The Steel pan is Trinidad and Tobago’s national instrument and choice for Carnival. Recently, the Steel Pan played a major role in the carnival, which was held from 7 to 14 January 2024.
Steelpan created an inclusive festive atmosphere with the sounds of the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago that is bound to get the listeners onto the dance floor. Steelpan competitions were also held.
Considered the only instrument that was created in the 20th century, the steel pan is a huge part of Trinidad’s culture and its descendants. This unique instrument is created from the bottom of oil barrels, which are hammered inward in various areas to create different tones and pitches.
During Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, the steelpan is spotlighted via many steelpan groups, playing traditional songs such as calypso. During this time, there is also a competition called Panorama, in which the steel pan bands compete to be crowned the best of the best!
The history of this music genre dates back to the days of slavery. Trinidad was a destination for the enslaved Africans of the 17th – 18th century, who were instrumental in bringing their culture and traditional practices to the Caribbean. After drumming was outlawed in 1883 by the British, a search was initiated for a different way to express music for the Afro-Creole people of Trinidad.
Tamboo Bamboo was one of the earlier musical expressions during this journey. After experimenting with other instruments made from dustbins, bamboo, tins, and even a bottle and spoon…the steel pan was born. While there is no “singular” person credited with the evolution and invention of the steel pan, several people have received credit for their contributions to its invention. These include Winston “Spree” Simon, Elliot “Ellie” Manette, Anthony “Muffman” Williams and Jit Samaroo.
Eventually, in 1992, the steel pan, born out of the humble beginnings of empty oil drums, became the National Instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, honouring its progress both at home and around the world!