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At This West Virginia Steelpan Drum Company, A Visionary’s Beat Goes On

West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Keith Moone works on a steel drum Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, at the Mannette Musical Instruments workshop in Osage, W.Va.Keith Moone works on a steel drum Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, at the Mannette Musical Instruments workshop in Osage, W.Va.

Osage, West Virginia, USA - It takes about 40 hours of hammering to turn a steel drum into a steelpan drum.

Although originally meant to hold oil, shampoo or ketchup, the metal tube becomes an instrument uniquely capable of evoking island breezes and a slower pace of life.

And believe it or not, this transformation takes place in an old storefront in Osage, West Virginia, population 395.

This is the home of Mannette Musical Instruments, maker of world-renowned steelpan drums.

Each of the company’s five drum builders and tuners has his own small workshop. Each workshop is nearly identical, aside from a few personal effects.

....But there’s one workshop where hammers don’t ring anymore. This room has been mostly untouched for three years, since its owner left and never returned.

This workshop once belonged to Ellie Mannette, the founder of this company and the father of the modern steel drum.


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