Treasures of Ours

Pauline De Four

Identity: Jamaican Chinese
Social handles: @trishd4 &
Treasure: Trinidad Steelpan

Meaning to them: “The Steelpan is a musical instrument that is synonymous with the West Indies, carnival and Caribana. A treasure reflecting cultural heritage and artistry.”

How to pass it on: The Steelpan is shared through carnival, musical avenues and instrument players.


Steel pans (steel drums) were created on the Caribbean island of Trinidad in the 1930s, but steel pan history can be traced back to the enslaved Africans who were brought to the islands during the 1700s.

They carried with them elements of their African culture including the playing of hand drums. These drums became the main percussion instruments in the annual Trinidadian carnival festivities.

Early mental pan bands combined a wide variety of metallic containers and kitchen utensils which were struck with open hands, fists or sticks.

The metal pan players discovered that the raised areas of the metal containers made a different sound to those areas that were flat. Through experimentation, coincidence, trial and error, and ingenuity on the part of numerous innovators, the metal pan bands evolved into the steel pan family of instruments.

As the pan makers knowledge and technique improved, so did the sound of the instrument.

The history of steel plan in Toronto is perhaps most well known or recognized through Caribana festival.Toronto’s Caribbean Caribana festival has grown exponentially since its start in 1967 when it first began and is currently North America’s largest cultural festival. What was once a three-day event has now grown into a three week celebration, absorbing most of the city with its infectious feel-good vibes. The steel pan is the musical instrument that plays a starring role in the festivities and is about showcasing carnival music, culture and art, which includes costume marking and playing steel plan.

For more information:
Ontario Steel Pan Association
Toronto All Stars Steel Orchestra

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