Culture of Trinidad and Tobago

Steelpans also known as steeldrums and pans, is the musical instrument and a form or music originated in Trinidad and Tobago. Steelpan musicians are called panist.

The pan is the pitched percussion instruments, tuned chromatically made from a 55 gallon drum of the type that stores oil. The steeldrum is correctly called steelpan or pan as it falls in to the idiophone instrument and not typically regarded as a drum or membranophone.

Steelpan are built using sheet meting with the thickness between 0.88 mm and 1.5 mm. Traditionally steel pans have been built from used barrels. Nowadays, many instrument marks do not rely on used steel containers and get the resonance bodies manufactured according to their preference and technical specifications.

The steelpan evolved of early musical practices of Trinidad's enslaved Africans and was subsequently outlawed by the British Colonial Government in 1883. Afro-descendants and Jamaica's. Drumming was used as a form of communications among the enslaved Africans. Africans slave often perform during the Mardi Gras celebrations, joining the french how brought the tradition the island. The instrument's invention was therefore a specific cultural responce to the conditions present on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.

The first intruments developed in the evolution of steelpan were Tamboo-Bamboos, tunable sticks made of bamboo wood. These were hit onto the ground and with ither sticks in order to produce sound. Tamboo-Bamboo brands eventually formed the began fighting against each other and were also banned by the British in 1934. However, Tamboo-Bamboo bands performed in the Carnival of 1935, and as a resilt of further altercations a bandleader began to beat in a garbage can to pull his group back together. When this was hear, its sound became popular instantly. Eventually someone picked up a biscuit tin and realised its potential. From then , it developed further, moving on to an oil drum, Bands using different varieties of metal percussion instruments formed, which then progressed to using only steel drums by the late 1930s. The drum itself was developed largely during World War II. The first record of pan band in the press appeared in a report of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival in the Trinidad Guardian dated February 6, 1940.

Many ensembles have merged in a recent years which combine the steelpan with other styles of music. More and more artists have begun including the instrument in various genres of music. An international festival, the World Steelband Music Festival, has been held each year in Trinidad since 1952.

Steelpan music is the official music used for Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. Musical competitions make up a large part of Carnival and to win a competition is highly coveted. For example, to be named Panorama Champions for which the prize is over TT 1,000,000, the instruments used for the competition are the Steelpans or Steelband.

Two americans, George Whitmyre and Harvey J. Price has secured a United States patent for "the process of formation of a Caribbean steelpan using a hydroforming press. This patent is being challenged by the Trinidad and Tobago Legal Affairs Ministry, since many Trinbagonian drum makers have used similar methods for years.

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Calypso Music

Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music which orginiated in Trinidad and Tobago at about the start of the 20th Centruy. The roots of the genre lay in the arrival of African slaves, who not being allowed to speak with each other, communicated through song. This forged a sense of community among the Africans, who saw their colonial masters change rapidly, bringing French, Spanish and British music stlye to the island of Trinidad. The French brought Carnival to Trinidad , and calypso competitions at Carinval grew in popularity, especially after the aboliton of salvery in 1834. While most authorites stress the African roots of calypso, in his 1986 book Calypso from France to Trinidad, 800 Years of History veteran calypsonian The Roaring Lion (Rafael de Leon) asserted that calypso descends from the music of the medieval French troubadours.

Over 100 years ago , Calypso further evolved into a way of spreading news around Trinidad. Politicians, journalists, and public figures often debated the content of each song, and many islanders considered these songs the most reliable news source. Calypsoians pushed the boundaries of free as their lyrics spread news of any topic relevant to islands life, including speaking out against political corruption. Eventually British rule enforced censorship, caypsos continued to push boundaries.

The first calypso recordings made by Lovely's String Band, came in 1912, and inaugurated the "Golden Age of Calypso". By the 1920s calypso tents were set up at carnival for calypsonians to practice before competitions, these have now become showcase for new music.

