In Trinidad, Carnaval is a catalyst for the creation of new music. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
“Much of the artistic creativity, expressive culture in Trinidad is still developed in Carnaval season.”
Gage Averill is an associate professor in the Department of Music at New York University.
“If you go to Trinidad at other times of year, you’re much more likely to hear western pop, top 40 music, but starting in December, you start to hear all the new calypsos. And these are written during the year for Carnaval specifically.”
“Calypsos now come in lots of different varieties. You have the topical calypso which is still the staple of the tents, the Carnaval tents where calypsonians sing in the months before Carnaval.”
Around the turn of the century, during Carnaval time, Calypso “tents” were literally held in canvas tents. These days, they’ve kept the name, but the tents have moved indoors.
“They’re buildings in which entrepreneurs run a kind of paid attendance club. And each of these will have a stable of calypsonians who are dedicated to that tent for the year, to try out their new compositions. Now, these are usually written around things that have happened in the country in the year, or around issues that are of importance to Trinidadians at the time. And they’re meant to arouse kind of passions. The humorous poke fun at figures or at events. So the audiences will come and the calypsonians will try these out and they will refine them over time. And they’ll hope that by the time they make them into a record, that the radio stations will play these, and that they will eventually be voted Calypso Monarch of the Year, which is the title given at Carnaval for the best calypsonian.”
It’s Carnaval season this week in Trinidad, and we’ll hear more in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.
THE MUSIC HEARD IN THE BACKGROUND OF THIS PROGRAM IS THE SONG “THE WORLD TODAY”, SUNG BY “DUKE”, FROM THE CD “A TASTE OF SOCA.” FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT ICE RECORDS, PO BOX 2917, LONDON W11 4UD, ENGLAND.