Steel Drummin’

My musical skills are far from genius. I would say that they are even ingenius, except for some weird reason, that word is no worse than genius.

Ungenius? Anyways.  You get the point.

In elementary school I could rock out some London Bridge on the recorder, and knew a couple of equally badass songs for the ukulele, but I soon gave up trying to compete with my musically talented sisters who could play and sing in circles around me. Instead I put the instruments away and picked up sports equipment, becoming the tomboy that my parents had to drag around to different events.

Hence my musical ungeniusity that exists today. However, this has never stopped my dream of becoming a rock star…and I think I’ve finally figured out how to make it happen.

Anybody out there need someone that can play the Caribbean steel drums?


Okay, so maybe I still have some work to do, but what a fun morning Pete and I had at Steel Pan Alley – a free music school for the kids of Roatán. Organized by a former school teacher from California and run on donations, tourists are invited in to watch the kids play or get the full experience of learning to play themselves. We were anxious to get our hands on the sticks and see if we had any chops in us.

Pete, having been a drummer in his teenage days, took on the more difficult position at the Bass pans while I took my turn at the Double Second pans. Four students of the school and their fearless leader Deborah gave us quick instructions on a few popular songs, and before you knew it, we were groovin’ like it was nobody’s business.   With what other musical instrument can complete novices pick up and learn three songs in just an hour?  I don’t believe there is any other.

See if you can guess these two popular songs we played?

1. Jam’s about my pride and truth I cannot hide, to keep you satisfied.   True love that now exist is the love I can’t resist, so jam by my side.

2. Jump up and down and move it all around. Shake your head to the sound, put your hands on the ground.

More interesting then my expected rise to stardom following this post (ha) is the history of the steel pans themselves. Originating in Trinidad, this unique sound was actually created by street gangs.  While the island was under British rule, the governing Brits forbade all types of indigenous music and thus it went underground and continued via these raucous teenagers. At first the gangs played only on tunable sticks of bamboo wood and would meet with the other street gangs to compete.  Trying to “step up” the competition, one street gang had the idea to bang on steel drums. Soon, everyone was doing it, shaping the pans in order to create different notes and sounds.  Over 70 years later, it is still alive and well.   Actually, some of the bands that were around when it still going strong, and are some of the most celebrated musical groups in Trinidad.

Wonder if they have an opening for an experienced chica to play the Double Pans??

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17 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Betsy Talbot
    February 14 2011

    You are a natural! I tried a Latin drumming class before we left on our trip and was surprised at how difficult it was and how much it involves the entire body. But it was so much fun to do, especially playing with other people.

    Love that travel opens up the doors to try so many different things.
    Betsy Talbot recently posted..Show yourself a little love today

    • Dalene
      February 14 2011

      Oh my, I suck!! Haha, but it was a total blast, and sounded amazingly good when we all played together!

  • February 15 2011

    Oh….I wish I was there. That looked like so much fun!! NIce chops Dade!
    Teri recently posted..Scrappy-Doodle Sunday!

    • Dalene
      February 15 2011

      Ha – thanks! I have *some* skills! 🙂

  • February 15 2011

    That looks like a lot of fun! I remember having to do some percussion section for an African band when I was in a teacher in the UK. All the kids in my class were great and I was atrocious – no rhythm. Ans we had to perform in front of the whole school. Just awful! 🙂
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..A Spicy Fethiye Valentines Day

    • Dalene
      February 15 2011

      It was fun! I am lacking in the rhythm department as well, but maybe I only *thought* I sounded good because I was drowned out by everyone else – ha!

  • February 15 2011

    Looks like fun! Can’t believe it is free… what a bargain
    Leslie (Downtown Traveler) recently posted..Photo essay- Hiking the Australian Outback at Kings Canyon

    • Dalene
      February 15 2011

      It’s so good for the kids in the area. They can learn a skill that they otherwise wouldn’t, plus some money on the side when they get invited to events, etc. It may also give them a foundation for the future – to work in the tourist industry on the island!

  • Mom
    February 16 2011

    It brought tears to my eyes to see my little girl being so musical…..and that intense concentration on her face. I hope I get to try it. xoxo

    • Dalene
      February 16 2011

      Tears from how BAD I was, maybe – ha! You can try it when you’re here – for sure! xo

  • I am also an ungenius with playing instruments. I’ve always been envious of anyone who can play the drums. Looks like fun!
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..3 Strategies to Taste the Best Wines at a Wine Expo

    • October 4 2011

      I am devoid of any kind of musical talent – that all went to my sisters. 🙁

  • October 4 2011

    I suck at playing drums…I think I’d have watched and enjoyed the show instead!
    Federico recently posted..What to do in Hawaii: Visiting Oahu in a Day

  • October 4 2011

    Wow you are far better than I will ever be.
    ayngelina recently posted..Innsbruck, it’s not you…it’s me

  • October 4 2011

    So cool!! I love the steel drums! What a cool experience!
    DTravelsRound recently posted..Speaking for the Elephants … in memory of Mae Sai Roong

  • October 9 2011

    How cool! I play cello, and I’ve always wondered how the steel drums work since it doesn’t look like there is anything that separates the notes. I’d love to learn how.
    Emily @ Maiden Voyage recently posted..Gen Y Travel Blog Carnival: 13th Edition

    • Pete
      October 10 2011

      It was a great day learning to play. What was explained to us is that the way the drum is shaped gives a different note. The drum is broken down into either 4, 6 or 8 different sections. Pretty cool and when you get to be involved a really fun experience. Very easy to pick up (thankfully), as both of us are not really musically talented 🙂

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