Calypso Music Categories 2 | Party, Extempo and Nation Building

What is the Calypso? Calypso is a style of music that developed in the Caribbean and is credited to Trinidad and Tobago. Some disagree that Calypso started in Trinidad. However, just about every major achievement and every major event regarding this music genre is credited to Trinidad. The fact remains that any historical record of this genre originated in Trinidad. However, before we get into the substance of this post let's note some of these achievements.

Did you know the following?

  • Calypsos were first sung in French Creole then a mix of Patois and English
  • The Rhythm of Calypso (beat) is done in 2/4, 4/4 time (see "Meter" at this link for an explanation of Rhythm (beats in the music)
  • The first-ever Calypso instrumental recording was done in 1912 by Lovey's Orchestra.
  • The first-ever vocal Calypso recording was made in 1914 when the "Duke of Iron" teamed up with Jules Sims. “Iron Duke in the Land” is a calypso by Henry Julian (a.k.a. Julian Whiterose)
  • The first-ever Calypso tent opened in Port-of-Spain in 1921 was the "Railway Douglas Tent".
  • The first-ever female to sing in a calypso tent was "Lady Trinidad" in 1935.
  • The first-ever female Calypsonian to cut a record was "Lady Trinidad" in 1937.
  • The first-ever "Young Brigade Tent" opened in 1947 by 24-year-old Lord Kitchener, featuring Lord Melody, Mighty Spoiler, and Mighty Viking.
That was a minor historical review of Calypso. If you want to get more information, we recommend the Trinidad and Tobago government site NALIS. Having said that, you can also review our Calypso post. Link to the post here: Trinidad's Calypso Music.

Now that we have your attention, the fact that you are reading this article could be that you are just curious about this site or you want to gather information for a project. Maybe you just love the culture are want to learn as much as you can about culture and especially Calypso, the mother of SOCA music. This article provided some information about the categories of Calypso music. Within Calypso, there are different types of Calypso songs or categories.  

The Previous Post (Part 1) featured Political, Social and Humor, this post will focus on Party, Extempore and Nation Building Calypsos.

Calypso categories:
  • Political
  • Social
  • Humor
  • Party
  • Extempo
  • Nation Building

Party Calypsos

Party calypsos are songs meant for parties. They are usually upbeat and fast. Recently, party calypsos have taken a back seat to political and social commentary. If one looks back at Calypso before the advent of Soca most of the Calypsonians developed songs for dance, the steel bands and yes, there were calypsos delving into strong political and social commentaries. Sparrow and Kitchener, they all delivered dance calypsos and especially Black Stalin's creativity. It feels like every song he delivered one could dance to even if he delivered strong social commentary. The art seems lost with today's calypsonians. Havig said that one cannot ignore the sweet voice of Baron and as a result the music video we selected to highlight this category is one that features the songs of Baron and Sugar Aloes. If, and when we get a DJ to provide a selection of Dance Calypsos, we will feature that mix in this space.

Baron and Sugar Aloes Dance Calypsos curated by DJ Smally Golden Touch 

Extempore Calypsos

Extempore (done without preparation) calypsos are lyrically improvised forms of calypso music that consist of performers improvising in song or in rhythmic speech on a given theme before an audience. Extempore competitions usually take place during carnival and is seldom done outside of the festival. The King of Extempore is Winston Gypsy Peters. The following clip is from Wikipedia, and it explains the Art of Extempore.

"It is characterized either by the “single tone”, consisting of four-line stanzas or the “double tone”, which has eight-line stanzas. There are four basic melodies common to extempore: “Sans Humanite”, “Matilda”, “Miss Mary Ann”, and “Big Bamboo”. The most widely used is "Sans Humanite"(Without Mercy). Another characteristic of extempore is that the performer must be able to think quickly since the subjects are handed out on the spot and the lyrics are then improvised". Wikipedia

The History of Extempo | #RomeInCarnival

Nation Building Calypsos

Nation Building Calypsos promote national unity and pride. They are meant to inspire people to work together for their country. There are some really special songs in this category and one of the most famous is "Progress" by King Austin. We have selected a YouTube video that lists fifty-three songs. Hopefully, this video selection will be of interest to you, and we hope you will enjoy it. 

Nation Building Songs Curated by Andy Wong Kee

In conclusion, calypso music has different categories such as Political, Social, Humor, Party, Extempore, and Nation Building. Party calypsos are meant to be played at parties. Extempore Calypsos are lyrically improvised forms of calypso music that consist of performers improvising in song or in rhythmic speech on a given theme before an audience. Nation Building Calypsos promote national unity and pride.

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