The first major stars of calypso started crossing over to new audiences worldwide in the late 1930s Attila the Hun, Roaring Lion and Lord Invader were the first. followed by Lord Kitchener, one of the longest lasting calypso stars in history-he continued to release hit records until death 2000, 1944s Rum and Coca-Cola by the Andrews Sisters, a cover of a Lord Invader song, became an American hit.

Calypso, especially a toned down commercial variant, became worldwide craze with the release of the "Banana Boat Song", a traditional Jamaican fold song, whose best-known rendition was done by Harry Belafonte on his 1956 album Calypso, Calypso was the first full length record to sell more than a million copies. 1956 also saw the massive international hit Jean and Dinah by Mighty Sparrow. This song was a sly comment as a plan of action for the calypsonian on the easy availablity of prostitutes after the closing of the United States naval base on Trinidad at Chagaramas.

In the 1957 Broadway musical Jamaica Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg cleverly parodied "commercial", Harry Belafonte style Calypso.

Early forms of calypso were also heavly influenced by jazz such as Sans Humanitae, the extempo melody in which calypsonians lyricise impromptu, commenting socially or insulting each other, without humanity-once again the French influence. Many calypso chord progressions can be linked to twelve bar jams in jazz as demonstrated by Lord Kitchener, one of the most famous calypsoians and a melodic genius.

Elements of calypso have been incorporated in jazz to form calypso jazz

We Salute All Our Calypsonians Past And Present, Let Us Preserve The Art Form It's Our History

Chutney Music

The Dholak
Chutney music is a form of music indigenous to the southern Caribbean (primarily Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname) which derives elements from soca and Indian filmi songs. The music was created by Indo-Caribbeans who were transported to the West Indies as indentured servants and later immigrants, during the 19th century. The chutney artist writes lyrics in either Hindi, Bhojpuri or English and then lays it on top of beats that come from soca and Hindi film songs. Some current chutney artists are Rikki Jai, Rakesh Yankaran, Devanand Gattoo, Heeralal Rampartap, Adesh Samaroo and the late Ramdew Chaitoe who composes the Surinamese based Baithak Gana in his album The Star Melodies of Ramdew Chaitoe. Among the best known examples of chutney music are Sundar Popo's Pholourie Beena Chutney, Sonny Mann's Lotalal, Vedesh Sookoo's Dhal Belly Indian, Anand Yankaran's Jo Jo, Neeshan 'D Hitman' Prabhoo's Mr. Shankar and Rikki Jai's Mor Tor. Chutney music is mostly popular among the Indian community in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and also the West Indian diaspora communities in Toronto, Canada, The Netherlands, New York and South Florida.

Chutney is an uptempo song, accompanied by dholak, harmonium and dhantal, played in rhythms imported from filmi, calypso or soca. Early chutney was religious in nature. Chutney is unusual in the predominance of female musicians in its early years, though it has since become mixed.

The melodies and lyrics of religious songs sung in Trinidad in Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, and Bhojpuri are used, as well as songs which were and still are used from Bollywood. Calypso, Soca, Ragga, and Reggae (Rocksteady/Dub) are other musical influences on chutney.

Early chutney was religious in nature, and sung by Indo-Trinidadian female family members, who, as customary in Trinidad society, sang before a typical wedding celebration to prepare the bride-to-be for her role as a wife. This can be thought of as a kind of bachelorette party, celebrated only by the female members of the families. The music and the dancing (and some of the suggestive lyrics sung at the events) leaked out into the wider community and society, and became enmeshed into Trinidad society as a whole.

The year 1970 was perhaps the biggest turning point in East Indian music. In this year a young man from Barrackpore, Trinidad by the name of Sundar Popo leapt to fame with the song "Nana & Nani." The song, almost comical in nature, described the affairs of a grandfather and grandmother, perhaps his own. Sung in Hindi and Trinidadian creole, and backed up with the music of the dholak and dhantal as well as that of the more western electric guitar, bass guitar, drum machine and synthesizer, the song instantly became a number one hit in Guyana and Trinidad (Popo, 1972). Sundar soon became known as the King of Chutney, the name given to this new popular form of music. The word Chutney was derived from the Hindi word that was used to describe a hot peppery mix of spices. "Nana & Nani" became the biggest selling Chutney single of its time. Sundar's lyrics of "Nana drinkin white rum and Nani drinkin wine," were heard just about everywhere, from the rice fields of Nickerie, Suriname, the wedding houses of Berbice, Guyana to the rum shops in San Fernando, Trinidad.

