T&T is the "Land of Calypso", the month of October being officially declared "Calypso History Month" in 2002.
Calypso, according to the late Mighty Duke, is an ‘editorial in song’ (What is Calypso, 1998). We have heard the often-used statement "By calypso our stories are told". Calypsoes, through their unique blend of poetic and sometimes prophetic lyrics, melody, and rhythms, capture a lot of our history, events and life experiences by telling these stories in song, as no book can. According to professor of literature and calypso expert Gordon Rohlehr, “it is possible to understand any given era in the Caribbean by studying calypso”. “Calypso celebrates and analyses life and the way we live it,” says Lutalo Masimba/Brother Resistance, president of Tuco.
Many timeless calypso classics have been written and sung, songs that preach, lament, celebrate, lecture and educate…and get us dancing, jumping, and swaying to their infectious beats!
Courtesy First Citizens this series focuses on some of these calypsoes.
1973: Road March “Rainorama”, Lord Kitchener. In 1972 Carnival was postponed to May, the rainy season, due to the threat of the polio virus, when Carnival was almost washed out due to the heavy rainfall. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW5pueMX3qQ):
Mama, when they hear they go get the Carnival, all masqueraders on heat,
When they didn't hear if it was official, but they started turning beast on the street,
And they start to jump around yaay, and they start to tumble down yaay,
And they fall down on the ground yaay, if you see how they gay,
Yes but what was so comical, in the midst of bacchanal,
Rain come and wash out mas in May...
1974: “Memories”, Mighty Sparrow. Recalling the late great cultural stalwarts (www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_XL5zJyp7U):
Every year somebody dear, Give us cause to shed a tear,
...Bert Inniss I'll always remember, Jumping when a big band pass, playing mas,
...George Bailey I'll always remember, Jumping when a big band pass, playing big mas,
...Rudolph Charles I'll always remember, Jumping when the steelband pass…
The early 1940s: “Hitler Mad”, Growler. World War II, a warning to Hitler (www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vULYQaqzmc):
Mr Hitler yuh playing mad, But let mih tell yuh dis mih lard,
…Hitler please doh tackle we, Otherwise, we going to run yuh out of Germany
Then there have been instructive calypsoes that have trumpeted our sporting heroes such as Superblue’s “Signal To Lara”, the Road March for 1995 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OszeHxKRFc), one of over 200 cricket-themed calypsoes, probably the most sung about any sport anywhere in the world!
And there have even been calypsoes that have been used as campaign theme songs for political parties that signalled changes in government such as Gypsy’s 1986 “Sinking Ship”/Captain this ship is sinking, captain the seas are rough and Chalkdust’s 1989 “Chaffeur Wanted”/The driver can’t drive. www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J6qoL7btbo.
This series is courtesy First Citizens.
Nasser Khan, author of “Heroes, Pioneers & Role Models of Trinidad & Tobago” (free download at www.safaripublications.com/firstcitizenstt/heroesprofilestt/). Pioneering calypsonians in the chapter Culture and the Art. Also “History of West Indies Cricket through Calypsoes”…the lyrics of over 200 cricket-themed calypsoes from 1926 onwards. He has also written many newspaper and magazine articles on calypso, mas, steelpan, and cricket. Email firstname.lastname@example.org