TT Music Library
Virtual Music Archive of Trinidad & Tobago


Long live Kaiso!

Calypso, also referred to as kaiso , is an Afro-Caribbean music genre that originated in Trinidad and Tobago by the fusion of African and European influences throughout history. With waves of migration, the music traveled across the world and became a household name in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The twin island was first colonized by the Spanish, received large numbers of French immigrants, and was later ruled by the British. Nowadays calypso is sung elsewhere in the southern and eastern Caribbean Islands, as well as in Panama and Costa Rica.

The Message

Its bouncy beats and tuneful melodies are often served up with serious, even subversive, messages. The music demands more careful listening. Outside the Caribbean, calypso music is regarded as carefree, light, and sometimes even frivolous. Yet calypso is among the most political of all musical traditions – a form that combines joyful melodies with social commentary. The poetic form follows that of the ballad with four-line refrains, that follow eight-line strophes. The simple rhyme scheme is compensated by highly imaginative and original language.
Mighty Sparrow - Calypso Time
Mighty Sparrow - Calypso Time (1970)


The Roots of Calypso

Calypso rhythms can be traced back to the arrival of the first African slaves brought to work on sugar plantations. Not being allowed to speak to each other and robbed of all links to family and home, the African slaves began to sing songs to communicate with each other. The “kaiso” was often sung in a French-Creole dialect called “patois”.

These songs were usually led by one individual called a “griot”, who later was known as the “chantuelle” (or “chantwell”) and today as the calypsonian. Their lyrics often mocked slave masters and would be recited at the harvest festival of Canboulay. Of course, they were not allowed to participate officially. With the arrival of the French, the carnival was introduced and highly celebrated on the Island. It grew in popularity, especially after the abolition of slavery in 1834.
Tambu Bambu - by Maria Nunes
Tamboo Bamboo Reinactment by Maria Nunes
In 1881, percussion was banned by the British colonial authorities, which resulted in the so-called "tamboo bamboo", in the innovation of steel pan music, initially consisting of frying pans, dustbin lids, and oil drums which emerged in 1937. The steel pan is nowadays a worldwide recognized and well-respected music instrument, which enjoys high participation and popularity in Trinidad and Tobago .
Painting - panpicong- by Candice Henry
Painting by Candice Henry
In the early 1900s, masquerade bands built "tents" in their yards during the Carnival season. These structures were typically made with bamboo poles and covered with palm fronds. Kerosene lamps provided illumination, while seating consisted of bamboo benches. In the evenings, one or more chantwells would sing calypsos for members of the masquerade band and passers-by from the neighborhood.
As Historian, Gerard Besson describes, the freed slaves, living in shacks and slums of the lower class, gathered to lower class bands, including adults and children, who sang, danced, and performed stick fights (the so-called ‘kalinda’ or ‘calenda’), especially in the weeks before Carnival and during the Carnival procession of the bands. Stickfighting became later on a national sport and is celebrated today in annual competitions.

1900s :

A "Calaloo" of Cultures

By the turn of the century, the songs were mostly sung in English and also called “calypsoes” and performed with increasing popularity. Around this time the culture was formed, combining elements of hundreds of African ethnic groups, native inhabitants of the islands, Indian indentured laborers (which replaced the freed slaves on the plantations), British, French, and Spanish colonizers, as well as immigrants from Syria and China.
Trinidad and Tobago developed into a cultural melting pot that influenced society to this day through cultural traditions of all cultures.

