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Steel Pan Facts - A Summary of Useful Information

• Steel pan is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.

• Steel pan is a recycled, acoustic, tuned percussion instrument hand made by skilled craftsmen.

• Steel bands developed during World War II - 1940's, in Trinidad when musicians adapted oil drums left behind by the US army.

• The oil barrels are heated to a high temperature, the top is then hammered to produce indentations which give accurately pitched notes when struck with rubber tipped sticks.

• Some say the resonant properties of the steel pan created the only genuinely new acoustic instrument of the 20th Century.


In this informative documentary the leader of UK's Croydon Steel Orchestra Paul Dowie, international pan tuner Dudley Dixon and members of Ebony Steel Band tell the story of the steel pan and demonstrate how a pan is made, tuned and played.

• Steel pan music came to Britain in 1951 when an all-star band of eleven musicians was formed to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the Festival of Britain. They were named the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra - TASPO and they inspired the first bands to form in London, especially in Notting Hill, and the UK.

Pan Trinbago is the world governing body for steel pan. Instruments are now standardised making pan a more accessible learning tool.

• The first Notting Hill Carnival in 1965 featured one steel band. The first UK National Steel Band Competition known as Panorama was held in London in 1978.

• The British Association of Steelbands (BAS) was established in December 1995 to represent British steelbands and to further the musical, artistic, educational and social aspects of this artform.

• Steel pan music is traditionally learned using repetition, improvisation and memory passed down through generations.

How steel pans are made.

Oil Drums

Oil drums

Steel bands developed during World War II - 1940's, in Trinidad when musicians adapted oil drums left behind by the US army