Tuned steel pans were invented on the beautiful carribean island of Trinidad in 1938 by Winston "Spree" Simon. The first pans were made from biscuit or paint tins and then during the 1940s people began to use oil drums. Today steel bands exist all over the world and the sound is familiar to everyone. Many schools in the UK have steel bands which run alongside their other school ensembles such as choirs and orchestras.
The largest steel bands have a very wide range of drums, from tiny soprano pans to deep bass. This enables them to play together like an orchestra with each section having its own special parts to play.
The maracas are one of the most instantly satisfying percussion instruments: easy to play and capable of many different effects. Maracas originate from Central and South America where legend tells of a goddess wrapping white stones in a calabash gourd (the dried fruit of a calabash tree) to make the first maraca. As well as gourds, today they are made out plastic, metal, woven baskets or wood. And inside: anything from dried peas to shotgun pellets will do to make the shaking sound.
In the early 20th century, Latin American music such as the Tango and its influence on Jazz spread the use of the maracas to the entire world.
Many orchestral pieces have used maracas, such as Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, and the instrument is now a standard part of the orchestra. Venezuelan composer, Ricardo Lorenz has even written a Concerto for Maracas and Orchestra. He has said that the playing of maracas in Venezuela has developed to such a high level of skill and artistry that it bears no relation to the simple shaking that most people manage.
Panpipes are among the most ancient of musical instruments and evidence has been found for them in all ancient societies. In modern times they have remained particularly popular in Romania and China, but it is the South American variety, the Siku that seems to have captured the world's imagination.
The Peruvian Siku is made of two rows of pipes tied together and comes in many sizes. Although panpipes naturally produce a mellow tone, playing the instrument expressively requires tremendous breath control and real artistry.