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Tambrin (from tambourine) is quintessential Tobago music. The tambrin, similar to the tambourine drum, is an indigenous instrument to Tobago. It is a circular percussive instrument created by slaves after their drums were confiscated on the plantation. Originally, slaves used animal skin to cover circular old cheese boxes, available at that time, as replacement for the banned drums. At present, the tambrin drum is made from the wood of the latan tree or wild cassava, which is easily bent and covered with goat skin. The entire process takes two to three months. The tambrin drum is used mainly at ceremonial occasions. It usually accompanies the reel and jig, at occasions such as weddings, christenings, Thanksgiving and healing ceremonies. Before the Tambrin is played, it is heated over a fire until the right tone/pitch is attained. A typical tambrin band consists of three shallow goatskin tambrin drums: the cutter (high pitch), roller (rhythm) and boom (bass). The drums provide an African basis for the lead instrument, the fiddle, and the added percussion of a steel triangle.
Tambrin bands dominated village social events (processions, weddings, christenings, harvest festivals, healing ceremonies) and island-wide festivals right up to the 1960s and the advent of the DJ. Tambourine music was a cultural feature of the Tobago communities of Golden Lane, Les Coteaux, Plymouth, and Mt. St. George in particular, but was characteristic of Tobago as a whole.
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