Bar­ba­dos Calypso: The Evo­lu­tion of Calypso Music in the Island

Calypso music is the most pop­u­lar music played on radio sta­tions across the islands and no mat­ter where you go, from rum shops, to wed­ding recep­tions, you will surely hear this type of music blast­ing over the speak­ers. In this arti­cle, we take a closer look at the ori­gins of and the evo­lu­tion of this musi­cal genre over the past few years.

With its infec­tious beat, Calypso is a type of music unique to the Caribbean region and is genre where per­sons engage in story telling through song. While many have attrib­uted Trinidad as the birth­place of Calypso, it is more accu­rate to say it devel­oped simul­ta­ne­ously in dif­fer­ent Caribbean coun­tries. This rhythm was first intro­duced to Bar­ba­dos and the wider Caribbean dur­ing the 1600s by the first slaves brought to the region. These slaves would use satire to poke fun at those in author­ity. From its intro­duc­tion, it was fur­ther devel­oped in Trinidad, but, despite an almost 350-​year exis­tence in the region, it was only truly embraced in Bar­ba­dos dur­ing the 1970s. The Crop Over Fes­ti­val in Bar­ba­dos was expe­ri­enc­ing a revival in the 1974 and it was dur­ing this period that this genre of music began being prop­erly orga­nized and taken seri­ously as part of activ­i­ties sur­round­ing the festival.

IMG 20521Since this period, Calypso has become an inte­gral aspect of the Crop Over cel­e­bra­tions with many calypso com­pe­ti­tions for both adults and youth being orga­nized for per­sons to show­case their gifts and tal­ents in this musi­cal genre. This stage-​presented calypso music is gen­er­ally also referred to as kaiso. The word kaiso is used inter­change­ably with calypso, and is some­times used when refer­ring to “gen­uine calypso”. With their com­mer­cial and devel­op­men­tal role in cul­ture in Bar­ba­dos, the National Cul­tural Foun­da­tion (NCF) has been cru­cial in not only struc­tur­ing, but main­tain­ing pub­lic inter­est in calypso.

The 1970s also saw the devel­op­ment of a new type of calypso: Soca. This art form is of a faster tempo than calypso, hav­ing been heav­ily influ­enced by the funk and soul from Amer­ica. Due to this amal­ga­ma­tion of Caribbean and Amer­i­can music styles, the Soca genre of music has helped calyp­so­ni­ans break into the Inter­na­tional mar­ket. Soca is truly Bar­ba­dos’ domain and this is evi­denced by the fact that other islands try to imi­tate and amal­ga­mate the new rhythms into their own.

Calypso and Soca songs are usu­ally called social com­men­taries or party songs. Most of the songs writ­ten are on polit­i­cal and cur­rent events across the island, with a hint of satire and humor for the enjoy­ment of the audi­ences. Although many today asso­ciate calypso music with jump­ing up, “wukking up” and car­ni­val danc­ing, this social com­men­tary aspect is first and fore­most what calypso is all about.

Since 1995, when Bajans stole the show at the Trinidad Calypso Con­test, Bar­ba­dos has been regarded as the leader in the calypso and soca realm. Over the years, Bar­ba­dos has come into its own with lively beats, clever lyrics and satir­i­cal and at times scathing social and polit­i­cal com­men­tary. How­ever, the most telling devel­op­ment is seen in the new rhythms Bar­ba­di­ans have cre­ated to the calypso tempo. These beats include Ring Bang (devel­oped from Tuk) and Ragga Soca (devel­oped by one of Bar­ba­dos’ most dec­o­rated calyp­so­ni­ans, Red Plas­tic Bag). It is these devel­op­ments that truly set Bar­ba­dos calypso apart from the calypso of other islands. Bar­ba­dos con­tin­ues to stand out due to the plethora of bands and lead singers in this genre who are pop­u­lar locally, region­ally and internationally.

Gen­er­ally, those per­form­ing in either art form are backed up by a Band com­pris­ing of:

· A Bass & Rhythm Guitarist

· A Key­boardist

· A Drum­mer & Percussionist

· A Horn Sec­tion (Sax­o­phon­ist /​Trom­bon­ist /​Trum­peters)

· Three back-​up Singers

The list of Calypso and Soca com­pe­ti­tions held dur­ing the Crop Over Fes­ti­val include:

· Pic-​o-​de-​crop

· Soca Royale

  • Party Monarch
  • Sweet Soca Monarch

· Road March /​Tune-​of-​the-​Crop

· Junior Calypso Monarch

As a true reflec­tion of our cul­ture, Calypso and its newer form, Soca, con­tinue to be the sta­ple of Crop Over cel­e­bra­tions. How­ever, the evo­lu­tion and impor­tance of Calypso in Bar­ba­dian soci­ety is truly embod­ied by how it has moved from not being an accepted musi­cal genre, to one that per­me­ates the air­ways on an almost daily basis across the island.

© Photo 1 taken from Pin​img​.com
© Photo 2 taken from Caribbe­an­dreams­magazine
© Arti­cle of caribbe​an​dreams​magazine​.com

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