steel drums and ellie mannette

Steel drums are a young instrument, dating from circa 1946 and evolving into their present form in less than a century. They come from the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago, where Dr. Ellie Mannette was born in 1927. Widely regarded as the “father” of the modern steel drum, Dr. Mannette is as close to its inventor as any one person can be, and is active in the art form as one of its top craftsmen. His vision of the symphonic capabilities of an instrument that originally sounded like a trashcan sustained him through decades of difficult and passionate work. He has achieved more tonal sophistication than his critics ever imagined, and is still driven to achieve a more perfect sound.

Dr. Mannette came to the US in 1967, and eventually settled in West Virginia to take on apprentices. His program continues to be the only one of its kind, and may prove to be the most important of Dr. Mannette’s achievements. He knew the art form would not reach another generation without the establishment of this kind of training program. Undoubtedly, without Dr. Ellie Mannette’s vision and dedication, the steel band art form would not be what it is today.