|Other names||Steel drum, pan|
Steel pans (also known as steel drums or pans, and sometimes collectively with musicians as a steel band) is a musical instrument and a form of music originating from Trinidad and Tobago. Steel pan musicians are called pannists.
The pan is a pitched percussion instrument, tuned chromatically (although some toy or novelty steelpans are tuned diatonically), made from 55 gallon drums that usually store oil. In fact, drum refers to the steel drum containers from which the pans are made; the steeldrum is correctly called a steel pan or pan as it falls into the idiophone family of instruments, and is not technically regarded as a drum or membranophone. The pan is struck by a pair of straight sticks tipped with rubber; the size and type of rubber tip is unique to the class of pan being played. Some musicians use four pansticks, holding two in each hand.  This skill and performance has been conclusively shown to have grown out of Trinidad and Tobago's early 20th century Carnival percussion groups known as Tamboo Bamboo. Pan is the National Instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.
With the mass exodus from Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe to Trinidad, the steelpan evolved from a communication device to the musical instrument it is used as today. Drumming was used as a form of communication among the enslaved Africans and was subsequently outlawed by the British colonial government in 1783. African slaves also performed during Mardi Gras celebrations, joining the French that had brought the tradition to the island. The two most important influences were the drumming traditions of both Africa and India. The instrument's invention was therefore a specific cultural response to the conditions present on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
The first instruments developed in the evolution of steelpan were Tamboo-Bamboos, tunable sticks made of bamboo wood. These were hit onto the ground and with other sticks in order to produce sound. Tamboo-Bamboo bands also included percussion of a (gin) bottle and spoon. By the mid-1930s, bits of metal percussion were being used in the tamboo bamboo bands, the first probably being either the automobile brake hub "iron" or the biscuit drum "boom". The former replaced the gin bottle-and-spoon, and the latter the "bass" bamboo that was pounded on the ground. By the late 1930s their occasional all-steel bands were seen at Carnival and by 1940 it had become the preferred Carnival accompaniment of young underprivileged men. The 55-gallon oil drum was used to make lead steelpans from around 1947. The Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO), formed to attend the Festival of Britain in 1951, was the first steelband whose instruments were all made from oil drums. Members of TASPO included Ellie Mannette and Winston "Spree" Simon.
Anthony Williams designed the "Fourths and Fifths" arrangement of notes, known as the cycle of fifths. This has become the standard form of note placement for lead pans. Other important developments include the tuning of harmonic overtones in individual notes, developed simultaneously and independently by Bertie Marshall and Alan Gervais.
The Caribbean Research Institute CARIRI investigated possibilities to mass produce rawforms with the use of pressing machines in the 1970s. Much of this project took place in Sweden in collaboration with the Saab Company. Although first results were promising, the project has been abandoned due to lack of finances and support by local pantuners in Trinidad. There was also an attempt to shape the pan by spinning. The pan was spun on a lathe like device, and a roller on the end of a bar was used to sink the pan. While this did create pre sunk pans, the problem in this case, was that there would be scratches and groves often in the steel. Since the steel is stretched pretty thin, any scratch will expand and can crack. Often drums have lettering stamped into the bottom. If done carefully, these can sometimes be stretched without breaking, but you can see plenty of cracks around lettering on some drums. The makers just position the inner notes to avoid most of the letters. Brazing over the holes and grinding, will often fix the problems, without damaging the sound, but it has to be done nearly at the end of the sinking process, and well before any final shaping.
A Swiss steelpan manufacturer (PANArt) researched the field of fine-grain sheet steel and developed a deepdrawn rawform which was additionally hardened by nitriding. This process, and the instruments they called Pang, were presented at the International Conference of Steelpan and Science in Port-of-Spain in 2000.
Steelpans are built using sheet metal with a thickness between 0.8 mm and 1.5 mm. Traditionally, steelpans have been built from used oil barrels. Nowadays, many instrument makers do not rely on used steel containers and get the resonance bodies manufactured according to their preferences and technical specifications. In a first step, the sheet metal is stretched into a bowl-like shape (this is commonly known as 'sinking'). This process is usually done with several hammers, manually or with the help of air pressure. The note pattern is then marked onto the surface, and the notes of different sizes are shaped and molded into the surface. After the tempering, the notes have to be softened and tuned (initial tuning). The softening is part of this initial tuning process. The technician will use the best possible tuning device to correctly tune the steelpan's playing areas to the desired pitch. Often they will use an electronic tuner called a Strobe tuner to assist the tuning of the steelpan.
