03 April, 2010

The Evolution of Calypso

Hey guys,

This is the continuation of he first calypso post. I'm so sorry for taking so long to complete it. Anyway there it goes.

Calypso has earned its place in history as the national folk song of Trinidad and Tobago and the music of the Caribbean after the emancipation of the slaves. However, even before emancipation there is evidence that the art form had begun its growth. It is suggested that West African Tribal songs were precursor to calypso and that calypso had its roots in the West African custom of griot court singing. The griots usually sang songs of praise and derision and were story tellers. It is said that calypso contains characteristics of these West African songs including:
  • Percussion Rhythmic Beats
  • Call and Response Pattern
  • Extemporaneous Singing
  • Satire
It is believed that these songs were introduced during the French settlement of the island of Trinidad. Gros Jean, an African slave, is reputed to have been the first calypsonian. In the early days, the songs were sung in patois, in the ex-tempo genre and usually involved colourful and aggressive language. There was also trading of insults among performers, a form called 'mepris', that later developed into the war calypsos.

Over the last century, calypso has spread throughout the Caribbean and around the world. The year 1914 was a milestone in the history of this great indigenous musical art form. This was the year that the first calypso recording was made by the Vincent Gramophone Company of New York. By the Second World War, the presence of the American service men in Trinidad and Tobago ensured that calypso was propelled even further into the international arena. It was also during this period that the first recording studios were established in Trinidad.

The late 1920's saw the rise of the first calypso tents. At that time, bamboo structures and tents were used as the venue for calyopsonians to practice and perform during the Carnival season. (Today, calypso tents are housed in more permanent structures and showcase the new music of the Carnival season.) By the next decade, the giants of calypso had begun their reign. Names such as Atilla the Hun, Lord Invader and Roaring Lion stood out, but there were many others who were also making an unforgettable contribution to calypso music. Aldwin Roberts, the Lord Kitchener proved to be one of the most prolific bards ever. He produced hundreds of calypsos from the 1940's until his death in 2001. 1956 saw the advent of the Mighty Sparrow with the now infamous and popular hit song Jean and Dinah. He followed this with many other memorable songs including Pay as You Earn, Federation, Ten to One is Murder, Mae Mae and Dan is the Man. He continues to record today.

The last thirty-five years has seen several changes in the calypso industry. Attempts have been made to encourage yearlong interest in calypso music by staging concerts outside of the carnival season, however, this has not always been successful. Consequently, many artists tour extensively, participating in the various carnivals around the world. The art form itself has changed, spawning subgroups such as soca, rapso, chutney soca and ragga soca. This blending of various rhythms has attracted a wider audience to the genre.

Today, some of the commentators suggest that the traditional form of calypso is dying, while others claim that it is simply evolving. Carnival historian, Errol Hill, believes that calypso has remained current and popular on the local scene, constantly changing to meet the needs of the population. He says that this is probably because that every season every calypso must offer at least two new songs. This relentless demand for new music keeps the songs topical and relevant but also places a great deal of pressure on the artist to provide quality material.

Here is one of the Mighty Sparrow's Calypsos

Here is an example of soca music which evolved from calypso

I'm off now
Tunsie ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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