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An Aural History of Calypso

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An Aural History of Calypso

  1. 1. CalypsoAural Evolution
  2. 2. The Is.  The Calypso is a genre of music emerging from Trinidad in the 20th century.
  3. 3. The Name  The transformation into “calypso” is seen to have come from one of these sources:  The word “carieto,” meaning a joyous song, which itself evolved into “cariso”  The French patois creations “carrousseaux” from the archaic French word “carrouse,” meaning a drinking party or festivity…  The Spanish word “caliso,” a term also used for a topical song in St. Lucia;  “careso,” a topical song from theVirgin Islands;  TheWest African (Hausa) term “kaiso,” itself a corruption of “kaito,” an expression of approval and encouragement similar to “bravo.”  (Warner 8)
  4. 4. Musical Origins Rohlehr  …Calypso which, with its history of Latin-style syncopation and its roots in calinda, bel air and bamboula…(Rohlehr Scuffling 378)
  5. 5. Aural Evolution Diagram Extended Ballad Chalkdust French Creole Lyrics CalendaSingleTone DoubleTone Ballad
  6. 6. Calenda  Although songs were composed in the minor mode before, composers began to use it more during this period. Some of the middle class singers had a little training in music, primarily solfege.They therefore composed their calypsos with some measure of conscious musical choice and it seems that the type of song composed determined the key or mode they chose. Four minor modes seem to have been in common use at the time.They were the re minor, mi minor, sol minor and the la minor.They probably were the same as the dorian, Phrygian, mixolydian and Aeolian modes respectively. (Ahyoung 58)
  7. 7. Old Form  During the first decade of the twentieth century, old-time singers of ‘single-tone’ of four-line calypsos in Creole French resisted the efforts of George ‘Jamesie’Adilla, the Duke of Marlborough and Philip Garcia, the Lord Executor to improve the Calypso by singing eight line ‘double-tone’ calypsos in highly rhetorical English.The initial result of this confrontation between tradition and innovation, was that the newcomers were forced to flee Port- of- Spain because they could not endure the fierceness of the old-time picong in Creole French. (Rohlehr Scuffling of Islands 375)
  8. 8. Tradition refashioned  Thus calinda litanies coexisted besides rhymed couplets, quatrains and octaves and in time, combinations of these structures would constitute the fundamental forms that the majority of ‘ballad’ or narrative calypsos assumed form the 1930’s to the 1950’s.  The Sans Humanite or Oratorical mode which has been a contested innovation during the first decade of the twentieth century, became a highly revered traditional structure during the next two decades. Though it was superseded by narrative/ballad calypsos in the 1920s and 1930s, it retained its place in what one might tem ‘a calypso memory-bank’, and still informs minor-key compositions into the twenty-first century. (Rohlehr Scuffling of Islands 376)
  9. 9. Calenda to SingleTone  According to Elder, the negro singers held on to the litany couplet form with which they were familiar but they were soon influenced by the European type ode or oratical calypsos of the white middle class singers, especially those of Lord Executor. (Ahyoung 58)  The type of ballad form that resulted, the “single- tone calypso” consisted of the form AA, BB. (Ahyoung 58)
  10. 10. DoubleUp  The single-tone ballad calypso discussed earlier was even further developed, as more and more lines were doubled, or new lines inserted between repeated lines.This practice gave rise to the Double-Tone ballad calypso. It consisted of eight lines arranged in the sequence AA, BB, CC, DD) (Ahyoung 68-69)
  11. 11. Influence #1  Belasco transmitted and refashioned songs from different islands, which he used as the basis for his own compositions. Calypsonians were doing the same thing from early in the century.  He…composed many Paseos (Pasillos), the music and lyrics of aVenezuelan dance very popular during the early twentieth century when there was a significantVenezuelan migrant presence in Trinidad. (Calypso and Society Rohlehr 85)
  12. 12. Influence #2  Apart from the influence of vaudeville and the broad folk heritage of the Caribbean, there was the particular impact of Jazz on the instrumentation of calypso accompaniment. From as early as 1922 Trinidad’s journalists had been complaining that Jazz had displaced the old-time Quadrille and Lancers as the most popular music with the younger folk. Recordings of calypso music from the 1930’s reflect the influence of boogie-woogie piano, the rigidity of jazz-type bass lines and more than a hint of New Orleans style instrumentation. A jazz straight-jacket was forcibly imposed on the fluid prosodoy of Calypso which, with its history of Latin- style syncopation and its roots in calinda, bel air and bamboula, had only recently sorted out the intricacies of transition from French Creole to English prosody. (Rohelhr A Scuffling 378 )
  13. 13. JazzTinge  With the participation of the middle class in the canboulay activities, there arose the small wind orchestra, comprised of trombone, cornet, clarinet, and saxophone.The wind ensemble was soon to be influenced by the jazz vogue of the 1920s.The rise of the string and wind orchestra created a corresponding gradual decline in the tambour- bambour bands (Elder 1966:115; Hill 1972: 56) (Ahyoung 60)  Others tried to improve calypso melodies by proposing to use English or American melodies such as vaudeville tunes instead.And to change the words to suit the selected themes-hoping that calypso would gradually adapt itself to these so called more aesthetically (or ideologically) pleasing sources (Guilbault 46).  In 1934, Atilla and Lion were facilitated by Portuguese businessman…to make recordings for Decca and the American Record Company. (Liverpool 211)
