Wylie’s New Steel Band

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Wylie’s New Steel Band

Elise Grimland

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This semester, the tropical sounds of Wylie’s brand new Steel Band can be heard through the doors of the band hall. The new percussion instruments were hand made and purchased by the band program. Members of this band practice either in the mornings or after school and have been working to learn to play the steel pans.

Steel pans are made from 55 gallon oil barrels and originated from the Caribbean islands of  Trinidad and Tobago. They are handcrafted by pounding and stretching the bottoms of the barrels to create spots with different notes. The pans are played using aluminum sticks with rubber ends. There are different pans that can play a different range of pitches and together create a more dynamic sound.

Steel pans were invented in the 1930’s in Trinidad and were played at festivals and celebrations. Original steel bands contained the pans, as well as old car parts and scrap metal that was used to create sounds. Because of these materials’ cheapness and the islands love of rhythm, steel bands became popular among Trinidad’s lower class. The pans carried a low and disrespected connotation but have become accepted instruments over time. Now the pans are played at a festival every year called Panorama, where steel band groups compete for top band. Steel pans are now found in other parts of the world and have been gaining popularity.

Although you may not hear Wylie’s Steel Band playing complex tunes just yet, they are definitely on their way in that direction. If you would like to hear the two groups play, come to the percussion concert on April 30 at the PAC.