TT Music Library
Virtual Music Archive of Trinidad & Tobago


About the Beating of Iron and the Importance of the Drum


The use of African drums in spiritual and religious events is quite common in Trinidad and Tobago. Call and response is the key of drumology, which describes the conversation of drums. There are different types of drumming, like coup foulé or kalinalde. Tassa drumming will be touched on later in this article. The drums are essential for the development of rapso music but percussions are also an important component of soca. Nowadays the percussion elements are digitally arranged. The percussive style is especially taken for the so-called road mixes, ex, extended versions to "chip down di road" at the Carnival celebration. Often they are combined with whistles.
african drum
Lost in the Rhythm - painting by joy ballack
Lost by the Drums by Joe Ballack
In Alvin Daniell's "Calypso Showcase", a TV show on local Television in the 1990s, there is a special, where musicians, including Lord Relator, perform road march hits from the old days back acoustically. In this example, you can see the bottle and the spoon, that is used to accompany the song, as music style. I believe that "bottle and spoon" might have led to the development of the rhythm section in a long term.

The program is about an hour long, very entertaining, joyful, and memorable. Enjoy, if you have a little spare minute time left, you will not regret it.
Video abspielen


A rhythm section is a group of percussionists, that traditionally accompanied the steel pan groups, providing the pulse and rhythmic drive for the entire band. The performance is commonly instrumental, while drums are combined with the "beating of iron", which is the same meaning as "beating a steel pan". It is another unique instrument that originated in Trinidad and Tobago from modified car tire irons, that create the clang, which is evident in so much Trinidadian music.
Rhythm Section at Oh Yeah Event, "Down d Islands"
The Laventille Rhythm Section is one of Trinidad & Tobago’s national treasures. Over the last three decades, the multi-generational community from Port of Spain’s Laventille, a low-income district, has become significant in techniques of drumming and the history of the twin island.
In this short documentary (in 360!) you hear more about the relations of the members and the importance of the creation of music communities.
In Trinidad and Tobago’s rich musical landscape the rhythm section or ‘engine room’, refers to the sound that, when heard, evokes feelings of festivity and celebrations. It fills the air with clangs of iron and metal, an abrasive symphony of energy, and represents the liberty of African ancestors, in a more informal way.

Regarded as the premier engine room in Trinidad, the Laventille Rhythm Section born out of the hills of Laventille over two decades ago has evolved through its instrumental and rhythmic innovations, into an entity that can command a performance all on its own. The vibrations which are created whenever they perform are nothing short of phenomenal.
Laventille Rhythm Section - Instruments

The Original Digital Product

Beat The Drum

Not to be confused with the drum and bass rhythm sections that build the backbone of rock, jazz, and soul bands, these all-percussion ensembles employ a mixture of traditional and uniquely Trinidadian instruments, including the dudup (a progenitor of the steelpan), the djun djun (a massive, two-sided bass drum) and the iron. A multicultural fusion of African and Indian-originated instrumentation, such as djembe, congo, and tassa drum is coming together.

The conch shell, a marine treasure, and sound giver, is the leading sound to start a session: "When the conch blows, the party starts". Enjoy the little documentary "behind the scenes" of the music video by international soca artists, Machel Montano, Skinny Fabulous, and Iwer George, showing you the sound of the conch shell in a powerful manner.
Video abspielen
Lately, the Laventille Rhythm Section was the sound provider for the latest digital drum samples provided by JusBus, a soca producer and his partners. The sample Library is a downloadable pack making drum tracks from the band available to producers worldwide. Since its creation, sounds from the software have appeared in songs by Trinidad’s top soca artists, including Bunji Garlin and Machel Montano.

As much as the Iron, shakers and the drum are most essential in soca beats. The following example from Canada shows the structure of a soca beat.
Video abspielen

Here is a vibrant performance piece for the Best Village Event, held annually in Trinidad at different locations. It shows how music can bring different generations together. This video example is 16 minutes long and is recorded and shows performances from Plum Road Manzanilla Performing Arts, the Holy Faith Convent from Penal, the Prizgar Lands Kelly Village Cultural Performance, and the Terry David Performing Theatre.

Video abspielen

To complete the collection I am adding to the percussions also the crix box, which is more a tool to make noise, still to give the right rhythm for the Carnival character of Jab Molasses or the Blue Devil to perform. 

Jab Molassie - by Traditional Mas Archive
Crix Advertisment - Bermudez Trinidad
Early advertisement for Crix (Bermudez Company)

Crix is a popular biscuit cracker in Trinidad and Tobago, manufactured by the Bermudez Biscuit Company, a popular food provider on the is. The company is known since the 1900s. For now, it is unknown when the biscuit box in its shape appeared for the first time, but it is a piece of the metamorphosis of steel pan.

Blue Devils - Crix Box - by Traditional Mas Archive
Carnival charcacter Jab Molassie (Blue Devil)

The story of Trinidad and Tobago’s musical instruments is fascinating and inspiring. Make sure you are a part of it and subscribe to the newsletter. I am thankful for any information that you share with me. Let us share the heritage and preserve music history.

Latest Update: 12/10/22
Compiled by:
DJ Mika Raguaa - Professional DJ & Multimedia Designer
DJ & Researcher


Note: This article is a "work in progress". With every visit, more content will be added. Get in touch, if you have something to share.

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Jocelyne Guibault (2007): Governing Sound – The cultural politics of Trinidad’s Carnival Music
University of Chicago, Ian Randle Publishers

John Mendes (2003): Coté ci Coté La – Trinidad & Tobago Dictionary,  Medianet Publishing

Gerard Besson (2011): Calypso, Calypso Music

Ronald C. Emrit: Calypso History

Jesse Server (2017): Laventille Rhythm Section bring the Iron from T&T to LA

Indigo Sounds: Product Description Percussion Samples
https:// Archive about Traditional Mas Characters Calypso in Trinidad – Carnival and Musical Traditions (offline nowadays)

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