Ellie Manette Leaves A Musical Legacy Fitting Of A True Visionary

Ellie Manette, credited for being  one of the inventors of steel pan music, has died.

The steel drum (steel pan) is widely known as the only acoustic instrument developed in the twentieth century. Its’ melodious sounds have become almost synonymous with the cool relaxed vibe of island living. Its history, however, is not as relaxed as its current branding.

The steel drum came to life in the rural areas on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago; was born into poverty and grew up in the midst of riots and fighting. Thankfully, pan has blossomed into one of the most majestic representations of musical creativity within the Caribbean, and, plays a leading role in the branding of the islands.

One of the visionaries and innovators behind the invention of steelpan, Ellie Manette, died on August 29th 2018. He has left an undeniable legacy that will live on for decades. Born in the rural village of San Souci in Trinidad and Tobago in 1927, Manette spent the majority of his life advocating for steel-pan music throughout the diaspora. He was a quiet and understated Caribbean warrior who brought awareness of the steel-pan throughout the globe. He died as simply as he lived, but left a gigantic legacy that forever changed the musical landscape of the islands.


Here are our top five things to know about Ellie Manette of Trinbago:

  • As teenagers in the 1940s, Mannette and his friend Winston ‘‘Spree’’ Simon originated the modern steel drum band sound. Discarded barrels were abundant in oil-rich Trinidad, and Mannette experimented with hammering bumps in the steel bottom or ‘‘pan’’ of an upside down 55-gallon oil drum. Each raised section resounded with a clear note when struck, and by 1947 Mannette had perfected a drum with two octaves of a diatonic scale.*


  • Manette listened to classical music all day and had dreams of creating a steel drum symphony that could replicate the music he so enjoyed.


  • Ellie Mannette was one of the founding members of popular steel band, the Invaders Steel Orchestra. When steel-pan music started to gain popularity in Trinidad, he left the island to play and teach in the United States.


  • He started training students in aspects of the art form with the University Tuning Project, in which a student could learn how to construct his own steel drum.


  • In 1999, Mannette received the highest U.S. honor in the arts, a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000, he returned to his homeland to receive the Trinidad and Tobago Chaconia Silver Medal from the minister of culture. He also was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine. He was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2003.*


Rest in power to a cultural icon and legend. We appreciate your contribution. 2BKaribbean is to be a VISIONARY!





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