1910s :

The Beginnings of Music Recording

Calypso was one of the earliest musical traditions from outside the United States and Europe to be recorded. A Trinidadian instrumental dance band led by Lovey (George Bailey) traveled to New York in 1912 to record for two companies. The band had been encouraged by American tourists visiting Trinidad.
In 1914 agents of both record companies “Columbia and Victor, sensing a new market traveled to Trinidad and recorded a wide range of local music, including calypso”, to Raphael De Leon.
These include the first official vocal record, by Julian Whiterose named “Iron Duke in the Land". Among the artists recorded were the pianist and bandleader Lionel Belasco, Sam Manning, and Wilmoth Houdini, all of whom were based in the United States. These records were sold in Trinidad and in Latin America.
old vintage - gap
In the following example, the Duke of Iron, as Julian Whiterose used to call himself after his release, you will hear a classical call-and-response. This record was recorded in the 1950s, he performed the song already in earlier years. Can you follow the story he is telling you?
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Recording Session - Atilla the Hun & Roaring Lion
Picture Courtesy of the Caribbean Memories Project

1920s :

The Business with Calypso

With the first commercial recordings in the 1920s and 30s, calypso entered its golden era. The form became a means of communicating and interpreting political events, and a primary news source for many islanders.

A calypso singer named Chieftain Douglas opened a tent dedicated to the performance of calypso and called it the 'Railway Douglas Tent' which opened its doors for business in Port of Spain in 1921. Douglas rented chairs for his audience and sold tickets for his shows. The calypso tents emerged out of bamboo shacks in barrack yards to nightly meeting spots including stage, seats, and entrance fees.

From left Caresser, Atilla, Lion, Executor and Sa Gomes Roaring Lion Kevin Burke

1930s :

Start of the Golgen Age of Calypso

By the 1930s, there were several calypso tents in Port of Spain and other towns in Trinidad. Singers in the tents took turns performing on a stage and were accompanied by an ensemble of such instruments as guitar, cuatro (a small four-stringed guitar), violin, bass, flute, and clarinet. Calypsonians also challenged each other with extempo performances of prowess and ingenuity, sans humanité (‘without mercy’), comparable to the “freestyle” of rappers.
Since the turn of the century, calypso performers had given themselves unique sobriquets. Among them were Lord Executor, Atilla the Hun, the Roaring Lion, Mighty Terror, Mcbeath the Great, and the Growling Tiger.

As De Leon stated: “Such names expressed the calypsonians' sense of grandeur and the forcefulness with which they competed in the song”. The radio became a newly introduced media to receive programs and listen to music in this period.
calypso tent - courtesy the roaring lion foundation
The calypso singers now known as "calypsonians," had independent careers, performing in tents, movie theaters, and other venues during the Carnival season. Though calypso was an expression of Trinidadian experience, it was also influenced by musical traditions from other places. Some tunes that became part of the calypso repertoire originated in other islands, such as Barbados, Martinique, and Jamaica. Paseos (pasillos), dance music from Venezuela, influenced the melodies and instrumentation as well as American jazz. Calypsonians were always open to new ideas, an orientation in keeping with the cosmopolitan attitudes of Trinidad as a whole.

A turning point in the recording of calypso occurred in 1934, when Atilla the Hun and the Roaring Lion, traveled to New York to record for the American record company. This session was arranged by Eduardo Sa Gomes, a phonograph merchant in Trinidad, and Gerald Clark, a Trinidadian bandleader in New York (USA). During the following years, several major calypsonians were recorded in New York for the American Record Company and Decca. In the late 1930s, Decca and RCA Victor also recorded calypsonians in Trinidad.
The calypso records produced during the 1930s were sold both in the Caribbean and in Caribbean communities in the United States. Eduardo Sa Gomes, for example, had a chain of shops throughout the English-speaking Caribbean and was a major promoter of calypso records. The calypsonians' trips abroad and the success of their records contributed to their stature as professional artists in Trinidad. Their reputations grew but, in the end, they received minimal or no royalties for their recordings.
The calypso records produced during the 1930s were sold both in the Caribbean and in Caribbean communities in the United States. Eduardo Sa Gomes, for example, had a chain of shops throughout the English-speaking Caribbean and was a major promoter of calypso records. The calypsonians' trips abroad and the success of their records contributed to their stature as professional artists in Trinidad. Their reputations grew but, in the end, they received minimal or no royalties for their recordings.
Record Cover - Dingolay 1930s
Keskidee Trio - Dingo Lay ( ~ 1935)

Within the next ten years, artists like Executor, Growling Tiger, Lord Caresser, Lord Invader, Lord Beginner, The Mighty Destroyer, and others had recorded with Decca in New York: “Decca even sent recording facilities to Trinidad between 1938 and 1940. Hundreds of calypsos were recorded during this period”, so De Leon.

