Steel drum or steel pan? What is the correct name of the instrument?
by Mantius Cazaubon
Steel drum or steel pan?
I recently received an email from Mortimer in response to my steel drum (steel pan) section. He challenged the fact that I had used the term steel drum to discuss the instrument whose official name has been declared "steel pan" in Trinidad and Tobago where it was invented.
(The bold text has been added by yours truly.)
After getting his permission I'm posting his email here in its entirety.
"Hi like the site, the only thing I disagree with is calling the Steel Pan a Steel Drum. Just because it came from an oil drum originally does not mean it is a steel drum. We do not call a guitar a piece of wood with strings because that is what it is made from, so why do that to the only new musical instrument of the 20th century? It should be given more respect than that.
When the instrument was invented it was called Steel Pan. The players are called panists not drummers; pan is played not beaten.
I cannot tell you to change what you have on your website but just wanted to point out that fact. My father grew up with Ellie Mannette the one that first sunk the Steel Pan to give us the pan as we know it today and it was never called a drum and so I don't see why we are calling it a drum now just to appease the North Americans. If more of us West Indians would stand up together for what we believe in, maybe we will get where we are going faster and in a much better position than we are now. Thanks for taking the time to listen to my explanation.
Host of Calypso Spectacular 105.5Fm in Toronto. www.chry.fm Sundays 3:00pm to 6:00pm and also a part time Soca artist. "
I sent him a brief reply and it reads:
I agree with you and I know that you are totally correct. I used the term steel drum because after doing keyword research I found that most people are not typing "steel pan" into the search engines when searching for information about pan. Largely, they type "steel drums". In an attempt to be more visible (by far) I used the term "steel drums" as well as "steel pan".
Thanks for your comments. I will address it now on the site. "
I was about to make changes to the main pan section but decided instead to send him an email requesting his permission to simply post his well written submission on the site.
Here's the email I sent:
Would you like me to post your submission on the site? It's an excellent one. If so, would you like me to include your name and info? Thanks."
To which he responded.
"Yes you can. I stand by all that I say.
All my info and particulars are below.
Sundays 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm
CHRY 105.5 FM (Toronto, ON Canada)
On-Air Tel: 416-736-5656
Listen Live: < >www.chry.fm
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/calypsospec
Facebook Page: Calypso Spectacular"
To the previous email I sent, his response read as follows:
"I know and I understand what you mean about the visibility factor. I just find it sad that we have to compromise our beliefs to appease the masses. I have always believed that just because everyone is doing it does not make it right. Maybe we should look at educating the masses so they know what to type in their search engines... that is not your battle but rather the Caribbean's battle.
I guess maybe if when they search for Steel Drums and they find your page the first line should be used as a teaching moment where they are told the correct name of the instrument?
However, I did not mean to give you a hard time these are just observations from a proud Trinidadian, I do not mean to over step the connection we have.
I will attach one of my tracks so you will see what I am about. It is called "Trini Rap" featuring Nicole De Coteau."
End of email message
Mortimer, I should be thanking you. You have not given me a hard time. Your post has put everything into proper perspective. We need more people like you.
Folks. To re-educate people about the correct name for pan is no easy task. To market the correct name is a huge battle. The fact that the name "steel drums" is used in MIDI instruments further complicates it.
This post is linked from the main Steel drum (steel pan) section. This should help clear the air on the correct name for the instrument.
Share your views below.