Friday, July 10, 2009
When one hears steel pan music it is easy to imagine the beautiful tropical paradise that spawned the magical music.
Pan music is perhaps the most innovative musical contribution of the twentieth century, and is an intrinsic part of the culture of the Caribbean.
Steelbands originated in Trinidad and were born out of the people's need to continue the African tradition of drumming despite the British prohibition of the instruments, especially during Carnival celebrations.
For many years, revelers substituted bamboo tubes for the drums, which they beat on with bamboo sticks. Then, at some point during the 1930's it was discovered that metal produced a more melodious, resonant sound and from that point everything from tin pans to brake drums were introduced to the mix.
During the early years, the pan hung on straps around the player's necks or, as it's expressed ... "pan round de neck". The use of oil drums, which produced a wider range of notes, and the transporting trolleys came later.
Steelbands eventually sprung up in different parts of the Caribbean, including in St. Thomas where it was introduced at the 1952 Carnival (the first Carnival the island had celebrated since 1914). Needless to say, the music was a big hit, as it has been around the world.
Today, pan is the true ambassador of Caribbean music.