Caribbean musical heritage is incredibly rich, with many traditions,
such as drumming, that date back to the time of slavery. It is also
the birthplace of reggae, which comes from Jamaica.
in the Caribbean
Carnival, steel bands have a pride of place. The sounds
they make are shimmering and brilliant. Yet they owe their use as
instruments to deprivation.
"Steelpan" playing is in fact re-cycling, because the pans
in question are discarded oil drums.
Pan playing was developed during the 1940s, when Trinidad's Colonial
government banned the playing of African drums customized with local
Finding leftover oil drums from the island's refineries,
musicians soon worked out that banging them created indentions
which could yield musical tones. A whole science
up: how to change the shape, and tone,
of a drum by heating its metal; how to "tune" it, how many
indentations to make – and how to play it.
steel bands inherit this remarkable history, filled with experiments
and inventiveness. (CLICK
HERE to learn
more or HERE to
hear from a UK steelpan pioneer).
British ears first heard these rhythms in 1951, when
the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra came to play at the
Festival of Britain. Their art was greeted with such overwhelming
that the "the pans" even gained clout back at
Now, there are steelpan bands all over the world (CLICK
HERE to discover some). But their sound remains synonymous
with Carnival Caribbean-style.