The note's size corresponds to the pitch—the larger the oval, the lower the tone. The size of the instrument varies from one pan to another. It may have almost all of the "skirt" (the cylindrical part of the oil drum) cut off and around 30 soprano-range notes. It may use the entire drum with only three bass notes per pan, in which case one person may play six such pans. The length of the skirt generally corresponds to the tessitura (high or low range) of the drum. The pans are usually either painted or chromed. Other processes such as nickel plating, powdercoating or hardening can also be applied as a finish.
Despite being a relatively new member of the percussion family, steelpan tuning techniques have advanced rapidly. Because of the short "voice" of the pan, needle/LED display type tuners cannot track the signal to identify a tone. Strobe tuners are real-time tuners, ideally suited for the task. The need to see the first few overtones further makes a strobe tuner a necessity for steelpan tuning. Steelpan makers have used strobe tuners since it was discovered that, by adjusting the overtones (1st (fundamental), 2nd and third partial), the pan's sound seemed to sparkle in a way that it did not previously.
Over the years, together with experienced ears, a tuning stick, a hammer, and a strobe tuner, the unmistakable, exotic and uplifting sound of the pan has been molded into current shape.
There are several ways in which a steelpan may become out of tune (most commonly this is caused by playing the steelpan with excessive force and incorrect handling) and it is quite common that steelbands arrange to have their instruments tuned once or twice a year. A tuner must have a great skill in his/her work to manage to make the notes sound both good and at the correct pitch. Much of the tuning work is performed using hammers.
There are many different instruments and variations making up the family of steelband instruments. In the beginning of the steelband movement, the instruments consisted of one resonance body only, commonly called Around the neck instruments. Later on, Steelpans became chromatic. Following are some of the most popular and known instruments:
|Soprano, Lead, or Tenor||Soprano||Winston "Spree" Simon|
|Double Tenor||Mezzosoprano||Bertie Marshall|
|Double Second||Alto||Sonny Roach|
|Quadrophonic (four pans)||Baritone||Rudolph Charles|
|Tenor Bass||Bass||Nadia Ramlochan and the Faheezy Band|
|Nine Bass||Bass||Rudolph Charles|
|Twelve Bass||Bass||Rudolph Charles|
The repertoire of the steelband is extensive; steelbands in Trinidad have a tradition of re-interpreting the current year's calypsos for Carnival performance - rarely will a calypso from a previous year be heard at Carnival or Panorama. Bands that perform all year round (both in Trinidad and in the so-called 'pan diaspora') have long prided themselves on being able to perform many types of music, particulary latin and jazz numbers, film music and other popular tunes. Pan-men also have a tradition of performing classical music on pan which dates back to 1946, both in calypso tempo: known as "The Bomb" and straight - generally in concert or Music Festival contexts. In these contexts, accuracy and faithfulness to the original are highly prized. While many American and British audiences demand to hear Harry Belafonte songs on pan, these are generally inauthentic to the Trinidadian tradition. For many years now there have been attempts to use the steelpan in various contexts other than those with which it is stereotypically associated. The first known use of steelband in a theatrical performance (outside of Trinidad and Tobago) was in Harold Arlen's 1954 Broadway musical "The House Of Flowers" where Enid Mosier's "Trinidad Steel Band" performed in several of the numbers. British composer Daphne Oram was the first composer to electronically manipulate the sound of the steelpan after recording a band (probably Russell Henderson's Steelband) in 1960. The first use of pan in a commercial pop record was by The Hollies in 1967 with "Carrie Anne" An international festival, the World Steelband Music Festival, has been held intermittently in Trinidad since 1964, where steelbands perform in a concert-style ambiance a test piece (sometimes specially composed, or a selected calypso) a piece of choice (very often a "classic" or European Art-music work) and calypso of choice. During Carnival celebrations in Trinidad, the largest steelband contest in the world, Panorama, takes place.
AHO William R.:
DUDLEY Shannon K.: