Recognized for its steel drums, upbeat rhythms and Caribbean ties, calypso music originated during Trindad's carnival celebrations and has roots in West Africa, according to the Loyola University New Orleans' and National Geographic's music website. In this genre, which is also known as kaiso, an orchestra of musicians called a "steelband" use a variety of instruments to create their distinct sound.
Musicians first began making steel drums out of oil drums in the 1940s. After World War II, there was an excess of oil drums left behind from the military which the musicians began to fashion into steel drums, according to SocaFreak.com. To make these instruments, which are also called pans, experimenters began to hammer and tune the bottoms of drums or oil drum lids to create different pitches. This steel drum is still the most widely-recognized instrument of Calypso music and is played with rubber mallets.
In the rhythm section, calypso musicians play a Caribbean instrument called the scratch, which is a cylindrical grater that is scratched with a metallic comb, according to Lameca.org. Another local instrument is an iron drum, made from track brakes hammered with iron sticks. Non-regional musical additions in the rhythm section include tambourines or congas. Because calypso ensembles vary in size from one member to more than a hundred, each group individually selects the number of players for each instrument.
Modern-day steelbands often include a brass section with a trumpet, trombone or saxophone to create a fuller sound. Also, the flute, guitar and bass may be included in calypso ensembles.
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