Daria Dzurik throws a curve into the familiar pop singer-songwriter scenario: She plays steelpans.
Steelpans originated in the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Also known as steel drums or pans, the pitched percussion instruments produce bell-like tones when struck with mallets.
Dzurik leads local band Daria and the Hip Drops. She’s the group’s singer, principal songwriter and, of course, steelpans player.
Daria and the Hip Drops will play an album release show for “Hipnotic,” the group’s full-length debut, Saturday at Chickie Wah Wah.
“Hipnotic” features Dzurik’s unusual mix of influences: Caribbean and steelpans music, eccentric British pop singer Lily Allen and the contemporary and classic New Orleans music she’s come to love since moving to the city from Tallahassee, Florida, in 2009.
In Tallahassee, Dzurik performed with her middle school and high school steelpans bands. She later studied piano at Florida State University.
The job Dzurik’s boyfriend, Graham Robinson, got as engineer and producer at the now-closed Fudge Recording Studio brought her to New Orleans, too. Robinson, a multi-instrumentalist who plays bass with Daria and the Hip Drops, produced “Hipnotic” at Fudge.
Although she was steeped in steelpans music, Dzurik’s knowledge of New Orleans music was sketchy. She did know The Meters, Dr. John and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. She’d also attended the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival during college. And when Dzurik’s older sister was a Tulane University student, she’d given Dzurik a CD by New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band.
“My knowledge of New Orleans music wasn’t deep until I came here and started playing and got more in touch with the local scene,” Dzurik said last week.
Once in residence, Dzurik’s trained ears made the connection between local second-line beats and the Caribbean music she’d played since childhood.
She experienced another revelation when she heard “Ball the Wall: Live at Tipitina’s 1978.” The album by singer-pianist Professor Longhair features steelpans. Of course, Longhair famously featured Caribbean rhythms in his highly influential, unique, quintessential New Orleans sound. She hopes to feature her steelpans in a re-recording of Longhair’s “Ball the Wall” album.
Besides Longhair, other classic local artists Dzurik loves include James Booker and Allen Toussaint.
“Anything Allen Toussaint touches is amazing,” she said. “But since I’ve moved here, what’s been eye-opening is seeing who’s playing now.”
Dzurik cited some of her contemporary favorites: the soulful, funky singer-keyboardist Jon Cleary; bounce music and TV star Big Freedia; Trombone Shorty; exploratory percussionist Mike Dillon; and the theatrical Quintron and Miss Pussycat.
“There’s a lot of talent happening in the city right now,” she said. “I’m happy to be a part it.”