As De Leon describes: “The “Great Depression” of the 1930s brought adverse times to Trinidad and Tobago. Phenomenally high levels of unemployment, poverty, anti-colonial sentiment, civil and labor unrest, and the overhanging threat of war were all insensitive to encourage the colonial government to introduce Sedition Laws”. These laws gave the authorities the right to censor and ban calypsos. As Raphael De Leon describes, dumped the Commissioner of Police and Customs 1937 the entire shipment of Roaring Lion’s „Netty Netty“ records in the harbor of Port of Spain.

Thelma Lane - Lady Trinidad - first lady of calypso

In 1935, the first female to sing in a calypso tent was Lady Trinidad (Thelma Lane), who made her debut at the ‚Crystal Palace Tent‘ on Nelson Street in Port of Spain. Her success paved the way for two more female calypsonians to follow in her footsteps in 1936: Lady Baldwin (Mavis Baldwin) and Lady MacDonald (Doris MacDonald). In 1937, Lady Trinidad made history when she became the first female calypsonian to make a record.

1940s :

World War II and "The Yankees"

During the 1940s, steel bands kept rising in the communities and often took their names from movies like Casablanca, Tokyo, Cross of Lorraine, and Desperadoes.

Calypso tents were on the rise. One of the larger and more popular tents in the early 1940s was the 'Victory Calypso Tent' which operated from 95 Edward Street in Port of Spain – even though the most popular tent has been the 'The Original Old Brigade' which also operated on Edward Street. Another tent was the 'Maginot Line Calypso Tent' which was located at 47 Nelson Street in Port of Spain. The name of the 'World's Fair Calypso Tent' was changed in 1943 to the 'Commando Tent'. The tents started to spread across the country and became famous places for people to meet. Calypsonians who did not join a tent banded together and performed in cinemas across the country.
Snack bar at Waller Field, the main Army Air Force base in Trinidad, 1944 - courtesy National Archives
Although Carnival was suspended from 1942 to 1945 during World War II, the calypso tents were kept open.
World War II brought enormous changes to the country. In 1941 the United States established several military bases on the island. A vibrant entertainment scene developed to occupy the soldiers and sailors in their leisure time. In 1941 there were two US bases in Trinidad and Tobago and approximately 3000 soldiers. Japan bombed Perl Habour in December 1941 and at that point, America entered the war.
The music became known among the American soldiers and led to an international popularization of instruments and arrangements from Trinidad. They were often called “Yankees”. The calypsonians were touring from base to base to entertain the soldiers.
Each calypso tent had its fully equipped band of musicians that accompanied the singers. One of them was Frankie Francis, who is considered one of the best saxophonists on the island around this time. He was famous for being able to write music arrangements anywhere, without the help of any other musical instrument.

As Jocelyne Guilbault writes, “his favorite place for such work was at a rum shop in the midst of people, drinks, music, and noise”. He was hired to write arrangements for the bands of Cyril Diaz and Mano Marcellin, as well as for famous calypsonians of that time, including Lord Pretender, Mighty Terror, and Lord Melody.
Music for Queens - Frankie Francis
The German submarine war was thus widened to the East Atlantic and the Caribbean. The American’s deployed significant forces to the Caribbean region, including Trinidad. By late 1942 there were about 225 bases and 135 000 Americans stationed on the island. Back then the population was around 430 000 of which about 100 000 were children, many had then also American roots which will lead to migration in the upcoming years.
As De Leon wrote: “This new, receptive and massive audience turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the entire entertainment industry, calypsonians included”. In great demand, they sang at the US bases, theatres, bars, and events. Besides boosting the calypso industry locally the GI’s exposure to calypso assisted in popularizing it in the USA, as in the case of the historic “Rum & Coca Cola” by Lord Invader.

