About String in Early Calypso and the Fusion of Soca with Violins
By the 1930s, the singers in calypso tents in Trinidad were accompanied on stage by an ensemble using instruments like guitar, cuatro (a small four-stringed guitar), violin, bass, flute, and clarinet. You can hear the strong influence in the songs. Here is an example by the Duke of Iron. This video is from the 1930s and is only one of the little examples from this time with moving pictures.
Lord Kitchener is a great example of an artist, that highlighted his bass on record covers and during live performances.
Lord Kitchener is a great example of an artist, that highlighted his bass on record covers and during live performances. The cuatro will be discussed later on in the article while introducing the instruments of parang music, Trinidad and Tobago’s sweet Christmas music.
While speaking about the earlier days, I would like to mention the harmonica Echo Super Vamper, which was popular in the 1940s, in Trinidad and Tobago as well. The imported instrument was more in private use than audible through recordings. Officially it is not a part of the string instruments, but somehow it fits so well to the time when it was so famous.
But now back to the string instruments. The banjar is a banjo-like guitar and it is been said, that it was used in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1930s and 1940s by black and white minstrels. The resonant box was usually made out of a half calabash fruit. Here is a beautiful example from Senegal.
On fetes around carnival time, musicians are often invited to perform a few songs, as an entrance for the event. That was the first time I heard the Alternative Quartet, an instrumental orchestra of electric violinists, that cover popular soca songs or create their own little versions. To listen to them live was a memorable sound experience for me, demonstrating the power of music. Let me share it their very special instrumental version of „Work Out“ with you, originally by Kes and Nailah Blackman.
I can only encourage you to read more about instruments and their relation in the different music genres and recommend articles about Indian instruments and brass as well. You will be surprised. The research on string instruments continues with the progress of this music archive.
TT MUSIC LIBRARY - VIRTUAL MUSIC ARCHIVE | JUKEBOX TT
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Jocelyne Guibault (2007): Governing Sound – The cultural politics of Trinidad’s Carnival Music
University of Chicago, Ian Randle Publishers
John Mendes (2003): Coté ci Coté La – Trinidad & Tobago Dictionary, Medianet Publishing
Gerard Besson (2011): Calypso, Calypso Music
Ronald C. Emrit: Calypso History
Calypsoworld.org: Calypso in Trinidad – Carnival and Musical Traditions
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