As with Afro-Cuban music and jazz, calypso reflects both the intense sorrows of slavery and rural poverty and the joys of liberation. More like gospel than blues, it is a lyrical tradition with origins in Europe, Africa, and tropical regions from the Americas to India. Originating in Trinidad in the West Indies, calypso, also called cariso, spread throughout the Caribbean islands.
Some of the best calypso, however, was performed and recorded by Trinidadians in New York, such as the Duke of Iron. What began as a way to circumvent slavers' ban on speaking while working, evolved into the very political and social fabric of the Caribbean. Early calypso served as the oral equivalent of smoke signals, as workers relayed their news in song. Sung in a cryptic patois, the messages allowed them even to mock the colonial slavers without detection.
The great calypsonians even affected noble titles. Lolita - Lord Brynner - Uhuru Harambee they earned their titles, competing in an annual pre-Lenten Carnival which culminated in the crowning of a king. Traditionally, the king of calypso proved his ability to compose extemporaneously on any topic.
Year-round, calypsonians would enter a town, learn the news, and nightly perform irreverent but astute songs about political figureheads, scandalous family members, and rival singers, etc.
But Carnival also was bachannal: fierce battles involving lighted bamboo [drum] sticks led to a ban on drumming. To circumvent the prohibition, steel pans made from World War II oil drums were used. The steel pan, Hollywood, tourism, and the folk efforts of Harry Belafonte ultimately threatened the proud, rebellious, and comical lyrical tradition of calypso.
Fortunately the Mighty Sparrow emerged as calypso's great champion and revolutionary. Sparrow modernized Loves Allright - Odyssey - Happy Together, returned its "edge," and extended its vitality for several decades.
But calypso has Lolita - Lord Brynner - Uhuru Harambee to give way for dance music, such as mento, ska, reggae, soca, jump-up, and other modern idioms. As with Hawaiian music, calypso is extraordinarily rich in cultural influences, from African drumming to European minstrel tradition. Ribaldry abounds in such double-entendre classics as "The Big Bamboo" and "Parakeets," and vacationers apparently were well-disposed to it.
Sometimes the rich and famous, such as J. Morgan and son, even requested songs written about them directly from the composer. Sex-Offenders: Line-Up - Jackie Vernon - Sex Is Not Hazardous To Your Health originally carisos may have derived their pseudonyms --Duke, Lord, King-- from slave owners, their nobility was never questioned -- except by rival calypsonians!
The Charmer, a. Louis Farrakhan. George Cort, James Gregory; prod. Don Gibson. Calypso Mama. Calypso Joe; Allied Artists; color; ?
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