The lyrics will show you the deep meaning behind the song when you listen carefully. While the song was covered by the US female singer group of the Andrew Sisters, which had to confess later on that they didn't think of "what it meant; but at that time, nobody else would think of it either, because we weren't as morally open as we are today". They were rushing with the recording and just found, that the song sounds "cute". But, hear for yourself.
Here is the original version of this song sung by Lord Invader (originally composed by Lionel Belasco), recorded by Alan Lomax from 1964).
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This is the „cute“ version of the Andrew Sisters. The song was supposedly copyrighted in the United States by the entertainer Morey Amsterdam. The song became an international hit record.

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Andrew Sisters – Rum and Coca Cola (1944)

The censorship of lyrics did continue, as Raphael De Leon noted: “Police patrolled the tents and other venues, and whenever an officer deemed their lyrics dubious, improper, immoral or seditious they would remove the singer from the stage”.

Artists like Attila the Hun, Roaring Lion, Gowling Tiger, King Radio, King Pharaoh, Lord Executor, Lord Pretender, Lord Butternut, and others were subjected to harassment and sometimes even arrested.
In addition to this authorities demanded to “vet” all lyrics before any record was compiled, “if this demand was not met, one risked the authorities seizing or destroying their records on arrival”. This was enormous pressure on the singers concerning their reputation and their achievements in their music careers. After the war the censorship was removed.
In this time long player records have been introduced to the market and allowed musicians to compile albums with their compositions as well as compilations, which were published since then. While calypso was more or less unknown beyond the borders of Trinidad and Tobago, it emerged in the United States and Canada, where it was recycled and adapted to the US market. Several of the songs that were recorded by local calypsonians between 1934 & 1950 have been covered or sampled by top international artists.

They have been played in movies, advertisements, and on the radio and TV, and some of them even reached the number one spot on the Billboard Charts and r&b charts years later.

Here are just a few examples:

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Lord Caresser – Edward VII (1940s)

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Harry Belafonte – Love, love alone (1956)

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King Radio – Mathilda (1939)

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Harry Belafonte – Matilda (1982)

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Roaring Lion – Mary Ann (1945)

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Harry Belafonte & Julie Andrews – Mary Ann (1972)

By 1947, the 24-year-old Lord Kitchener had gained enough popularity to open a new tent called 'The Young Brigade“ which featured young calypsonians such as Lord Melody, Mighty Killer, Mighty Spoiler, and the Mighty Viking. In addition to the early calypsonians, some of the popular singers of the 1940s were Lord Pretender, Small Island Pride, Lord Wonder, and Sir Galaba.
These artists wrote calypsoes with highly imaginative lyrics and more complex musical arrangements. Lord Kitchener rose to prominence in the 1940s and dominated the calypso scene until the late 1970s. Trinidadians "developed a taste for jazz and other American popular music".
Lord Kitchener - by tucott
Lord Kitchener
Since Calypsonians were able to produce recordings they had their songs broadcasted by a newly emerging medium: the radio. As Ernest Brown writes, did the recording industry place demands on calypso “requiring that the subjects of songs be understandable to American audiences and that calypso ensembles resemble those current in popular music from the USA. African percussion bands such as tamboo bamboo had no place in this scheme of things. Under the influence of mass media, middle-class Trinidadians developed a taste for jazz and other American popular music".
American jazz music was supposedly imitated, because it was ‘black’ and internationally recognized and because it offered a role model which was acceptable for the urban middle class with its bourgeois ambitions. The bands of the street Carnival grew and needed louder instruments. Similar to the New Orleans Carnival these were wind instruments, which from then on became the instrumentation of the calypso: the ‘brass band’ was born and trumpeters became a must in musical arrangements.

1950s :

Calypso earns fame in silence?