  14. 14. Young Brigade  Young Brigade of the 1950s..The Mighty Sparrow…”Jean and Dinah”…Melody..Terror…(Ahyoung 73-74)  Chalkdust…Shadow…(Ahyoung 74)  (Sparrow) He was recognized and condemned as a major force in the reinvention of Calypso between the mid-fifties and the sixties. He was accused of mixing the now traditional sounds and styles of the thirties and forties with pop songs, sentimental ballads of the Nat Cole, Brook Benton, Billy Eckstein vintage and the immensely popular Latin rhythms of bolero, cha cha cha, samba and meringue that ruled the house parties and public dances in the age of the great dance orchestras….(Rohlehr A Scuffling 387)  Young Brigade of the 1940s..Pandering to the U.S.A, soldier’s tastes and salacious details, the young cavalcade unleashed a cavalcade of torrid and harmonious pornography. (Liverpool 64)
  15. 15. The Ballad – Verse and refrain  The most common calypso form-type used during this period seems to be the ballad.The singers of theYoung Brigade started off repeating the opening phrases of the calypso to create the ‘single and double tone’ ballad types. However, this practice gradually disappeared, since the new singers had mastered the art of composing in the ballad form.The most typical ballad form consisted of four eight-line stanzas and chorus, though some contained more verses when the earlier four-line stanza quatrain was used. (Ahyoung 82)  One calypso could be based on a ballad with a kalinda-type refrain, e.g., in the calypso “Ten to One is Murder” the kalinda… (Ahyoung 80)  Along with the wave of nationalism, calypsonians began recoding their songs in vernacular English instead of the British English imposed inTrinidad by the colonial powers. (Guilbault 58)
  16. 16. Types  Road March  Pan  Message
  17. 17. Road March  Ideally, the Road March has a very catchy tune, with a chorus that the revellers can sing in toto or in part (Warner 20).
  18. 18. PanCalypso  During this time there were developments in the Road March ensemble…the steelband grew and developed to international fame. Although it did not replace the brass bands entirely, it surpassed them and became the more typical brass bands entirely, it surpassed them and became the more typical carnival ensemble. (Ahyoung 82)  Pan calypsos, as Kitchener soon realized, required an expansion of the conventional Calypso with its sixteen-bar stanza and eight-bar chorus, which is one of the structures into which the ballad Calypso had settled since the 1930’s. (Rohlehr A Scuffling 397)  But by the time Kitchener returned in 1963, the extended chorus had become a convention in its own right, to which Kitchener quickly accommodated his own compositions. By 1972 Kitchener was saying: “My way of composing just happens to suit the steelbands; before, I composed the Road March with the public in mind, but today I compose the Road March with the steelband in mind.” (Rohlehr A Scuffling 398)
  19. 19. Message/Soc ial Commentary  … Kitchener had arrived at a series of templates for structuring different types of calypso…Kitchener held that a calypso composed for the steelband needed to carry either twenty-four or thirty-two bars in both stanza and chorus. A ‘message’ calypso, that is, a slow didactic ballad of the Chalkdust, Stalin or Pretender type, need an expanded structure of thirty-two bars in both stanza and chorus. Such expansiveness gave the singer “time to relate what you want to relate” A party calypso, on the other hand, required no more than eight bars each for stanza and chorus. Verbally, such a calypso had much less to say. (Rohlehr A Scuffling of 399)
  20. 20. Soca joins in  …Lord Shorty, by his claim, sought to find the “soul of calypso” and thus coined the term “Soca…(Warner 21)  The new beat masterly arranged by EdWatson, who promptly claimed the “invention” to be partly his…(Warner 21)
  21. 21. More Info  Caribbean Composers’ Handbook – StefanWalcott – – $7.99 US   An Aural History of Calypso 1 – – StefanWalcott Channel  An Aural History of Calypso 2 – – StefanWalcott Channel
  22. 22. References  Ahyoung, S. E. "Soca fever! change in the calypso music tradition ofTrinidad andTobago, 1970-1980." 1981.  Guilbault, J. Governing sound : the cultural politics ofTrinidad'sCarnival musics. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2007.  Rohlehr, G. A scuffling of islands : essays on calypso. San Juan,Trinidad andTobago, Lexicon Trinidad Ltd, 1994.  --- Calypso and society in pre-independence Trinidad. Port of Spain, 1990.  Warner, K.TheTrinidadianCalypso. Kingston; Port of Spain Heinemann, 1983.

Editor's Notes

  • Trombone – Bamboula – Caribbean Voyage
    Kalenda – Carriacou Old People’s Kalenda –
    Grand Bele – Tamboo Bamboo -
  • Native Trinidad Kalenda
  • Single Tone Calypso – War – Growling Tiger, Indian Prince and Lord Iere
    Single Tone - Congo Baro – Kiskedee Trio – 1935

  • Houdini – Double toned – 1929 Executor is Doomed to Die – Trombone
    Calypso War Duke of Iron De Leon Lord Invader Macbeth the Great – Calypso War – Tuba
  • Belasco’s orchestra Germaine – Tuba
    Pasillo from San Andres - Trombone
  • Ba Boo La La – Roaring Lion
  • Graf Zepelin – 1934 – Atila
  • Jean and Dinah 1956
  • Ten to One Is Murder 1956
    Tuba - Memories
  • Trombone - Lord Blakie – Maria – Road March – 1962
    Tuba – My Pussin – Road March 1964
  • Pan in Harmony – Trombone
    Pan 21st Century – Tuba
  • Trombone - Chalkdust I Lost Roy
    Tuba – I In Town Too Long Monarch Winner - 2005