Trinidad & Tobago: The Steel Drum and Carnival Culture


About Steelpans and Steel Bands

Steelpans (also known as steel pans, steel drums or pans, and sometimes, collectively with other musicians, as a steel band or orchestra) is a musical instrument originating from Trinidad and Tobago. The modern pan is a chromatically pitched percussion instrument made from 55 gallon industrial drums.

Steel bands started out primarily as musical accompaniment for Caribbean Carnival celebrations, but soon were enhancing the classics and jazz. The music is constantly expanding its repertoire, respect, and role in international music. The instruments are as capable as a violin in capturing the nuances of any genre of music.

Trinidad is the birthplace of the only entire family of acoustic instruments of both this century, and the century past. Although their is only a single instrument represented in this video, large bands in Trinidad have up to one hundred and twenty players, using nine different steelpan sizes and cover the same range as the piccolo to a double bass in a traditional symphony orchestra. The steel band and steelpan, now a worldwide phenomenon and movement, emerged out of poverty, creativity, oppression, and necessity. Both 'skin' drums, (congas) and 'Tamboo bamboo' (the clacking of various lengths of bamboo), had previously been outlawed by the colonial authority.

About Carnival Costumes

A wide variety of costumes (called "mas") depicting traditional Trinidadian Carnival characters are seen throughout the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. After emancipation in 1838, freed slaves combined African culture with colonial influence to create characters that parodied the upper-class customs and costumes of Carnival. Over the years, characters would rise and drop in popularity, and many became overshadowed by more modern, "bikini and bead," costumes.

The highly decorated modern carnival costumes tend to be of the revealing type suitable to tropical heat, and a sense of liberation! The carnival costumes changed over time parallel to how bathing suits in general matured. 

About Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island Caribbean nation near Venezuela, with distinctive Creole traditions and cuisines. Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain, hosts a boisterous carnival featuring calypso and soca music. Numerous bird species inhabit sanctuaries such as the Asa Wright Nature Centre. The smaller island of Tobago is known for its beaches and the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, which shelters hummingbirds.


The culture of Trinidad and Tobago reflects the influence of European, African, Indian, Spanish (Hispanic or Latino), Arab, cultures. The histories of Trinidad and Tobago are different. There are differences in the cultural influences which have shaped each island. Trinidad and Tobago is an English-speaking country with strong links to the United Kingdom.

Depending upon which island in this twin–island state is being discussed, the culture name is "Trinidadian" or "Tobagonian." Trinidadians, but not Tobagonians, often refer to citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago as "Trinidadians" or "Trinis," or occasionally in an effort to be inclusive, as "Trinbagonians."


Food plays a very important role in Trinidad & Tobago’s culture. Some of the culinary influences of Trinidad & Tobago include Creole cooking, Indian, Syrian, Chinese and Portuguese cuisine. The true Trinidadian cuisine blends the delights from around the world to create truly distinctive flavors that can be experienced in the various dishes such as pelau, macaroni pie, stew chicken and callaloo.

Food in Trinidad is an international affair. Trinidad’s Cuisine beings with the Trini version of India, which includes the islands’   blend of curries and spices in doubles and roti. Then on to China for dim sum or some locally created flavor. Experience the Middle East for the gyros and kabobs, or on to Europe for Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.


We couldn't do this without the generous support of our sponsors. If you're interested, we'd love to chat. We look forward to working with companies and organizations ready and excited to share their love for the community!


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