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Cha | Steel Pan
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The steel pan are a percussion instrument made from industrial drums, also referred to as pans, or steel drums. Steel pans originated in Trinidad and Tobago, after the French arrived in Trinidad with their slaves during the French Revolution. In 1880 percussion music was banned in the country and in the 1930s orchestras began to appear with instruments of dustbin lids and oil drums. When the U.S. Navy arrived in the early 1940s they were introduced to the steel pan and its popularity around the world spread. The first steel pans were made from used oil drums but are now manufactured as an instrument all on their own to specific requirements.
Interesting Steel Pan Facts:
Musicians who play the steel pan are referred to as pannists.
The early metal pan musicians used a variety of tools to create the sound of metal music – including kitchen utensils and metal containers.
When making a steel pan the bottom of the oil drum is pounded into the shape of a bowl. Further shaping and tuning is done with hammers that create surfaces that resonate to make distinct sounds.
Originally steel pan instruments were played in steel bands with instruments such as dustbins, biscuit tins, and soap boxes. Today steel bands include a variety of other instruments such as triangles, bongos, congas, vibraphones, other percussion instruments, and cow bells.
The most popular and well-known music played with the steel pan is Calypso music.
Early in the history of the steel pan in Trinidad steel bands competed with each other. Those who were members of steel bands were thought to be gangs members and street fighting was common. This resulted in steel bands being looked down upon.
In 1992 the steel pan became the official national instrument in Trinidad and Tobago.
Since the first steel pans and steel bands emerged the popularity of this music has grown. Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, and many other non-Caribbean countries have steel bands featuring steel pan musicians.
The first ‘melody pan’ that could sound an entire melody was created by Winston ‘Spree’ Simon.
The first steel pan musician to wrap the sticks with rubber to soften the sound was Ellie Mannette. He also created the concave shape that still remains in the design today.
One of the first steel pan musicians to use a 55 gallon oil drum for creating the steel pan was Anthony Williams. He also invented the ‘spider web pan’ which is the popular choice for tenor pans.
The inventor of the double tenor pam was Bertie Marshall. He also recognized that the sun had negative effects on the steel pan and started using canopies for protection during outdoor play.
Steel pans only have about a one and half range octave which is not very much when compared to other instruments.
Bass steel pans are very large and difficult to move from place to place.
The World Steel Band Music Festival is held in Trinidad since 1964.
The largest competition for steel bands is held during Carnival in Trinidad – called Panorama.