History of the Steelpan

For over 75 years the world has enjoyed the scintillating, pulsating music of the steelband. Audiences from London to New York and beyond have been left spellbound, amazed that such rich tonal quality could come from discarded oil drums.

The refined sound we now hear is the result of decades of hard work, research and innovations by master tuners such as Ellie Mannette, Neville Jules, Bertie Marshall, Anthony Williams, Rudolph Charles and Lincoln Noel to name a few.

From the Beginning

A Short History

For over 50 years the world has enjoyed the scintillating, pulsating music of the steelband.

Steelpan Timeline

The Evolution of the Steelpan

From the 1800's to the present day, lern how the pan eveolved.

History of the Foundation Stone

Steelpan Tribute

Engraved on the stone are the names of the members of the first executive committee.

Steelpan History Media Archives

A Collection of Steelpan Films

A collection of historical Steelpan films that tell the tale of this marvelous music insrument.

But how and where did it all start?

There are varying accounts as to the exact date and location in Trinidad the first steelpan was tuned since no official records were kept by either the pioneers or the British colonial government of the day. This, however, is one popular version. Necessity, it is said, is the mother of all inventions, and the steelpan is sound proof of that maxim. It was born out of deprivation, a desperate need by a people to fill the void that was left when something central to their existence was taken away.

Since the 1800s, the inhabitants of Trinidad had been participating in a street carnival brought to the Caribbean island by the French. When the freed slaves (slavery was abolished in the West Indies in 1834) joined in the festivities, they could not afford the conventional instruments, so they used African drums, the instruments of their ancestors, then created percussion bands made up of bamboo joints cut from the bamboo plant.

The “Tamboo Bamboo” bands (tamboo is a corruption of the French word tambour which means drum) bands were rhythmic ensembles that provided the accompaniment for the masqueraders in the annual parade.

The Foundation Stone

On the 27 August 1993, a stone Commemorating the Inaugural Meeting of the Steelband Association was erected at the back of the St. Paul Street Sports Complex. Engraved on the stone are the names of the members of the first executive committee