The Rise of Steel Pan Music In Jamaica

Panoridim playing in the 1980s

Steel band music is becoming quite popular in Jamaica. It has become part of the repertoire of the Jamaican musical landscape. There are quite a number of steel bands operating across the island presently. One can think of the Panoridim Steel Band operating out of the University of the West Indies and the Humming Bird Steel band to name a few. The Panoridim was the first steel band to be formed in Jamaica in the early 1970s and since then has helped in the formation of other such bands. The rich musical tradition of some of our schools and churches has included steel bands, for example the Holy Childhood High School in St. Andrew. Some schools are even entering their steel bands in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's Festival of Arts Competition and are doing extremely well.

Steel band (or pan) music is really not indigenous to Jamaica. It is an adoption from our Trinidadian neighbour. Steel band was born during the years of the Second World War in Trinidad when carnival was banned and the music was confined to yards. In the years after the war this "experimentation" led to the use of carefully tuned steel oil drums. This kind of music met with fierce opposition from the middle class who associated true music with forms that came out of Europe. The police also banned the use of the tamboo - bamboo canes which were used to beat the pans, saying they could become offensive weapons. The musicians later had to use metals to beat their drums.

Trinidadians will say that the oil drum was not the first "pan" to be beaten to make music. Such things as empty biscuit tins, old petrol tanks of a car among other things were used. However in the history of steel band, the development of the steel drum is the most important.

(Read more here: Go-Local Jamaica)