©2019 by Island Impressions

Tribute to Pan

The steelpan (also known as steeldrum or pan) is the national instrument of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is an “orchestral folk instrument” that developed in Trinidad in the late 1930s. It is an instrument born out of the oppression of British colonialism in an attempt to silence the drumming and music of marginalized people of Trinidad and Tobago. The instrument is a beautiful symbol of human ingenuity and determination in the face of oppression.


Since the 30s, pan has become an integral part of the carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago. Steel orchestras of various sizes, from all over Trinidad and Tobago, congregate in the nation’s capital of Port of Spain to compete in the Panorama competition on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and parade down the streets on trucks during the J’ouvert morning celebrations. Pan has since been adopted as an instrument of choice by many people from the US, UK, Japan and many other cultures around the world.


Modern steelpans are fully chromatic and various types of pans range from the bass registers up to soprano registers (ca. G1 to G5 depending on design). Steel orchestras or steelbands are capable of playing any genre of music from western classical to popular music. These orchestras are most commonly associated with playing calypso and soca music as Panorama rules and regulations dictate. However, in the off-season, steel orchestras have ample opportunity to compete in other competitions and tour the world showcasing their talents playing a variety of musical works from many different genres.


My pan is a bored soprano pan called a “tenor” or “lead” pan. It was made by Augustus Peters, a phenomenal pan maker from San Juan, Trinidad. He currently lives in Port of Spain and works as a professional pan maker and musician. His steelpans are of the highest quality and I highly recommend them if you are in the market for a pan. If you are interested in purchasing a pan from Augustus he can be contacted via email at gustuspeters@hotmail.com or via his facebook page http://facebook.com/gustuspeters.