will be telling you to get out of bed to do a certain something to act,” Steele said.
Much of Steele’s musical work caters to the Ithaca community, so he said he is eager to see how his audience receives “Panther on Piano.”
“I’m interested and curious to see and hear what people here in Ithaca think about it. They’ve seen me perform trumpet and rap in various instances, but not so much with piano recording,” Steele said.
Steele said he hopes the community continues to support his creations, as he will always work to support others.
“I’m really community-minded when it comes to music, because I see all of the musical talent around me, and I immediately start thinking about ways to collaborate musically,” Steele said. “I feel like when the community supports me, I am compelled to reciprocate and support the community.”
If “Panther on Piano” takes off, Steele also said he hopes it may catch the attention of some of his musical idols, sparking meaningful conversations about art and the climate.
“The goal is to collaborate with them. The goal is also to talk about music with them, and the goal is to make positive change with them in a variety of ways,” Steele said.
Steele said he hopes his continuous support of Ithaca’s music community inspires artists to reciprocate. He says he aspires to give to the community in bigger and bigger ways, provoking a ripple-effect.
Steele said, “Beyond the album, interested in bridging gaps and making connections between the people and the talents here in Ithaca, and sort of linking us together, so that we’re stronger and so that our talents can shine brighter and our frequencies can resonate louder.