Misguided calypso comments

Some things remain the same: political turmoil, taxation, potholed roads, and bad food in restaurants being four examples.  As Mashramani looms, add a fifth – negative comments about calypso.  Among the public in recent weeks, and in two prominent pieces in print, the complaints about the genre continue, and as someone who grew up on that music and wrote dozens of calypsos for Tradewinds, I feel the need to offer some considerations.

The first, and the most germane, is that calypso is no longer the popular music of the day. The why and wherefore of that is another story, but it is part and parcel of popular music. Every decade or two, popular music changes. In North America, balladry gave way to folk, which gave way to rock-and-roll, which gave way somewhat to country, which gave way to funk and r&b, which gave way to hip hop and rap.  In the Eastern Caribbean (Jamaica is another story) calypso reigned for a long time but gave way to soca (some respected musicians in Trinidad refused to play it at first) and that form has now splintered into groovy soca; chutney is also now a significant presence on the entertainment calendar both here and particularly in Trinidad.

The musical mainstream changes, and calypso is no longer it. That is the reality for the genre everywhere. In Guyana, DJ neighbourhood sessions at weddings and parties will play music for literally hours on end without one calypso being heard – not one. Without the demand for it, there is no collection of calypsonians operating throughout the …..To continue reading, login or subscribe now.

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