History of steel bands
The 55-gallon oil drum was used to make steelpans from around 1947. The Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO), formed to attend the Festival of Britain in 1951, was the first steelband whose instruments were all made from oil drums. Members of TASPO included Ellie Mannette and Winston "Spree" Simon.
These bands provided the medium for the dispossessed descendants of the African slaves to pursue their love of music and rhythm. They were chiefly identified with the street parades of the annual Carnival Celebrations, where the strongest influences were of the French Cerole and African traditions.
They started off using bamboo instruments but around 1935 some bands began using metal containers as substitutes for the bamboo ones. The accidental discovery was made that a change of pitch occurred when surfaces of these metal containers were hammered and stretched. The young innovators experimented feverishly and soon the “first pan” or “ping pong” appeared with sufficient notes to carry a simple melody.
With the end of the war, the rival bands of Port of Spain ghettos took to the streets to celebrate V.E. and V.J days and to introduce to the world a new, exciting and exotic sound. Further experiments through the years, resulted in the development of a full range of instruments of the Steel Orchestra, as we know them today. ( Excerpts from document produced by Pan Trinbago.