CALYPSO is Trinidadian folk music that most likely derived from a West African musical/narrative style called kaiso and developed as a way for slaves to communicate. CALYPSO musicians sang in French creole and told stories with their songs–often with off-color lyrics full of double entendres. The style originated in the 1830s and was well-known throughout the Caribbean but only became internationally popular in the 1950s when Jamaican-born Harry Belafonte brought it to America. Enthusiasts accused Belafonte of watering down the genre and pointed to lyrically bolder (and much more awesomely named) artists such as Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow and Roaring Lion as the true “calypsonians.” CALYPSO emphasizes the first half of the 3-2 son clave, putting special focus on the clave’s second beat. Or, if you want to count it out, “1 & 2 AND 3 & 4 &”.
A guide to traditional CALYPSO: “The best calypso options” | Exetempo: an improvised CALYPSO “war” | Check out this 1987 extempo battle between Relator and Superior | Mighty Sparrow’s “Maria” | You too can dance the Caribbean CALYPSO
National Geographic on Calypso | A guide to traditional calypso: “The best calypso options” | Exetempo: an improvised calypso “war” | Check out this 1987 extempo battle between Relator and Superior | Mighty Sparrow’s “Maria” | You too can dance the Caribbean Calypso