Anguilla Local News

Anguilla's Steel Orchestra (Guest Article)

  From the Anguilla Local News - Site Map.

[Click to enlarge Steel Orchestra at Soroptomist Party] The Steel Pan was invented in the village of Laventille, Port of Spain, in Trinidad, in the early 1930's. It is a definite pitch instrument in the idiophone class, traditionally made from a steel drum or steel container. Prior to this discovery, pots, pans, paint cans, buckets and dustbin covers were used to produce a rhythm to revelers after the Government had banned bamboo playing during World War II. Severe abuse with sticks and pieces of metal bars or whatever came to hand on the metal containers formed indentations on their surfaces, and by chance notes/musical pitches were created and became the foundation for today's instruments. It is claimed that Winston Spree, a Trinidadian, made the first steel pan.

There are basically three broad groupings in a Steel Orchestra:

The instrument over the years has improved and now has a full chromatic range and is capable of playing almost any piece of music within its range.

There are different parts to the Steel Pan:

The Steel Plan is played by the use of Steel Pan Sticks. The sticks vary in length. The playing end of the stick is wrapped tightly with strips of rubber or covered with a rubber ball (bass drum). The sticks are wrapped thickly enough to have the little bounce required to play the note, but not too much so as to deaden the sound.

The Steel Plan in Anguilla

Steel Pan was introducted at the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School in 1987. Mr. Michael Martin (pan tutor) had been invited by the deputy principal, Anne Edwards, to perform at the general assemblies during the school years 1986 to 1988. These performances acted as a catalyst and a motivational factor to many students and soon there were lots of students waiting for the golden opportunity to learn to play. Mrs. Daphne J. Richardson, the music teacher, then requested the expertise of Mr. Martin to join the ALHCS staff as a pan tutor. Mr. Martin did most of the teaching and Mrs. Richardson took charge of the transportation and rewriting of the music for Steel Pan. Together with the enthused students the band is what is is today!

The band traveled to Philadelphia in July 1997 for two weeks in an excahnge with a performing arts center there. It performed at several ceremonies and at concerts, gave workshops, and even played for the mayor. It was a thrilling experience.

We hope to travel again this year. However, we have limited opportunities to earn required revenue from performances in a community as small as Anguilla. We are therefore dependent on the generosity of those willing to support constructive youth development activities such as ours. In addition, new equipment needs to be purchased. Also funds are necessary towards the making of a CD of our music. For further information on how you or your company can help in our fundraising ventures, call 264-497-2095 or email to

Guest article by Mirabelle West, Student

[Editor's Note: The high school students know their Pan Tutor as "Mr. Martin", but you may have heard him perform at hotels and nightspots as "Dumpa".]

 Revised: March 03, 1998

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Copyright 1998. Bob Green
Anguilla Local News