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Columbia College Chicago


Definition of Style

Calypso is a popular song form with a rich history on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Distinguished by its lyrical content, which frequently focuses on social and political topics and satirical forms of protest, calypso is also a festival music that has roots in the kalinda, a colorful ceremonial duel between two opponents armed with heavy staffs. Calypso evolved partially from a tradition in which combatants are accompanied by an entourage that plays percussion instruments and sings.

Musical Examples

"Rum and Coca Cola". Lord Invader. Calypso Calaloo: Early Carnival Music in Trinidad (Rounder CD 1105)

"Congo malata", traditional. From the album Kalinda Kaliente by Ensemble Kalinda Chicago.

Introductory Bibliography

Hill, Donald R. Calypso Calaloo. Gainesville: University of Florida, 1993. In-depth history of the Trinidadian genre.

Quevedo, Raymond (Atilla the Hun). Atilla's Kaiso: A Short History of Trinidad Calypso. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: University of the West Indies, 1983.

Warner, Keith Q. Kaiso!: The Trinidad Calypso. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents, 1985. "A study of the calypso as oral literature."

Selected Discography

Calypso Calaloo (Rounder CD 1105)

Calypso Pioneers
1912-1937 (Rounder CD 1039)

Ensemble Kalinda. Kalinda Kaliente (Ocean OR 108)

Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener. 16 Carnival Hits (Ice Records CD 9170)

Rough Guide to Calypso & Soca (World Music Network CD 1040)

Shango, Shouter and Obeah: Supernatural Calypso from Trinidad, 1934-1940 (Rounder CD)