Calypso Music

Calypso Music

Before the spread of Calypso music around the world, it was first used as a method of communication...
While growing up in Birmingham around a lot of West Indian people, reggae and calypso were big influences early on but Otis Redding was the one person who made me wanna sing myself. - Roland Gift

Every type of music has its origins in some or the other country. Calypso music is a type of traditional music whose roots are found in the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago. It is a type of music that has tropical rhythms, beats, and lyrics which are associated with issues such as social injustice, slavery, and politics. Since its development and spread throughout other countries, it has influenced others music genres such as reggae, soul calypso (soca), and jazz.

Calypso Music History

Calypso music is a type of music which was first developed in Trinidad and Tobago, as a result of mass migration of people from different parts of the world. In the late 19th and 20th century, there was a large migration of people from regions such as India, Africa, and other parts of Asia. These people were then used in slave trade by French, Spanish, and British immigrants. Since the slaves were from different regions, cultures, and languages; they could not communicate clearly. It is even believed that these slaves were not allowed to communicate.

As a result, they used music to communicate, which eventually turned out to be Calypso. With the change of different masters and slaves over time, traditional musical instruments from Britain and Africa were played on songs from France and Spain. This also contributed to the development of Calypso music. In 1930s, this music became well-known in other regions of American and European colonies. It is believed that the first ever Calypso music was recorded by 'Lovey's String Band' in 1912. Have a look at what all musical instruments are used in this traditional music.

Musical Instruments Used in Calypso Music

Typically, Calypso music includes sounds from traditional instruments. However, many modern instruments with traditional sounds are also used. Earlier, slaves produced this music from steel drums which were made from oil drums used in World War II. Steel drums of today are played using rubber mallets. They are used for the main rhythm of this music. The rhythm section also consists of instruments such as tambourines, congas, and bongos. The number of players of these instruments are chosen according to the music setup.

Steel orchestras of the 21st century use modern equipment and instruments in Calypso music. The brass section usually comprises a trumpet, trombone, saxophone, flute, and other instruments. The lyrics of this music largely focus on the slavery and cruelty of masters. There are some other music genres that go well with the aspects of Calypso. Such music types are reggae and soca. Nowadays, we would mostly get to listen to soca, which is a modern variation of traditional Calypso. It includes an uptempo rhythm with simple lyrics.

Notable Calypso Musicians
  • Ajamu
  • Black Stalin
  • Alison Hinds
  • David Rudder
  • The Jolly Boys
  • Your Song Is Good
  • The Mighty Sparrow
  • Chalkdust
  • Maximus Dan
  • Destra Garcia
  • Bunji Garlin
  • Cro Cro
  • Roaring Lion
  • The Mighty Duke
  • The Mighty Shadow
  • The Nutmeg Band
  • Calypso Rose
Listening to their songs will give you an idea about what Calypso music is all about. There are some calypso music online radio channels which you can tune into for listening to good tunes. Calypso music is probably the most prominent music genre that has a strong and meaningful historical background.
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