Chutney Music Forms An Indigenous Part Of Our Cultural Heritage

Soca "The Hype"
Soca is a form of dance music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago from calypso music. It originally combined the melodic lilting sound of calypso with insistent percussion (which is often electronic in recent music) and local chutney music. Soca music has evolved in the last 20 years primarily by musicians from Trinidad, Guyana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, some bands from Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Haiti, Jamaica and the Lesser Antilles.

The nickname of the Trinidad and Tobago national football team, the Soca Warriors, refers to this musical genre.

The reputed father of soca was Lord Shorty (born Garfield Blackman), whose 1963 recording of "Cloak and Dagger" started the trend.In the 1970's he began writing calypso songs for other young calypsonians including "MAESTRO" and his cousin "BARON" who had a hit called "SEVERE LICKING" produced by Shorty. Trinidad and Tobago has been renowned for its magnificent carnivals,calypso and in this century's only musical invention: the steel pan. A prolific musician,composer and innovator, Ras Shorty experimented with the calypso beat for nearly a decade before unleashing "the soul of calypso,"...soca music. Shorty had collaborated with Dominica's 1969 Calypso King, Lord Tokyo and two calypso lyricists, Chris Seraphine and Pat Aaron in the early 1970's on a visit to Dominica. Soon after Shorty released a song, "E-Petit" with words like "Ou dee moin ou petit Shorty" meaning "you told me you are small Shorty", a combination of Calypso,Cadence and Creole(as reported in Exile One Gordon Henderson's book, "Zoukland" 1999 edition). It would be Lord Kitchener who would begin the noticeable and accredited transition. According to Lord Kitchener's Former Manager Errol Peru a pioneer in the promotion of Calypso & Soca Music, "Kitch had a knack for Kaiso... anything he composed was instantly a hit." Byron Lee & the Dragonaires made soca a West Indian social wave, but the Baha Men, Kevin Lyttle, Machel Montano, Burning Flames, Krosfyah, Rupee Walker and others in the 21st century brought it to American recognition.

Like calypso, soca was used for both social commentary and risqué humor, though the initial wave of soca acts eschewed the former. Lord Shorty was disillusioned with the genre by the 1980s because soca was being used to express courtships and sexual interests. Like all things related to sexual freedom, it became embraced because of its ability to reflect what people were thinking and their desires in a society that was sexually repressed. Soca music became an expression of sexuality through metaphors in the West Indies. Soon after, Shorty moved to the Piparo forest, converted to the Rastafari movement and changed his name to Ras Shorty I. There, he created a fusion of Reggae and gospel music called jamoo in the late 1980s.In the 1990s and now the new century Soca has evolved into a blend of musical styles. Machel Montano's collaborations with Jamacian musicians (Red Rat and Beenie Man), American musician (Walker Hornung) and Japanese artists have pushed the boundaries of modern Soca. Machel Montano would be the first mainstream Soca artist to sell out venues all over the world including the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Many people think that Soca music was created by the blending of Calypso and Soul music. Many people believe this misconception because it is stated that Lord Shorty called Soca "Soul Calypso". What Lord Shorty meant to say that Soca was the "Soul of Calypso", but to make it short he called it "Soca", which blends the first two letters of "Soul" and "Calypso". Soca music was created by Calypso music and Indian instruments (dhantal, tabla, etc)/Chutney music.

Some of the greatest soca artists of all time are Shadow, Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow, Rikki Jai, The Baron, Krosfyah, Burning Flames, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, and more recently artists such as Alison Hinds, Machel Montano, Destra Garcia, KMC, Shurwayne Winchester, Bunji Garlin, Mr. Slaughter, Maximus Dan, Jamesy P, Kevin Lyttle, El A Kru, Burning Flames, Krosfyah, Square One, Patrice Roberts




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