Tamboo Bamboo

Tamboo derives from the French word "tambour" which means drum.

Bamboo is a member of the grass family.

In 1884 drumming was banned from carnival after the authorities feared the drums were being used as a means of communication.

Searching for an alternative, the people began to use pieces of dried bamboo as a substitute for making music accompanied by singing and dancing.

Tamboo Bamboo bands grew rapidly throughout the communities of Trinidad. The music was played for stick-fights, folk dances, at wakes and especially at carnival. The names of the bands were fashioned on their communities; John John Tamboo Bamboo, Laventille Hill Tamboo Bamboo and Hell Yard Tamboo Bamboo.

Tamboo Bamboo first performed at carnival in 1891. It was not long before the brass bands and the string bands were playing next to the tamboo bamboo bands. When the tamboo bamboo instruments broke, the other bands would lend some of their instruments to keep them going on.  This union led to the inclusion of many other objects, which enhanced the overall sound of the bands.

By the early 1900s tamboo bamboo was at its height. The bands became so popular that people were stealing bamboo from the fields and rival bands were using the bamboo as weapons. In 1934 the authorities finally stepped in and banned tamboo bamboo.

Some of the outstanding bands of the 1930s were:

        • Calvary Bamboo Band (became Alexander's Ragtime Band).

        • Hell Yard Bamboo Band (became Cross of Lorraine, and then Trinidad All Starts Steel Band).

        • Dead End Kids (became the Desperadoes).


The tamboo bamboo instruments were the Boom, the Foule, the Cutters and the Chandlers.

Boom was the bass , it was approximately 5ft long and 5 inches wide.  The Boom was played by pounding it on the gound.

Foule or Fullers was the tenor, it was approximately 12 inches long and 3 inches wide.  The Foule was played by striking it with a stick or mallet.

Cutters were the soprano and were approximately 23 inches long and 3.5 inches wide.  The cutters were played in the same way as the Foule.

Chandlers were the alto, were of similar size to the Cutters and played in the same way.