Steel Drum Timeline

Steel Drum Timeline


“Tamboo Bamboo” bands originate. After Emancipation former begin participating in the street carnival brought to our island by the French. The Tamboo Bamboo is a percussion instrument made of lengths of bamboo plant to accompany revelers during street parade. “Tamboo Bamboo” bands continue to flourish throughout the 1920’s and 30’s.


“Tamboo Bamboo” bands prohibited by the British Government at the dawn of World War Two. As a result, people turn to readily available discarded steel drums as an alternative.


Trinidad hosts the first Trinidad Music Festival. It is an avenue to promote and develop European classical music.


World War II ends

A young man from Port of Spain named Winston “Spree” Simon tunes a steel pan so that it can be played on an eight-note scale the “Ping Pong”. News of Spree’s discovery spreads through the country. This begins a cascade of experimentation with the drums across the nation.


Ellie Mannette, the first person to use a discarded oil barrel to build a steel pan. The first sets of Steel bands are formed throughout Trinidad and Tobago. The bands include: Destination Tokyo, Casablanca, Rising Sun, Invaders, Tripoli, Bar 20, Red Army and Desperadoes.

“The Jouvert Bomb Competition” – This event is a steelpan music staple on Carnival Monday morning staged at Victoria Square, Port of Spain. It features steelbands playing rapid transitions from one melody to another. Bands parade around the Red House playing various “Bomb” tunes. This refers to the common term “a big tune”.


Trinidad represents at the Festival of Britain at the South Bank Exhibition.

Development of the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO). Members include pan innovators such as: Mannette, Spree and Anthony Williams.


Trinidad Music Festival introduces a Steelpan category.   This festival “caused improvement in making and tuning the pans, improvement in arranging and orchestration, improvement in playing the pans, and improvement in the appearance of the instruments.” says Anthony Williams.  Due to the increased number of participants and the quality of music and pan-manship displayed, a separate show was imminent.

Some steel pans are played while being hung around the neck of the performer or while being carried in one hand of the performer, this is referred to as “Pan Round the Neck”.


Anthony Williams takes steelpan experimentation to another level by designing a tenor pan known as the “fourths and fifths”. His achievement is considered to be the most innovative to date. This design is the general design of the steelpan.


Following Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence, steelbands are now hired to perform at social and state functions. Corporate sponsorship is now an option, as this assists in the maintenance of bands.

Pan-men are now being considered cultural ambassadors and the steelpan is officially recognized as the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.


The Carnival Development Committee develops Trinidad Panorama, a local competition for various steelbands. Panorama is a well-known annual music competition in the country held during the Carnival season.


The formation of the Steelband Music Festival by theNational Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen (NATTS) this festival focuses on the performance of European classical music.


Introduction of the National Junior Panorama competition, it specifically targets Secondary schools. It is considered a training forum for the adult Panorama competition and for the steelband movement in general.

Belmont 5th Dimension the first winners of the competition.


No Panorama this year, due to disagreements between the players and the former Carnival Development Committee. Players united and boycotted the competition.


Introduction of the Junior Steelband Festival. This is another training ground for the adult festival and the general steelband movement.


Trinidad and Tobago Steelpan & Jazz Festival formerly “Pan Royale” is held annually in November. It is a charitable event hosted by The Queen’s Royal College Foundation to aid students, staff and alumni of the Queen’s Royal College (QRC).

World Steelband Music Festival is introduced replacing Steelband Music Festival, as invitations extend to bands from other countries.


Introduction of the festival Pan Ramajay, by the local group Exodus Steel Orchestra. “Ramajay” is the local term for term for “showing off”. The event showcases various genres inclusive of classical to jazz. Other interesting elements are competitive and playful interaction between performers and displays of technical virtuosity.


Bertie Marshall is given the Chaconia Gold Medal in the field of culture for “Outstanding Service to the Country”.


Ellie Mannette unveils “The Quaduet” a four piece instrument. This four piece instrument whose wide range permits pan soloists to play music without running out of notes. These pans are hung like a four cello and a single pair of specially designed sticks is used to play all the high and low notes.


Bertie Marshall receives two awards at the World Steelband Festival 2000, “For Innovation and Contribution in Respect of the Steel Drum”

“Pan Trinbago and Signature 2000 Salute Bertie Marshall Steelpan Innovator Extraordinaire.


The World Steelband Music Festival was first held outside of Trinidad, the final of the competition was held in New York, USA.


The formation of the Chinese Bicentennial Steel Ensemble, as part of the festivities to mark the Chinese 200 years of arrival to the Trinidad and Tobago. The band comprises of players solely with Chinese heritage.


The creation of the Genesis Pans “G-Pans”, unlike the metal drums of the past, G-pans are made from highly durable high-grade steel sheets. They are considerably smaller than traditional pan instruments and comprise of a bass pan, a mid-range four pan, a double pan and a lead pan. It can produce well-defined pitches at louder volumes than regular bass pans.


Anthony Williams and Bertie Marshall are both awarded The Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for their contribution to the development of steelpan.


Bertie Marshall passes away on Wednesday 17th October, 2012 at the age of 76. Bertie Marshall was the creator of the Double Tenor Steelpan.


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