The steel pan is recognised worldwide as one of the unique instruments developed in the 20th century – coming out of the Trinidad & Tobago carnival season when rival bands and masqueraders take to the street in the days before the start of Lent. Pans, which were developed from steel drums used in the oil industry, are tuned to vary in pitch and tone and played with rubber-tipped sticks.
A tenor pan was recently presented to the University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor by the Trinidad & Tobago High Commissioner to Jamaica, on behalf of T&T Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bessessar, who had promised to make one available during a recent visit.
The pan is currently on display in the UWI Museum.
Steel pan research at the UWI’s St Augustine campus in Trinidad & Tobago has resulted in various innovations to the traditional instrument, including a recent ‘electronic’ instrument known as the Percussive Harmonic Instuments (PHI – pronounced ‘Fie’).
Steel pan has spread far beyond Trinidad and is one of the sound profiles commonly associated with the UWI. The Panoriddim Steel Band, headquartered at the UWI’s Mona Campus in Jamaica, has been a popular feature of Mona graduation ceremonies for decades. Click below to hear the band:
Video courtesy of Rohan Bailey.