A chronicle of the history and production of steel drums.
Steel drumming began on Trinidad. Its African roots are made clear: West Africans forced into chattel slavery brought their drumming traditions with them to the island, but oppressive white slaveholders outlawed drumming. Even post-slavery the drumming ban continued, so the people adapted by using found materials such as biscuit tins and paint cans. During World War II, the U.S. built a base on Trinidad, and drummers used the 55-gallon oil containers to make drums. Ellie Mannette, an ingenious black Trini who would come to be known as the “Father of the Modern Steel Drum,” was one of the first to do this. The focus here shifts to Glenn Rowsey, a white U.S. steel drummer and steel-drum maker. Readers follow Rowsey through the fascinating process of creating a steel drum, which makes up the bulk of the book. The choice to highlight a white musician/craftsperson comes off as culturally tone deaf given the African/African diasporic roots of the art. Easy-to-understand text and plentiful full-color photos make this book accessible even for younger readers. Books on steel drumming are scarce, so it’s particularly disappointing that this book, while offering a good historical base, places white voices and experiences at its center.
A decent choice for music classrooms, but its focus on a white American musician makes it a bust for another seemingly natural application in units on Caribbean culture. (DIY instrument instructions, timeline, glossary, resources) (Nonfiction. 6-10)