Object Social/Cultural Context of the Steel pan

The steel pan is an instrument which has a very significant cultural following, as mentioned in my previous post, this instrument was created out of a cultural festival based in Trinidad and Tobago and has followed not only the Trinidadian diaspora, but the Caribbean diaspora as well. This instrument can be traced to various parts of the world where Caribbean Diasporas tend to migrate, such as North America, Europe, and to a certain extent Asia. When you consider this object it is seen as a musical symbol for the country of Trinidad and Tobago, and an icon in its musical culture. Originally this object was seen as an instrument of the working class, otherwise known as the “grassroots” (the marginally poor or unemployed), however that has completely changed context in modern society as the object has retained much value and is not an inexpensive object, or as easily created from oil drums (Stuempfle 3).

Over time as the instrument has been modified it has taken on a more intricate design and has been perfected for pitch, size and tune therefore it has created more value for itself and is not typically an object/instrument of the “working class”. In the past it was seen to cause more clashes between bands in Trinidad and received much hostility from the upper/middle class, however now it is an instrument that is in a price range which is more fitting for the middle/upper class, and less attainable for lower income individuals. Nonetheless, since its inception, the object garnered much negativity as it was seen as a threat to social order, but overtime it gained support and became a national symbol for the country. No matter how you position it, in todays Caribbean culture this object is seen as a memento of Caribbean culture and music, and has been accepted throughout the Caribbean diaspora



Stuempfle, Stephen. The Steelband Movement / the Forging of a National Art in Trinidad and Tobago. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1995. Print.

By shaunpoon

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