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Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

Morning Star

KEVIN LE GENDRE talks to Angela Cobbinah about the musicians whose creativity has left a lasting though sometimes ignored legacy in Britain

For Kevin Le Gendre, the lilting sound of the steel pan is symbolic of how black music has embedded itself into British culture. It’s come all the way from Trinidad, where it was invented in the 1930s, to a shopping mall and high street near you — not to mention its annual showcasing at the Notting Hill Carnival.

It is part of the odyssey of sound brought to life in his meticulously researched book Don’t Stop the Carnival, an epic story that begins, speculatively at least, in AD43 when Africans formed part of the Roman army conquering Britain but which definitely gets under way in Tudor times with evidence of court musicians like John Blanke, then onwards down the centuries to the 1960s when exiled South African musicians introduced their rich vein of jazz into Soho nightclubs.

In between are the many different genres of music and their purveyors, both the well-known like honky-tonk pianist Winifred Atwell, who had a series of hit singles in the 1950s, and the long forgotten, like 18th-century busker Joseph Johnson.

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