History of steel bands
The steelpan originated in the Caribbean island of Trinidad, emerging in the 1930's when African descendants started beating out rhythms and harmonies on pieces of metal searching for innovative ways of making music to accompany the people's songs and dances at carnival time. Of all the instruments used at the time (including the tamboo bamboo), the steelpan was found to be most effective; it permitted much more subtle and complex harmonies and cleaner and sharper tones.
Six categories of pans make up the steel orchestra: the tenors, the double seconds, the guitars, the cellos, the quadro and six pan, and the bass, plus the rhythm section. These instruments are made from used oil drums and are extremely versatile. Steelpan music includes not only Afro-Caribbean music but extends to jazz, pop and classical, played with the distinctive rhythms and tonality of the steelpan instrument.
Steelbands were first introduced to Britain in 1951 when the Trinidad All Star Percussion Orchestra took part in the Festival of Britain and since the late 1960ís steelbands have been steadily on the increase. The British Association of Steelbands is responsible for a programme of events throughout the year, including the acclaimed National Panorama competition at the Notting Hill Carnival. Carnival's roots date back to the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833 when the first Caribbean carnival was held in Trinidad. Carnival quickly developed into a strong Caribbean tradition with five disciplines: Steelpan, Mas, Soca, Calypso and the static sound systems. The first British Carnival was held in 1959 in an attempt to tackle race riots in London and settled in Notting Hill in 1964 where it has been held ever since.