When steel talks, everybody listens. Amid the electronica of 20th Century music one new instrument stands out for its simplicity. The steel pan, possibly the only instrument made out of industrial waste, has become an icon of Trinidadian Carnival culture.
When steel pans first emerged in the 1930’s they were not taken seriously. The instruments and their creators were looked down on by the upper class of Trinidad society because they were made and played by persons from the ghettos.
Stick fighting and African percussion music were banned in 1880, in response to the Canboulay Riots. They were replaced by bamboo sticks beaten together, which were themselves banned in turn. In 1937 they reappeared in Laventille, transformed as an orchestra of frying pans, dustbin lids and oil drums. These steelpans are now a major part of the Trinidadian music scene and are a popular section of the Canboulay music contests. In 1941, the United States Navy arrived on Trinidad, and the panmen, who were associated with lawlessness and violence, helped to popularize steel pan music among soldiers, which began its international popularization.
Read more… >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steelpan
Steel Pan really came from the bowels of our impoverished lower classes and we are extremely proud of that,” says Michelle Huggins-Watts, a Trinidadian steel pan arranger. It helped bring the players recognition, it allowed them to travel and see the world, it brought opportunities they would never have had if they had not been involved in this art form.
Read more… >>> http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18903131
STEEL PAN INNOVATORS
Several innovators throughout steel pan history have made significant contributions to the development of the instrument.
Winston ‘Spree’ Simon – is credited with creating the first ‘melody pan’ which carried eight pitches. This was the first pan that could accommodate an entire melody.
Ellie Mannette – is credited with being the first to wrap the playing sticks with rubber (which softened the attack and produced a more refined tone).
He was also the first to sink the surface of a pan into its now characteristic concave shape (this allowed for more pitches to be placed on the playing surface).
Anthony Williams – is credited with inventing the ‘spider web pan’ which was designed in a cycle of fourths and fifths. (Pans with intervallic formulas are easier to tune and produce a higher quality sound). This layout is now the most popular and accepted design for tenor (lead) pans.
Mr. Williams is also credited with being one of the first in steel pan history to use large 55 gallon drums as starting material for the pans, a tradition that continues to this day.
Bertie Marshall – credited with inventing the double tenor pan. He also recognized the negative effects the sun had on steel pan and was the first to place canopies over the instruments when they were played outdoors.
Over the past three decades, several bands have shot into the national consciousness as they repeatedly claimed the coveted title as panorama champions. Bands such as Desperadoes and Renegades (9 wins each), All Stars (4), Phase Two Pan Groove (2), Exodus (1) are now household names with international followings.
Indeed, over the past four decades, the steelpan has come a long way, moving from the panyards of the most depressed areas of a society to some of the most prestigious concert halls around the world. The Desperadoes, for instance, have performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Carnegie Hall, the Apollo and Lincoln Theaters in New York, the United Nations building, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Other bands like Renegades, All Stars, Phase Two, Exodus have wooed audiences from London to Paris to Japan, mesmerizing them with their renditions of some of the most complex works of the classic composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Sibelius, Rossini, Borodin.
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