Trinidad's Calypso Music

 Photo © Bear Family Records
Calypso music was the driving force for Carnivals in Trinidad and Tobago (Soca music now has that honor). The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is credited with the 'origin' and evolution of Calypso music as we know it today.

“Iron Duke in the Land” is considered the first recorded calypso in English (recorded in 1914). Earlier calypsos were sung in patois. “Iron Duke in the Land” is a calypso by Henry Julian (a.k.a. Julian Whiterose) in which he boasts about roles he portrayed in the White Rose Social Union (his masquerade band) in the 1890s when he was instrumental in developing fancy masquerade bands.

During that period the musical style was called Cariso. The term “Calypso” evolved later at the turn of the nineteenth century. This title “Iron Duke in the Land,” is the only title of Whiterose’s recordings known to exist. Julian also performed under the names J. White Rose, Henry Julian, and J. Resigna.
Credit: TUCO

"The Real Calypso" is the story of Calypso that was birthed on the island of Trinidad during the formative years of the colony. This page should help with some of the facts that you should know about Trinidad and Tobago's Calypso music!

We continue to read about how the art form of calypso developed over the years. Trinidad and Tobago is a very unique society and many have tried to take away from our accomplishments. However, the truth can be found in many recorded historical data which can and will be disputed but never refuted. 

"In many islands of the Caribbean, there are calypso-like songs -- e. g., the shanto of British Guiana, the plena of Puerto Rico, and the mento of Jamaica -- but the calypso of Trinidad and Tobago, called cariso by Atilla (Raymond Quevedo), stands apart on its own because of characteristics peculiar to itself. Among these traits are the "halftone" (strong syncopation) in its rhythmic system, its topicality, its tendency to satirize upon every conceivable subject, its allusion, and open picong, and its double entendre."

If you want to know the real story then go to the link below to learn about "The Real Calypso". The link takes you to to the Smithsonialfolkways.org webpage for a very informative and revealing read. The story begins in Trinidad and that is something that many individuals are attempting to distort with stories about Calypso 'erupting all over the Caribbean region during the days of slavery. Obviously, they have confused folk songs with the style that became known as Calypso!

I have posted some of the dates of interest for Trinidad's Calypso music. Just take a look at the dates below (Did you know the following) with special reference to the facts presented about the first instrumental and first vocal recordings of calypso. These are important dates and, I am certain, you will appreciate the fact that Trinidad is really "the well" from which calypso sprung and blossomed to what it is today. 

This blog has presented a list of calypso monarch winners and additionally, we add another important list - Leggos and Road March winners. In continuing with the presentation of historical data we list the winners of the famous 'Road March Competition' as it relates to Trinidad and Tobago for what was known as 'Leggos' and now called 'Road March' (officially from 1962).

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)
  • First-ever Calypso instrumental recording was done in 1912 by Lovey's Orchestra.
  • First-ever vocal Calypso recording was made in 1914 when the "Duke of Iron" teamed up with Jules Sims.
  • First-ever Calypso tent opened in Port-of-Spain in 1921 was the "Railway Douglas Tent".
  • First-ever female to sing in a calypso tent was "Lady Trinidad" in 1935.
  • First-ever female Calypsonian to cut a record was "Lady Trinidad" in 1937.
  • First-ever "Young Brigade Tent" opened in 1947 by 24-year-old Lord Kitchener, featuring Lord Melody, Mighty Spoiler, Mighty Viking. 

Additional Pages on Calypso: