Steel Drums and Steelbands: A History

Steel Drums and Steelbands: A History

by Angela Smith
     
 

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Steel Drums and Steelbands: A History is a vivid account of the events that led to the “accidental” invention of the steel drum: the only acoustic musical instrument invented in the 20th century. Angela Smith walks readers through the evolution of the steel drum from an object of scorn and tool of violence to one of the most studied, performed, and

Overview

Steel Drums and Steelbands: A History is a vivid account of the events that led to the “accidental” invention of the steel drum: the only acoustic musical instrument invented in the 20th century. Angela Smith walks readers through the evolution of the steel drum from an object of scorn and tool of violence to one of the most studied, performed, and appreciated musical instruments today. Smith explores the development of the modern steelband, from its roots in African slavery in early Trinidad to the vast array of experiments in technological innovation and to the current explosion of steelbands in American schools. The book offers insights directly from major contributors of the steelband movement with sections devoted exclusively to pioneers and innovators.

Drawing on seven years of research, repeated trips to the birthplace of the steel drum, Trinidad, and interviews with steelband pioneers, Smith takes readers far beyond the sunny associations of the steel drum with island vacations, cruise ships, and multiple encores of “Yellow Bird.” Digging deep into Trinidad’s history—a tale of indigenous extermination and African slavery, of French settlement and Spanish and British colonialism before mid-century independence—Smith weaves an unforgettable narrative of talking drums, kalinda stick fights, tamboo bamboo bands, iron bands, calypso, Carnival, and the U. S. military. Together, all played major roles in the evolution of today’s steelband and in the panman’s journey from renegade to hero in the steelband’s move from the panyards of Trinidad’s poorest neighborhoods to the world’s most prestigious concert halls. The reader will discover how an instrument created by teenage boys, descendants of African slaves, became a world musical phenomena. Steel Drums and Steelbands is the ideal introduction to the steel drum, steelbands, and their history.

Editorial Reviews

American Reference Books Annual (ARBA)
Although most people are familiar with the music and sound of the steel drum, few know the history behind it or the evolution of its sound. Angela Smith has researched the beginnings of the instrument in Trinidad by the descendants of African slaves to its modern-day sound and popularity. The first half of the volume focuses on the early roots of the steel drum in Trinidad, while the second half covers its expansion to the United States, its popularity in schools, and the future of this musical sound. The author provides six appendixes that add greatly to the reference appeal of this work. This include lists of the instrument's pioneers and innovators, a timeline, questions and topics for group discussions, a selected discography and Internet links, and other instruments in the steelband family. The author researched this topic for seven year and took multiple trips to Trinidad to interview with pioneers of the music—this work is clearly a labor of love for her. This will be a valuable addition to the music collections of larger university libraries.
Choice
A freelance writer and pan musician, Smith has written a conventional but useful chronological history of Trinidad's steel drums, or pan. The author devotes the first five chapters to reviewing Trinidad's history. The remaining 15 chapters—except chapter 10, which returns, oddly, to a discussion of history—are devoted to pan's development, including its migration into the US and especially into the academy. Appendixes provide short biographies of noted musicians, a list of websites, and a summary of the chronology. A section of black-and-white photos is mainly devoted to major figures. Smith sees this book as an "introduction" to pan and its history, and in that context the book succeeds....Readers new to pan or currently participating will likely find the book to be a useful and objective place to start. Summing Up: Recommended.
CHOICE
A freelance writer and pan musician, Smith has written a conventional but useful chronological history of Trinidad's steel drums, or pan. The author devotes the first five chapters to reviewing Trinidad's history. The remaining 15 chapters—except chapter 10, which returns, oddly, to a discussion of history—are devoted to pan's development, including its migration into the US and especially into the academy. Appendixes provide short biographies of noted musicians, a list of websites, and a summary of the chronology. A section of black-and-white photos is mainly devoted to major figures. Smith sees this book as an "introduction" to pan and its history, and in that context the book succeeds....Readers new to pan or currently participating will likely find the book to be a useful and objective place to start. Summing Up: Recommended.
American Reference Books Annual
Although most people are familiar with the music and sound of the steel drum, few know the history behind it or the evolution of its sound. Angela Smith has researched the beginnings of the instrument in Trinidad by the descendants of African slaves to its modern-day sound and popularity. The first half of the volume focuses on the early roots of the steel drum in Trinidad, while the second half covers its expansion to the United States, its popularity in schools, and the future of this musical sound. The author provides six appendixes that add greatly to the reference appeal of this work. This include lists of the instrument's pioneers and innovators, a timeline, questions and topics for group discussions, a selected discography and Internet links, and other instruments in the steelband family. The author researched this topic for seven year and took multiple trips to Trinidad to interview with pioneers of the music—this work is clearly a labor of love for her. This will be a valuable addition to the music collections of larger university libraries.
Barry Mannette
A great book, well written, very informative, a must read for anyone who wants to know about steelpan history.
Brandon Haskett
Absolutely a great resource!
Rachel Romatz Palmer
This is a really awesome book, especially for folks teaching kids in middle and high school. The chapters are short, well written, informative, interesting and very readable. I absolutely love it! I have been looking, wishing, hoping for a book like this.
Journal of Historical Research in Music Education
Smith's work is a valiant introduction to the subject. Steel Drum and Steelbands: A History fills a void in the literature and provides a vivid overview of the history and development of steel bands. Prior to this publication, most works that addressed steel band focused on the Trinidadian tradition and were mostly oral histories by those involved with steelpan in the Caribbean. Smith's work deftly addresses many current issues related to the ongoing growth and spread of steelpan in the United States, including changes in steelpan construction, disputes over the cultural ownership of the steelpan, electronic instruments, changes in the distribution and creation of steelpan music, and the rise of steel band festivals in the United States such as Meet Me in Morgantown. Each of these topics ultimately deserves its own thorough scholarly examination; however, Smith does well to include these and provide a framework for ongoing conversations in the steelpan field.
New West Indian Guide
[Steel Drums and Steelbands] is a clear, compact, nicely organized yet comprehensive history of pan (steelband). It is aimed at high school students, especially people who may know little about the topic. The book is an easy and enjoyable read. It begins with the history of Trinidad, the arrival of African slaves, and the development of Carnival. It then covers the evolution of pan from drums, the tamboo bamboo, and biscuit tin bands to the tuned steel orchestras.
Percussive Notes
This book presents an easy-reading introduction to the history of pan and the steelband, the people and their culture, and many of the individuals who contributed to the evolution of this art form.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810883437
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
06/07/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
240
File size:
9 MB

Meet the Author

Angela Smith is a freelance writer/editor and Executive Director Emeritus of the Writers' League of Texas. She is also a working musician, dividing her time between playing cello and the steel drum.
Angela Smith is a freelance writer/editor and Executive Director Emeritus of the Writers' League of Texas.

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