Caribbean music is dear to me, and I thought I would impart a little background and history of the genre, particularly the Calypso.
Calypso’s catchy rhythms and unmistakable style have become widely popular. It originated in Trinidad and Tobago, islands in the southern Caribbean Sea. Along with the steel drums, calypso melodies include such instruments as the guitar, trumpet, saxophone, and drums. It is music that compels you to move your feet, get up from your chair, and stand up and sway your hips to the rhythmical beat.
Calypso can refer to any song that was sung after 1898 at Carnival time in Trinidad. It may have been inspired by storytelling tradition that was brought to Trinidad by African slaves. It has since been influenced by African song and dance along with French, Hispanic, English, and other ethnic influences.
The smooth tropical songs made by the Calypsonian includes witty rhymes that are often made up at the time of the singing on stage. The words included humor and spicy tales, sometimes with a double meaning. This was done because the Calypsonians made the upper classes of society the objects of their ridicule and composed such stinging words and critiques that the colonial government tried to ban the tradition. Double meanings were created to camouflage the actual meaning of the songs. In fact, Calypsonians have made a heavy contribution to the vocabulary of West Indian speech. Many people, even some politicians, often quoted Calypsonians to emphasize a point.
In the early days, the Calypsonians were mainly Afro-Trinidadian, but today they can be found in every race, color, and class. Many genres of calypso have now been developed that appeal to varying musical tastes.
The next time you hear steel orchestras and a lively, catchy, rhythmical sound, with picture lyrics, you may be experiencing calypso music. Like me, you will be compelled to get up from your chair and dance!
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