Boomkat Product Review:
" Carnival was carried to Trinidad in the late 1700s by French planters who had enjoyed the pre-Lenten festivities on other West Indian islands. It was an almost sedate, upper-class celebration imitated, in secret, and most unsedately, by slaves “behind Big House.” Carnival burst from its staid routine with the freeing of the slaves in 1837. Masks allowed action without fear of reprisal. Bands grew larger and louder. Songs were purposely lewd and pointedly anti-upper-class. The French planters were horrified. Police tried to squelch Carnival with little success. To halt some of the excesses, official controls were inaugurated—thus the organized contests. The original slave celebrations had moved to the beat of the conga drums—the same drums used in religious rituals to summon believers to worship and gods to receive sacrifices. The official church, as part of its drive to eliminate “foreign” religions, outlawed the drums. But no celebration in Trinidad works right without rhythm. “Bamboo tamboo” stick bands were devised to fill the musical gap. The bands were hundreds of young people, each carrying a bamboo pole, nine to eleven inches thick and four to six feet long. A deep hollow sound, varying with the size of the bamboo, was made by pounding the open end of the stick on the ground. Rhythmic effects were carefully rehearsed—the streets thundered at the sun. Four basic types of drums form the steel band: the ping pong (soprano), the guitar pan (alto), the cello pan (tenor), and the boom (bass). The only non-metal instrument used is the shac-shac, a gourd filled with seeds. The number of notes on a pan, the face of the drum, can vary from 32 on the ping pong to two on the boom. To create a scale on the metal barrels, the bung end is cut off, the bottom is heated, and separate segments of different depths and sizes are hammered out. The resulting instrument is not really a drum but a tuned gong struck with sticks wrapped in rubber strips. When the band marches, the melody is carried by one instrument at a time while the other band members are free to play variations on a theme. The melody transfers from instrument to instrument down the streets. The sound is liquid—the sound of the sun on the sea, the sea against sand, feet marching through streets that hold sparkling heat and the hearts of an entire island." JANE SARNOFF, 1967 .