Sunday, 3 April 2016

Making Magic In Steel Pan Music

By Donald Williams

Music, over the years, had somehow become almost a basic need. Everywhere people go, whatever they do, songs are part of it. For every mood, they associate it with a certain song. For every experience there is always music involved. You even have soundtracks in movies or your own life story.

Sometimes you may even wonder how a day can go by without it. Simply unimaginable if you think about it. Among its many forms and genres, steel pan music, it is safe to say, rightfully stands out. This may be because of its simplicity and Caribbean coolness. Not everyone is familiar with it though.

Amid the rise of electronics and its popularity far back in the twentieth century, the steel pan stood out well. This can be attributed to its simplicity, because it probably is the only instrument that came from industrial waste. Nevertheless sturdy, it became an icon of the culture in Trinidad, defining it with its Caribbean roots.

Dating back to the nineteen thirtys, the pans did not have it easy, originating in the Carribean island of Trinidad. This was when African slaves or descendants wanted so badly to express themselves and their music, by normally beating on metals. Hoping to find rhythms and the right kind of harmony, they were clamoring to find a way to match the songs at carnivals.

They wanted to accompany the carnival music with some kind of rhythm playing in their minds. They wanted to experiment with banned tools, and so experiment they did. It was some stroke of good luck that finally made them create drums that they were able to tune and produce notes with. And the rest, as they say is history.

But even that had not been enough to avoid clashes between groups and enthusiasts, resulting in violence. Thankfully, it did not went on for long because as pioneers excelled in developing it, horizons had been brighter and steel drums suddenly had a good future ahead and along with other genres. Even the war could not stop people from appreciating it.

After that, it had become an accepted not only in the music industry but as an art form as well. That had been a defining moment for the island it had came from because steel band was identified as a big part of its culture. Rightfully so, the pans became their national instrument. They later on played a big role in the independence of Trinidad.

Music, before radio was ever known, had to be produced manually by people themselves. And so they did. Everywhere during the eighteenth century, it was present in the yards of slaves and the barracks of the nineteenth. It went on, transcending into the streets in the twentieth century, playing a vital role in the freedom of countries, like how the pans served in the freedom of its island.

This usually takes during the season of Carnival where pannists gather for the Panorama, a festival known as an important event in Trinidad. Competitions across the islands are also observed during February and March. In 1992, the pan became the official national instrument of the land as it continues to enchant those who watch and listen.

About the Author:

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Music is an art form in which the medium is sound. Common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. The word derives from Greek μουσική (mousike), "(art) of the Muses".[1]

Definition of music

See also: Music genre
Musical notations
Musical notations

Greek philosophers and ancient Indians defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies and vertically as harmonies. Music theory, within this realm, is studied with the presupposition that music is orderly and often pleasant to hear. However, in the 20th century, composers challenged the notion that music had to be pleasant by creating music that explored harsher, darker timbres. The existence of some modern-day music genres such as death metal and grindcore, which enjoy an extensive underground following, indicate that even the harshest sounds can be considered music if the listener is so inclined.

20th-century composer John Cage disagreed with the notion that music must consist of pleasant, discernible melodies. Instead, he argued that any sounds we can hear can be music, saying, for example, "There is no noise, only sound."[2] According to musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez, "the border between music and noise is always culturally defined—which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus.… By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be, except that it is 'sound through time'."[3]

The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. Music ranges from strictly organized compositions (and their recreation in performance), through improvisational music to aleatoric forms. Music can be divided into genres and subgenres, although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to individual interpretation, and occasionally controversial. Within "the arts", music can be classified as a performing art, a fine art, or an auditory art form.


Figurines playing stringed instruments, excavated at Susa, 2nd millennium BC. Iran National Museum.
Figurines playing stringed instruments, excavated at Susa, 2nd millennium BC. Iran National Museum.

