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Culture Days will return September 20 – October 13, 2024.

Trinidad & Tobago: The Steel Drum and Carnival Culture


Dance Fashion & costumes History & heritage Music Performance
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City of Surrey, BC



Offered in English.



Steelpans (also known as steel pans, steel drums or pans, and sometimes, collectively with other musicians, as a steel band or orchestra) is a musical instrument originating from Trinidad and Tobago. The modern pan is a chromatically pitched percussion instrument made from 55 gallon industrial drums.

Steel bands started out primarily as musical accompaniment for Caribbean Carnival celebrations, but soon were enhancing the classics and jazz. The music is constantly expanding its repertoire, respect, and role in international music. The instruments are as capable as a violin in capturing the nuances of any genre of music.

Trinidad is the birthplace of the only entire family of acoustic instruments of both this century, and the century past. Although their is only a single instrument represented in this video, large bands in Trinidad have up to one hundred and twenty players, using nine different steelpan sizes and cover the same range as the piccolo to a double bass in a traditional symphony orchestra. The steel band and steelpan, now a worldwide phenomenon and movement, emerged out of poverty, creativity, oppression, and necessity. Both 'skin' drums, (congas) and 'Tamboo bamboo' (the clacking of various lengths of bamboo), had previously been outlawed by the colonial authority.


A wide variety of costumes (called "mas") depicting traditional Trinidadian Carnival characters are seen throughout the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. After emancipation in 1838, freed slaves combined African culture with colonial influence to create characters that parodied the upper-class customs and costumes of Carnival. Over the years, characters would rise and drop in popularity, and many became overshadowed by more modern, "bikini and bead," costumes.

The highly decorated modern carnival costumes tend to be of the revealing type suitable to tropical heat, and a sense of liberation! The carnival costumes changed over time parallel to how bathing suits in general matured.



City of Surrey

The City of Surrey's Special Events team organizes four major special events annually: Party for the Planet, Surrey Canada Day, Surrey Fusion Festival and the Surrey Tree Lighting Festival. Surrey Fusion Festival brings together over 80,000 people annually to celebrate food, music, and culture.


This event is part of a hub:

Virtual Surrey Fusion Festival + Cultural Video Series

City of Surrey City of Surrey, BC

Join us for a virtual Surrey Fusion Festival celebration this year! Presented by Coast Capital Savings, Surrey Fusion Festival will host a virtual livestream followed by a four-week online cultural campaign. Surrey Fusion Festival is th...