Why Google Doodle is Celebrating the Steelpan and What the Instrument Is

Today's Google Doodle celebrates steelpan music, and specifically the steelpan instrument.

The percussion instrument was created by Trinbagonians (people from the Caribbean island country of Trinidad and Tobago) in the 20th century, although it has its origins in the 1700s. Bamboo was originally used, but later metal objects and then from the late 1940s, 55-gallon oil drums, were used.

Doodle created a short animated video of people playing the instrument to celebrate it.

What Is the Steelpan Instrument?

Also known as a steel drum or a pan, it's a percussion instrument that originated in Trinidad and Tobago.

The acoustic instrument looks like a big, silver metal drum and is supported on a stand.

It's often played in groups. These are named a steel band or a steel orchestra, and it's Trinidad and Tobago's national instrument.

It was a staple during Carnival and Canboulay, the annual harvest festivals celebrated in Trinidad, and is still used in contemporary music, according to Google.

Why Is Google Doodle Celebrating the Steelpan

The reason it's being celebrated is because it was on July 26 that the instrument was launched to the world. Google describes how it came about: "On this day in 1951, the Trinidad All-Steel Pan Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) performed at the Festival of Britain, introducing the steelpan and a new music genre to the world."

What Is the History Behind the Steelpan?

Although it was officially created in 1951, the instrument dates its origins back to the 1700s, as it was a staple during the traditional Trinidad annual harvest festivals such as Carnival and Canboulay.

After slavery ended in 1838, Trinidadians would join in Carnival celebrations with their drums. However, in 1877, there was a ban on drumming, enforced by government officials.

"In protest of this ban, musicians started to pound tuned bamboo tubes on the ground as alternatives to mimic the sound of their drums. These ensembles were called Tamboo Bamboo bands," Google says.

"The steelpan is now the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, and is a source of great pride and true resilience for its citizens. Steelpans are now enjoyed in concert halls like [the] Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and more. Whether in the U.K. or Japan, Senegal or the States, the steelpan is an internationally recognized instrument that reminds listeners of its island origins," it added.

Today's Google Doodle was designed by Nicholas Huggins, a Trinidad and Tobago-based illustrator. The audio, or musical aspect of it, was composed by Etienne Charles, a musician based in Miami.

In a Q&A with Google, Huggins said the instrument "was born from resistance and rebellion and is truly emblematic of the people of T&T. [Trinidad and Tobago]"

Steelband
Members of the Oxford Road Primary School Steel Band from Reading performing outside the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1974 Gettyimages