Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Kobe Steel Pan Carnival

Photo: yuko.S on Flickr

Kobe Steel Pan Carnival

Joshua Wood

On September 20th the steel bands of Japan will converge at Suma beach to showcase their musical talents for a one day Caribbean experience. With autumn right around the corner the Kobe Steel Pan Carnival returns with over 10 of Japan's top steel bands to kickstart your Silver week holidays and put the finishing touches on a beautiful summer by bringing the sounds of the caribbean to a beach near you.


Steel drums are one of the last acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century from discarded oil barrels in the World War Two era. Residents of Trinidad and Tobago found that by hammering the bottoms of the barrels they produced musical tones and soon started developing a wide range of different drums of different sizes to form a whole orchestra including bass, cello, double seconds, double tenor, and tenor pans. Drums and percussion instruments combine the engine room, the rhythmic force that drives the band playings unique rhythms known as calypso and soca. Carnival season takes place in February, much like the American Mardi Gras, it coincides with the Catholic tradition of Fat Tuesday, the last day before Lent when you indulge in your favorite activities before giving them up for two months. Members of the steel bands stop going to work and instead go to the pan yard and practice all day and night. Bands will even load their instruments onto large flatbed trucks and ride around town playing music in the streets to celebrate the occasion.

All of this practice and preparation leads up to the Panorama competition, a composition lasting up to ten minutes arranged from a current Trinidadian pop song. Each band takes the stage to play their unique Panorama that gets scored by the judges. The band who wins receives the honor of being Panorama champion including all the bragging rights for the rest of the year. At the end of the Kobe Steel Pan Carnival be prepared to hear one of these amazing compositions.


Steel drum artists have been bringing the steel drum out of the pan yard and onto the concert stage playing and composing classical solo pieces and orchestral concertos showcasing the artistry of the instrument and performers. Steel drums even show up in jazz bands, reggae bands (insinuating the steel drum is from Jamaica) and even pop bands, most famously The Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet.

The Kobe Steel Pan Carnival follows the Panorama tradition of playing upbeat fun dance music as friends and family alongside fans of steel drum music gather together to enjoy music and dance the day away. Some real enthusiasts may bring flags of Trinidad to wave during performances giving it an authentic feel that hypes up the performers and excites the crowd into a dancing frenzy of fun.

Just a word of caution Suma beach doesn't allow BBQ on the beach and as of last year there were no food vendors in the area, so bring your own food and drinks. Even though it’s last September the beach can still be hot especially on a beautiful sunny day, so please wear your sunscreen.

Directions to the event: from Osaka station JR line head towards Kobe, the express doesn't stop at Sumakaihinkoen so get off at Kobe station and transfer over to the local. From there go south to you hit the main road and turn right past the Lawson's. Cross the street at the intersection to Seaside park next to the aquarium and Follow the sounds of steel drum.

Event starts at 11:00 and ends at 5:00pm. Hope to see you there!

For more information check out the website (Japanese) at http://www.asuta-steelpan.com/