June 20, 2024


Entertain Reaching Stars

Calypso Is All But Dead in Trinidad

4 min read

Sometime ago, I got my hands on this CD – ‘Calypso Awakening’ from the Emery Cook Collection. I strongly suggest everyone get a copy of this. If you would like to hear real, authentic Calypso, then this is a must have in your CD collection.

When you (my fellow Trini), hear the songs on this recording, you will hear for yourself what I am talking about.

The level of skill, wit, talent, banter on each of these songs delivered by The Mighty Sparrow, Lord Melody, Small Island Pride, Commander, Wrangler, King Fighter and the John Buddy Williams Band are beyond contest.

It’s absolutely brilliant.

The lyrical content has you thinking, the melody and harmony lines have you singing and the beat will have you chipping and bouncing in your seat. The song arrangements are timeless and precise.

It’s a great record.

What’s so special about this recording? Well, for one, many of the performances are ‘Live’. And the studio-recorded songs have a thick, fat feel to them. They sound alive and true. You can tell that every instrument is really being played. It’s not a ‘sample’.

Contrast that to now where all songs from Trinidad – the ruling art-form of Soca (son of Calypso) and the dying form of Calypso use an electronic drum pad to make ‘a beat’. Where a keyboard plays the ‘horn lines’ and in some cases the bass lines as well. There’s no real instrumentation, except maybe a thin guitar line or two. No real hornsmen. Nothing. Where ALL ‘singers’ use the cursed Autotune software to create an effect for their voice, when the truth is that most of these ‘Soca singers’ cannot hold their keys live. And no matter how much each of these modern recordings are ‘mixed and mastered’ they still sound flat. They have no depth, no dynamics.

The fact is, modern day music of Trinidad has no soul.

Contrast the raw brilliance of this great period in time (the early 1900’s to roughly around the 1970’s) for our music, for our ‘Kaiso’, to what we have now – a time where nobody knows what are the Calypso songs for a Carnival season, only the ‘Soca Hits’.

Contrast the healthy, competitive duel that used to go on between Calypsonians to what happens now between ‘Soca Artistes’. In some Soca camps it’s almost war. There’s that much hatred and back-biting going on inside this great ‘Soca Fraternity’ when really, it’s a Soca Mafia.

In the meantime, Calypso lays bleeding to death.

Look at this year’s Calypso Monarch (2013) how poorly attended it was as compared to the growing popularity of Soca Monarch competitions – which have everything from fireworks to flying Soca singers to you name it – it’s a blasted circus show.

After hearing the winner of this year’s Calypso Monarch, I had come to the sad conclusion that Calypso is dead. There is no Calypsonian who can save our music. The older heads are getting older and are dying, and the younger ones cannot sing without the help of Autotune. The younger Calypsonians have no idea of lyrical content nor melody structure. It is terrible song-writing, if that is even a word to call this material – a song.

Well, don’t even talk about Soca Artistes, they’re not writing songs, they’re selling noise-making hits that market this year’s gimmick, whatever the hell it is for the year.

If no one has realized the fact that Calypso is dead, then I ask you this?

– When last did you go to a Calypso show? A tent?
– What new Calypsonians you like? Are they able to carry the torch forward to the next generation?
– Is Calypso making it to the world stage? Will it ever?
– What did you think of this year’s Calypsos? (Not Soca tunes)
– Are the Calypso songs of this year able to stand up to the all the timeless classics we all love?
– What Calypso albums do you have?

I rest my case.

I mourn for Calypso. But when I turn on my radio, all I hear is a bunch of Autotuned ‘Artistes’ singing about jumping, waving, and doing some damn gimmick move.

It’s like we’ve all become jackasses and we’re so amused and impressed by our own stupidity.

The real funny thing is that Calypso nor Soca are going anywhere on the world stage.

But yet, we continue to fool ourselves in this little bubble of ours.

I hope you will weep for Calypso as I do.

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