Steel Drums: The Original Recycled Instrument
In this edition of the Vocal Trash street show, Greg tells us all about steel drums, which are some of the first recycled instruments. As you know, the gang collects a lot of instruments made by their friends over at KnotAFish.com, but the practice of using recycled 55 gallon oil drums as instruments extends far beyond our borders at a time long before Vocal Trash was ever conceived.
The History of Recycled Steel Drums
Recycled steel drums were first used by slaves from Trinidad and Tobago in the late 1700s. When traditional drumming was banned by colonial powers, people began using whatever trash they could find to fashion their own instruments, which were not technically banned by law. While recycled paint cans and trash cans were occasionally used, it was discovered that hammered steel oil barrels made the best sound. Modern steel drums are said to have originated around the time of World War II, when tuning became more sophisticated.
How Recycled Steel Drum Instruments Are Made:
The oil drum is retrieved from a landfill
Tools like a sledgehammer, small hammer, metal punch, ruler, compass and chalk are gathered
The unopened end of the oil drum is caved-in with the sledgehammer
The positioning of the notes is outlined using the compass and chalk
The hammer beats the notes into the drum
The steel drum is then tempered with fire and water
The final tuning is done with a small hammer and rubber-tipped drum stick
"How To Get Involved Schools" are getting involved with recycling lessons by calling in performers like Vocal Trash to spread the word on the importance of reducing, reusing and upcycling old trash into new goods. A woman named Mary Spaulding offers a similar message with her steel drum program, which teaches students how to make their own steel drums – and play them too! Check it out!
As always, remember to
"THINK before you throw it away!"
Vocal Trash is a troupe of environmental entertainers who have been engaging audiences with their unique and exciting brand of entertainment for a decade from New York to Seattle. Whether in Madison Square Garden or the Venetian Hotel and Casino, Vocal Trash is environmentally conscious using upcycled materials on stage. The group asks that you "THINK… before you throw it away!"