- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

The Heartbeat of Trinidad and Tobago

Carib Press, Sheannette Virtue, Sheannette Virtue Posted: Mar 15, 2009

Kenny Williams has been renowned in steel drum music for 35 years, from his days as a prodigy in his native Trinidad, where he learned to play in the streets, to his current renown in Los Angeles, where he leads a band called "Steel Fusion Music."

Steel Fusion Music can be heard at local events and functions around the city, and Williams serves as an ambassador for the musical genre, traveling everywhere from Italy, Japan and Korea to Barbados to play and teach. He started a steel drum school in Long Beach, California in 2007. The steel drum program last three months and includes instructions on pans three days each week. In 2008, his students' performed at the Pan African film festival in Los Angeles.

"A lot of people still need to be exposed to the art of steel drums," Williams says, adding that the music is part of who he is and the drums are his destiny.

It's a destiny that began in modest circumstances. The beat of "steel pans" as the drums are known in the Caribbean filled the soundtrack of Williams' childhood and many others throughout the Islands. They are a way of life for people of the Caribbean, offering music that has survived cloudy days, indeed, to become the exultant sound drifting through carnivals from Trinidad and Tobago to Los Angeles.

The "steel pan" was invented in the island of Trinidad and Tobago in the 1930's. The instrument's roots are in rhythm bands, where players used pots, pans, paint cans, empty oil barrels anything they could use to play a rhythm.

The pans came into being when empty oil drums were cut off at a particular depth, which affected their pitch. Then the drums were beaten with a hammer to create indentations, each of which produced a particular pitch.

During one of the rhythm sessions, someone discovered that a dented section of the barrel head produced a particular sound. Winston "Spree" Simon experimented with the drums and was credited as the first person to make notes of the sounds from the steel drum. Williams says that Simon created the five notes of steel drum music, known as the pentatonic scale.

Winston Hamilton, another Trinidadian, is largely credited with the process of burning crude oil drums 800-degrees heat during the post World War II era. The used oil drums were burned and cleaned before using a hammer to make all the right notes.

The drums started out with a reputation as a musical misfit.

"People were condemned for beating the pans," says Hamilton, who retired in 2006 from the Water Company in the city of Riverside and is a clothing store vendor at March Air Force base. "Now they are revered in high schools and universities, students are learning to play the pans."

The government of Trinidad and Tobago accepted the pans as the national instrument under Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams in the early 1970's. There are now an estimated 300 steel pan orchestras which involves 80 players, each playing around nine different drums and are based in Trinidad, according to Hamilton.

There are different types of pans, and when used together, they can produce a symphony sound. The most common is the single-drum tenor pan, also known as a lead pan. Then there are several types of double, triple and quadruple pans that comprised of two pans or more. The base drum, which can be six, eight or more large whole barrels, is the lowest-ranged instrument in the steel band.

Sheannette Virtue is a writer for Carib Press.

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Civil Liberties

Why There Are Words

Aug 10, 2011