On July 26th 1951, TASPO – the Trinidad All-Steel Pan Percussion Orchestra – first performed at the Festival of Britain, bringing the steel pan and Caribbean music to the world on a larger scale than ever before.
Though the steel pan as we recognize it today is a relatively new instrument, it has a long history stemming back to the 1800s. Following emancipation in 1834, African-descended percussive instruments were heavily banned in Trinidad and Tobago as governments feared that they would be used to inspire rebellion in the communities.
With their instruments banned, the people of Trinidad and Tobago improvised by using anything available to them to create music, including bamboo stamping tubes, metal containers, dustbins, graters and scrap metal. These bands and their instruments known as ‘Tamboo Bamboo’ are recognized as the precursor of modern steel bands.
The modern steel pan was created after the realization that oil drums could be heated and shaped to produce distinct pitches and recreate recognizable melodies. Today the instrument is enjoyed around the world, and is recognized for its incredible sound and versatility.
In downtown St. Catharines last weekend, we celebrated the steel pan and enjoyed a performance by Niagara’s own PK Hummingbird Steel Orchestra. Founded by Patrick Nunes and Kay Charles in 1989, the steel band is proud to be able to share their music and culture in St. Catharines which acts as a sister city to Port-of-Spain – the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.
The vibrant soca and calypso music drew crowds downtown last Saturday and could be heard while strolling through the James Street Market. It created a beautiful backdrop for what was a fun and lively weekend downtown.
Article by Celina Spanos