Steel Pan the music of the Caribbean
Last week I sat in the botanical gardens enjoying the cool breeze and shade from the hot afternoon sun.
I was relaxed and peaceful and amidst the bird songs, another beautiful sound wafted through the air to my receptive ears – the music of a steel pan band practice. The lilting music which is so quintessentially Caribbean, instantly bought a smile to my face.The Steel Pan is a testament to innovation in the Caribbean. Although there are a few versions of its history, the consensus report that the steel pan emerged in Trinidad in the late 1930’s as a response to the banning of African drums by the ruling British government at the time. The drums were originally made from used oil drums but are now professionally made from new steel and tuned into instruments that have a range of varying tones to create a full family of 13 pans.
The steel pan is recognized as the only new instrument to have been created in the 20th century. The humble pan has traveled widely from its roots and is now played around the globe
. Numerous pan websites
are available online with steel pan radio
, video clips
and message boards for pan players to keep up the communication wherever they are in the world.Watching a steel pan band play one can not help swaying along to the captivating rhythm; a truly unique sound. Steel pans play a range of music from classical to calypso, reggae and jazz.
Whilst listening to this band practice I reflected on the culturally unifying power of music: sitting in Dominica I hear the sound of the Trinidad born steel pan playing a song by Jamaican Bob Marley – truly a multi-island blend of the Caribbean!
Let’s hear it in praise for the pans!
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