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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 nkhantt@gmail.com

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