Steel band music started in Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. Calypso is a form of traditional music often played on steel pans. Calypso music has:

  • 4/4 time with syncopation (rhythm patterns where stressed notes are placed off the beat)
  • acoustic and bass guitar or band with trumpets, saxophones, electric guitars, drum kit and Latin percussion instruments
  • the melody often uses call and response in the chorus
  • simple harmony
  • structure consisting of verse, choruses and instrumental sections
  • topical, witty lyrics – often satirical

Steel bands are characterised by:

  • instruments (known as pans), which were originally made out of oil drums
The Original Trinidad Steel Band | Discography | Discogs
  • lead instruments known as tenors playing the melody
  • middle-pitched pans playing the chords (altos)
  • bass pans playing the lowest notes
  • a rhythm section for up tempo numbers including drums and percussion e.g. tambourines and maracas
  • sticks with ends padded with rubber bands
  • long notes played with a rolling tremolo effect (a trembling sound created by fast repetition of the same note)
  • smooth (legato) and expressive melodies

Yellow Bird‘ is a traditional 19th century folk song from the island of Haiti in the Caribbean. The song continues to be popularly associated with calypso and the Caribbean, and is often performed by steelpan bands.

Map of Caribbean

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