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Steel Pan – The History

The steel pan emerged within the 1930s – with skilfully hammered 55-gallon oil barrels were used to carefully produce perfect musical tones. The drums were developed on the Caribbean island of Trinidad during the early years of the 20th century, and were used by steel pan musicians called pannists.

Throughout the mid-1930s metal percussion was being used in the Tamboo Bamboo bands, who would play music through tuneable sticks made of bamboo wood. Originating in Trinidad, these were hit onto the ground with other sticks in order to produce sound.

By the late 1930s the occasional all-steel bands were seen at Carnival and by 1940 it has become the preferred Carnival accompaniment of young underprivileged men.

Staying true to it’s Caribbean roots, Notting Hill Carnival has been celebrated through the sweet sound of steel pan, vibrating through the streets of West London. Since 1978, steelpan bands from all over the UK come together the day before Notting Hill Carnival, in Emslie Hornimans Pleasance to take part in Panorama, for the title of Champions of Steel.



WATCH: film clips from this year’s Panorama competition from both Ebony and Mangrove steelbands.

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