Since today, Google offers us a brand new Doodle on its homepage. Indeed, today’s Doodle celebrates steel drum in French or steelpan in English. It is a metal percussion instrument, created and influenced by the Trinbagonians who are the inhabitants of Tobago. Some also use the term Tobagodians. The inhabitants of Trinidad as for them are the Trinidians. It is the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century, but it has origins dating back to the 1700s.
This instrument was a staple during Carnival and Canboulay, the annual harvest festivals celebrated in Trinidad, and it is still used in contemporary music. On July 26, 1951, the Trinidad All-Steel Pan Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) performed at the Festival of Britain, introducing steelpan and a new genre of music to the world.
When enslaved Africans were brought to Trinidad by colonialists in the 1700s, they brought with them their African heritage and rhythmic drumming traditions. When slavery was abolished between 1834 and 1838, Trinidadians joined in the carnival festivities with their drums.
However, in 1877 government officials banned their drumming because they feared the drum would be used to send messages that would inspire rebellion. In protest against this ban, musicians began pounding tuned bamboo tubes on the floor as alternatives to imitate the sound of their drums. These sets were called bamboo bamboo strips.
Another ban came in 1930, when rival Tamboo Bamboo groups caused disturbances during Carnival and other street festivals. These bands then turned to a new alternative to carry their beat: metal objects such as car parts, paint cans, trash cans, cookie jars and that’s how the idea of the saucepan came about. born.
During World War II, carnival was banned for security reasons, and musicians began experimenting with the unique instrument to improve sound quality. Over time, dents were hammered into the surface of these objects, which played different notes depending on size, position and shape. In 1948, after the end of the war, musicians began to use the 55 gallon drums of oil discarded by oil refineries.
In addition to changing the shape of the drum surface, they found that changing the length of the drum allowed full ranges from bass to soprano. This formed the basis of the modern version of the pan. The steel pan developed into a legitimate instrument thanks to pioneers and innovators such as Winston “Spree” Simon, Ellie Mannette, Anthony Williams and Bertie Marshall. Many of their innovations and techniques are still used today.
The steel pan is now the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago and is a source of great pride and true resilience for its citizens. Steelpans are now popular at concert calls like the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center and more. Whether in the UK, Japan, Senegal or the USA, the steelpan is an internationally recognized instrument that reminds listeners of its island origins.