Tag Archives | Trinidad

Bo Bo Bo Calinda

In our online classes this season we met the Trinidadian stick-fighting sport of Calinda. One of the songs we sing in our Caribbean season of songs, the Trinidadiaan folk song Bo Calinda, may possibly refer to this martial art, which, much like Brazilian capoeira, is always performed with musical accompaniment. It also could be a song about a beautiful girl — or a girl with a “beautiful mouth” — in Spanish, “boca linda.” Whatever the subject of the song, when we sing it in class we do the hokey pokey. CHEERS!

Limbo Lower Now

Limbo lower now…. How LOW can you GO?

This week we’re looking back on our last three months of Caribbean music and culture, catching some of what we couldn’t bear to miss. For example, limbo originated in Trinidad in the 1950s and quickly became the world’s favorite gimmicky party dance (Chubby Checker demands we all “limbo lower now.”) As in this video, dancers move around the room to Afro-Caribbean rhythms, leaning one by one in turn backward beneath a horizontal pole without touching it or the ground. The stick moves lower and lower until only one dancer who hasn’t touched it or the floor remains. But there’s more to the Limbo than just a fun game to play at the roller rink right before “all skate.” Says Wikipedia, “Consistent with certain African beliefs, the dance reflects the whole cycle of life….The dancers move under a pole that is gradually lowered from chest level, and they emerge on the other side, as their heads clear the pole, as in the triumph of life over death…This dance is also used as a funeral dance and may be related to the African legba or legua dance.” (Note: Very few funerals in the United States feature a limbo.)

Wake me up with Parang

Proud and playful Trinidadian parang is a joyful genre of Caribbean folk music.

Parang is a staple of the Christmas season in Trinidad, Tobago and Venezuela. When parang performers regularly start their singing before sunrise and sing LOUDLY to rouse their friends from their beds. This video from Lopinot, Trinidad, introduces us, gloriously, to Trinidadian parang standard, “Rio Manzanares.” (We LOVE this.) In All Around This World classes we give our all to another parang song, “Ola de la Mar.”


What is Calypso? The Mighty Duke Explains

Trinidadian “calypso” most likely derived from a West African musical/narrative style called kaiso and developed as a way for enslaved Africans to communicate.

Trinidadian 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.” In this video Mighty Duke schools us by asking and answering the question, “What is calypso?”

Trinidad, Tobago and You

All Around This World -- The Caribbean featuring Trinidad and Tobago

This week our online class takes us deep into the islands, to the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Like most of our other Caribbean island friends, Trinidad, which sits near its sister island Tobago in the southern Caribbean just northeast of Venezuela, was already inhabited before Columbus dropped by and told people there that they all of a sudden were living in Spanish territory. Trinidad’s first settlers, about, 5000 years ago, were Othroid people from the north coast of South America, then the Saladoid people, then the Barrancoid people. They were followed by Arawak and Carib people, who met their end shortly after Columbus and the Spanish encomienda system came to town. Trinidad remained Spanish colony until 1802 and a British colony until it became independent in 1962.

This week we’ll explore Trinidad’s multiethnic mix, especially enjoying music and culture created by descendants of enslaved Trinidadian Africans and South Asian indentured laborers who today intertwine to give Trinidad colorful, complex, Caribbean, life.

Hundreds of Steel Pan Drummers Playing at the Same Time is a Good Thing, Right?

Steelpan music is a ringing expression of joyful defiance in Trinidad and Tobago.

After the “Canboulay Riots” in the early 1880s in which Trinidadian and Tobagoan descendants of enslaved Africans protested colonial leaders’ attempts to restrict the celebration of Carnival, British authorities banned stick-fighting (“calinda“) and African percussion music. In 1937 they also banned the banging together of bamboo sticks.  Trinidadians and Tobagoans responded by using anything and everything else as percussion instruments — frying pans, dustbin lids and oil drums. This developed into the modern genre of  steelpan music — “steelpan” — which we see (in multiples) in this video, whose primary percussion instrument is the interior of a tuned steel drum.

A Sticky Situation in Trinidad

When we visited Trinidad in class we got “stuck” on Trinidadian Calinda.

Calinda is a martial art, cultural dance and accompanying form of percussive music that arose in the early 18th century among Africans enslaved in Trinidad and Tobago. As you taste in this video, in the competition, fighters/dancers challenge each other with long sticks while community members chant and cheer them on. Though inspired by actual fighting techniques in the African Congo, today one will most likely encounter Trindidadian Calinda as a joyfully musical sporting event, full of acrobatic dancing and trance-like chants, during Trinidad & Tobago’s brilliant Carnival.

The waves are my salvation like the sun, the moon and stars

“Ola de la Mar,” a Trinidadian “parang” song, most often sung in the middle of the night or in the early morning – loudly! – and most often in the Christmas season. The lyrics of the All Around This World sing of a sailor who savors the freedom of the vast, open sea: Ola de la mar, Ola de la mar, The ocean is forever, like the sun, the moon and stars, Ola de la mar, ola de la mar, The waves are my salvation, like the sun, the moon and stars….”