Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Trini Tuesday-Making a Steel Pan

Last week a couple of folks asked me if I owned Kettle drums and learned to play them. Now one of these folks already knows what an absolute pedant I can be and since TriniTuesday is intended as an informative feature we first need to clear up some confusion. Kettle drums are those giant things, also known as tympani, that you see as part of an orchestra and sound like thunder. The shiny chromed instrument you see all through the Caribbean is known as either a steel drum, steel pan, or merely pan for short. They have a very broad range depending upon how deep the sides are, can be cut to cover all ranges, and can make up an entire orchestra all by themselves.

I only own a cheap miniature pan like they sell to tourists eager to be parted from money. It didn't like to hold its tuning too well. It actually was playable until the kids lost the sticks that went to it though. I do not actually know how to 'beat pan' as they say in Trinidad. Waaaaaayyyy back, I think in the first week or two, when I started this blog I did a post about steelpans. Since then, I've found a groovy little YouTube video that demonstrates how pans are made. They won't let me imbed it here so go watch it and then come back, we'll wait...

Pretty amazing huh? I know the video mentions it but you need to know that Trinidad is where de ting was invented, all yuh. Is a real Trinidad ting in truth and is de national instrument. Also, it is the only accoustic instrument invented in the 20th century. Something the video doesn't tell you, because they show a nice sterile looking factory, is that it is only in recent years that there has been any attempt at standardization.

Previously, each orchestra had its own makers and each maker placed the notes on the pans according to their own arrangement. So, if it was with Desperados that you learned to beat pan and then you left because Winston over dere was givin yuh plenty belly and yuh had yuh fill so yuh goin to Renegades and beatin with all of dey...Well, expect to learn to play all over again because Renegades has a whole different set of pans. This is because competition between the various orchestras is fierce and comes to a yearly competition held during Carnival. Each orchestra has it's own pan makers and musical arrangers and it helps keep the finer nuances of the arrangements within the respective orchestras. Interestingly, many pannists do not read music at all and learn the arrangements entirely by ear. and now for your listening pleasure....

24 comments:

G-Man said...

God I love that sound...

Oh Cabana Boy Sir...
A frozen Pina Colada please.
AAhhhhhhhhhhh...

Love Trini Tuesday!!
Love Trini!
xox

Hypersonic said...

I used to like the battle of the bands that they used to have at the NOtting Hill Carnival, and because my himetown ha´/has such alarge carribean community they always go out during the town carnival in August.

Breazy said...

since I am a huge music lover and find all instruments amazing, the pans are one of the coolest too me. I would love to be in Trinidad during Carnival one year just to see all the variations and hear the different styles with which the pannist play. Since I have a crappy dial-up connection I can't watch the YouTube clip...*sniffle*

Have a good day!

Jim said...

Yaa maaan . . . de souwnd uv de eye-lahnds. Yoo gatta rilly good scruff, my sistah . . .

Just what we need to help banish this #%@!!?*#!! wind and rain. What's the deal? We should be thinking about community pool clean-up day, and taking naps under cherry blossoms, and having intimate lunches in sidewalk cafes, and wearing white . . . not still thinking about kicking the thermostat up.

XO

steve said...

Awesome as usual Lime!!

Have a great day!

ttfootball said...

Lime gyuuuull, they upgrade the computers here and now I cant get youtube, no error messages it just doesnt load. so when i reach home.

My brother's dad was one of the most famous pan tuners, died last year. Now my bro has all his awards and stuff hanging on the wall.

Yuh know, I was wondering WHAT THE HELL was kettle drums? lol

ANyways, here's a link to some pan events if people are interested:

http://saucytrini.blogspot.com/2007/04/pan-events.html

Top cat said...

that's really cool, I think half the charm is in the body movements of the players.
I like to bang on pots and pans sometimes until my wife yells at me cause of the piercing noise.lol
tc

ttfootball said...

o and great CD to look for: Pan in the Classics by Renegades Steel Orchestra. Fantastic renditions of El Relicario and the Hallelujah Chorus

bsoholic said...

Wow that's pretty sweet! I can dig that steel sound. :)

Apple said...

Even after seeing how it's done it's hard to believe that a steeldrum produces such a sweet sound.

Logophile said...

I LOVE steel pan, love love love

gotta go dance some more

lime said...

g-man, we eh have no pina coladas here... have a carib beer or a vat 19 rum! for those abstaining we have mauby and solo.

hypersonic, the video doesn't do justice to the sound of a live orchestra, does it?

breazy, the video will be here when you get a high speed connection. and any style of music you can imagine has been adapted for pan.

jim, yuh talkin like a jamaican, boy. but dat is ok...come an lime by me and enjoy de sun an de music. xox

tt, thanks for that link and recommendation. ther are a lot of US and canada venues there folks. check them!

tc, were you digging the guy in the white t-shirt who was bouncing hard? there is a reason it is called jump up music!

bs, if you can stay still i'll need to take your pulse

apple, amazing isn't it?

SignGurl said...

My kids think I'm nuts because of my huge love for the pans. Well, I'm sure they think it for other reasons too.

Just hearing the music can take you to a different place.

I'm comfortably numb now and thank you for the entertainment. It's much appreciated!

jillie said...

I'm getting thirsty for an Island drink now.

That music is so fun to listen to...really gets a group going.

I actually learned something today. Well, it looks like my brain is full so the edumication lesson was a success ;o)

DaMasta said...

Hehe.. I luv when you speak with dey accent ;)

Dan said...

Goodness gracious! An orgy of steel drums. Seems like the videographer was dancing his or her ass off too! :)

cathy said...

gee that sound takes me back to my good old travelling days. I just popped over to have a look at you.
I've been meaning to do this ever since you started looking at me over the top of your glasses.LOL>

Gawpo said...

Dis is lovely, Lime. Every ting is ayree now.

Now I have to break out my Toots.

lecram sinun said...

How so very cool! Happy Trini Tuesday!

G-Man said...

Gimme the Rum!!

Pleeeeease?

goodthomas said...

There is something to the sound of a steel drum. Something loud and yet gentle, thin and yet full. It is quite complex for something so simple.

Loved the video. Thanks wise Lime.

lime said...

signgurl, you're in good company...everyone here is certain of my insanity

jillie, mission accomplished

damasta, yuh would do well den

dan, i dare you to listen to this stuff and stay still

cathy, hahahah. welcome to the ride!

gawpo, you said toots...*snicker

lecram, dancing with me?

g-man, vat 19 coming up!

goodthomas, the video does not begin to do it justice. the live sound is just so rich and powerful. glad you enjoyed.

Brian said...

I love the sound. Wow.

KFarmer said...

Your descriptions and wonderful stories have me itching to go see-taste-smell and hear :)