The development of music among humans must have taken place against the backdrop of natural sounds such as birdsong and the sounds other animals use to communicate.[citation needed] Prehistoric music is the name which is given to all music produced in preliterate cultures.[citation needed][4]


A range of paleolithic sites have yielded bones in which lateral holes have been pierced: these are usually identified as flutes,[5] blown at one end like the Japanese shakuhachi. The earliest written records of musical expression are to be found in the Samaveda of India and in 4,000 year old cuneiform from Ur.[citation needed] Instruments, such as the seven-holed flute and various types of stringed instruments have been recovered from the Indus Valley Civilization archaeological sites.[6] India has one of the oldest musical traditions in the world—references to Indian classical music (marga) can be found in the ancient scriptures of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas. The traditional art or court music of China has a history stretching for more than three thousand years. Music was an important part of cultural and social life in Ancient Greece: mixed-gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebration and spiritual ceremonies; musicians and singers had a prominent role in ancient Greek theater

In the 9th century, al-Farabi wrote a notable book on music titled Kitab al-Musiqi al-Kabir ("Great Book of Music"). He played and invented a variety of musical instruments and devised the Arab tone system of pitch organisation, which is still used in Arabic music.[7]

Medieval and Renaissance Europe

While musical life in Europe was undoubtedly rich in the early Medieval era, as attested by artistic depictions of instruments, writings about music, and other records, the only European repertory which has survived from before about 800 is the monophonic liturgical plainsong of the Roman Catholic Church, the central tradition of which was called Gregorian chant. Several schools of liturgical polyphony flourished beginning in the 12th century. Alongside these traditions of sacred music, a vibrant tradition of secular song developed, exemplified by the music of the troubadours, trouvères and Minnesänger.

Much of the surviving music of 14th century Europe is secular. By the middle of the 15th century, composers and singers used a smooth polyphony for sacred musical compositions such as the mass, the motet, and the laude, and secular forms such as the chanson and the madrigal. The introduction of commercial printing had an immense influence on the dissemination of musical styles.[citation needed]

European Baroque

The first operas, written around 1600 and the rise of contrapuntal music define the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque era that lasted until roughly 1750, the year of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Allegory of Music, by Filippino Lippi
Allegory of Music, by Filippino Lippi
Allegory of Music on the Opéra Garnier
Allegory of Music on the Opéra Garnier

German Baroque composers wrote for small ensembles including strings, brass, and woodwinds, as well as choirs, pipe organ, harpsichord, and clavichord. During the Baroque period, several major music forms were defined that lasted into later periods when they were expanded and evolved further, including the fugue, the invention, the sonata, and the concerto.[8]

European Classical

The music of the Classical period is characterized by homophonic texture, often featuring a prominent melody with accompaniment. These new melodies tended to be almost voice-like and singable. The now popular instrumental music was dominated by further evolution of musical forms initially defined in the Baroque period: the sonata, and the concerto, with the addition of the new form, the symphony. Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, well known even today, are among the central figures of the Classical period.


Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert were transitional composers, leading into the Romantic period, with their expansion of existing genres, forms, and functions of music. In the Romantic period, the emotional and expressive qualities of music came to take precedence over the orientation towards technique and tradition. The late 19th century saw a dramatic expansion in the size of the orchestra, and in the role of concerts as part of urban society. Later Romantic composers created complex and often much longer musical works, merging and expanding traditional forms that had previously been used separately. For example, counterpoint, combined with harmonic structures to create more extended chords with increased use of dissonance and to create dramatic tension and resolution.

20th century

In the 20th century there was a vast increase in music listening as the radio gained popularity worldwide and new media and technologies were developed to record, capture, reproduce and distribute music. The focus of art music was characterized by exploration. Claude Debussy has become well-known and respected for his orientation towards colors and depictions in his compositional style. Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and John Cage were all influential composers in 20th century art music. Jazz evolved and became a significant genre of music over the course of the 20th century, and during the second half of that century, rock music and hip hop music did the same.