Calypso cool

Making a monarch

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Maura Curley

Calypso music shines during carnival time. Calypso often involves satirical social commentary, focusing on politics and people. It can be the voice of social conscience, yet it can be risque and just silly too. More often than not it is clever and witty, rich with innuendo.

Calypso originated with African slaves who worked in the sugar plantations. They began to sing songs to mock the slave masters, after they were forbidden from speaking with one another.

The first calypso recording was made in 1914. In the late 1930s, calypsonians such as Attila the Hun, Lord Invader and the Roaring Lion began making an indelible impression. Lord Kitchener rose to prominence in the 1940s. And in 1944, the American Andrews Sisters recorded a cover version of Lord Invader's hit,Rum and Coca Cola. Then In 1956, Harry Belafonte recorded his album containing the famous banana boat song Day-O. This was perhaps the most internationally known calypso song ever, though some purists argue that it wasn't really calypso.

Calypso tents are held throughout the islands for weeks leading up to the competition for Calypso monarch. Over 100 artists compete for the ten finalists slots.

Local calypsonians join regional and international stars at Calypso Revue I and II to match wit humor, lyrics and stage antics.

The cream of Caribbean calypso performers as well as Calypso sovereigns from other islands perform at these reviews.

Calypso Competitions have been dominated by male monarchs, but in the 1960's Calypso Rose from Tobago, wowed audiences with her songs. She has written and performed both political commentaries and party pieces, winning numerous awards.


Maura Curley is publisher of virginvoices.com


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