Tuesday’s Google doodle celebrates the invention of the steel drum, a percussion instrument made from a 55-gallon steel cargo drum that produces music by hitting different-sized indentations on the drum’s convex belly with a mallet, CNET reported.
Widely considered the only major instrument invented in the 20th century, the steel drum originated in the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago in the 1930s, but its history can be traced back to enslaved blacks brought to the Caribbean in the 1700s. A video doodle drawn by Trinidad and Tobago artist Nicolas Huggins takes people on a musical journey to learn some of the history of the steel drum.
After slavery was abolished in 1834, former slaves were allowed to use their drums in carnival celebrations. But after a series of riots in 1881, the British government banned African percussion. It was replaced by the practice of beating with bamboo sticks, a practice that was also banned, sparking protests and demonstrations.
During these protests, the practice of making improvised percussion instruments from metal objects such as car parts, paint cans, garbage cans, oil drums and cookie tins emerged. By the 1930s, the orchestra known as ” tamboo bamboo” was dominated by these metal instruments, largely abandoning the bamboo stick.
After the end of World War II, musicians began using 55-gallon oil drums discarded by oil refineries. Pianists – as they were known – began experimenting with different sized areas of the container’s surface and found that the raised areas produced a different sound than the flat areas. These discoveries, and others related to the shape and size of the container, gave rise to a new family of steel drum instruments.
In 1992, the steel drum was declared the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago and is now popular at concerts around the world, including Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center for the Arts.