Steel Drum History 101

"Steel drum" name

Steel tongue drums got their name from the areas shaped like the tongue. This is where you strike the drum to play. The blend of tones is fun to both hear and play.

Brief steel drum history

The amazing thing about steel drums is that the first steel drums were made of industrial waste. Steel Drums was an icon of Trinidad culture.

Carnival and Canboulay (the burning of the sugar cane fields) were popular street festivities on the island, and as the slave population increased, African drumming became an integral feature of these celebrations. When slavery was abolished in 1838, laborers from other continents, especially those from East India, were brought.

With this fresh inflow of people and culture came the Hosein and Ramdilla festivals, both of which featured a lot of rhythm by steel drums.

Well, what happened then? These street festivals were getting roughly and rowdy between 1860 and 1870. Then, they were just simply baned.

The colonialists replaced the drumming with more melodious instruments in parades and festivals.

steel pan drum history

As a type of dissent, the Tamboo Bamboo development arose, which comprised of cutting bits of bamboo and stomping on them on the ground.

The lower classes invented four unique devices as a form of protest against those in power: the boom, chandler, fuller, and cutter. This art form functioned as a focal point for musical and political expression during the 1930s.

This is when the steel pan really shined. Gangs began drumming on metal dustbins, biscuit tins, and trash lids, blending the sounds of bamboo and metal. Metal ultimately substituted bamboo, giving rise to the concept of the pan.

The crucial thing in steel drum history is that Trinidad has a lot to offer to the rest of the music world. And they appreciated that back in the ‘50s and ‘70s.

Introduction to a commercial music

steel drum history

The pop world has enthusiastically welcomed the tune.The steel pan sound was used by The Hollies in their single Carrie Anne, by Prince in his track New Position, and by Spyro Gyra in their album Morning Dance from the 1970s jazz-fusion band Spyro Gyra.

Steel drum pioneers include Ellie Mannette, Winston “Spree” Simon, and Tony Williams, who invented the chromatic scale on a single pan. 

When Carnival festivities returned to Trinidad following World War II, the steel pan quickly became a significant feature of the street event.

Steel drums have evolved to the present day. They are now the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, having risen from the lowest rungs of society to the most opulent music venues on the planet. They genuinely represent the voice of a multicultural population.

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