Released in 1951, Nat King Cole's post-war recording of 'Calypso Blues', set the stage for the musical explosion, but it was Harry Belafonte's popular, 1956 "groundbreaking" album, simply titled "Calypso", that made the musical idiom a household word. Both of them have their roots in America. Along came also American singer Maya Angelou, who just a year later, released her LP “Miss Calypso”, which was also selling very well internationally. To me it does not make sense, that Nat King Cole wrote "Calypso Blues" as it is commonly promoted. It sounds very much like the lyrics of a local singer. If you know who really wrote it, please get in touch with me.
Record - Harry Belafonte - Calypso
Record - Harry Belafonte - Calypso
Here is the song for you. Interestingly it was later on in history covered by Calypso Rose in 2008 in a dubby reggae version.
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Nat King Cole - Calypso Blues (1951)
The American trend of Jukeboxes became also popular in Trinidad and Tobago, which began to entertain visitors to bars and rum shops. In several stories, I heard that many took advantage of the jukebox in repeating their favorite track again and again – not too much in favor of other guests of the location. Somehow it inspired me to name the blog and the radio player of this page after it.
The interest in calypso in America continued in the postwar era, with the growth in tourism to Trinidad and the Caribbean as a whole. Calypsonians often performed light-hearted songs to appeal to tourists. The development of the radio in Trinidad led to another re-positioning of traditional music. Calypso got an economical function and the carnival was recognized as a tourist attraction and commercially promoted. American audiences wanted songs about things they could understand.
Jump up Carnival - Super Stereo - Vinyl
During the early 1950s, the popularity and success of calypsonians were usually measured by their recordings. In the tents mostly one song was sung by each performer. With the rise of popularity not only was the music expected to be pleasing and easily adaptable to the steel band, but the lyrics also had to be catchy and easy to remember.

With the increasing popularity of calypso music and the competition that grew among calypsonians from rival tents, the Carnival Development Committee instituted the 'Road March Competition' in 1952. Those two factors would determine the winner of the 'Road March', the most popular song played during carnival, crowned from year to year to this day. In 1953 also the Calypso King contest was earning more popularity.
The first crown was given to Growling Tiger in 1939. But with rising media attention the importance of the competition was growing. It first required the performance of one later two calypsoes. Mighty Spitfire and Mighty Sparrow became the first repetitive winners of this annual competition.
The Mighty Sparrow made his debut in this decade and would go on to achieve worldwide fame. His attempts to fuse calypso with twist and boogaloo were severely criticized, including by his rival Lord Kitchener.
Also, the following artists have to be mentioned in this decade: the Mighty Dictator, Lord Viper, Mighty Panther, King Fighter, Nap Hepburn, and Lord Observer.
Sparrow - record
Record - Nap Hepburn

1960s :

The New Beginning of Trinidad & Tobago

Due to political changes calypsonians were chronicling a growing nationalist spirit in Trinidad and Tobago, which culminated in the colony's independence from Britain in 1962. Since Trinidad became sovereign, calypsonians have affiliated with political parties and their figureheads, most notably Dr. Eric Williams, the ‘father of the nation’ who led the island after independence for nineteen years until his death.
Lord Brynner, Lord Nelson as well as Maestro were highly active as performers. Also, the 1960s were highlighted by the return of Lord Kitchener to Trinidad in 1962 after he resided and performed in England for several years. Also, Mighty Terror also returned from overseas for the 1965 Carnival season. The title of the 'Calypso King' became more and more important while most of them were won by Mighty Sparrow, Mighty Duke, and Lord Kitchener.
Stamps of Trinidad - Calypso King (1963)
Lord Kitchener moved along with his calypso tent but tried to keep its traditional style, forbidding artists to perform with fusions to other genres. He composed and sang calypsoes that dominated the steel band Panorama competition which began in 1963, another competition that is held around Carnival until today.
History of the Renegades - Pan on the Net
They were the only other winning selections in the seven 'Panorama' contests held in the 1960s. In 1964 Leslie Samaroo, whose brother had owned 'Strand Cinema', got his brother to close down the cinema for Carnival and they opened the first “Calypso Revue” in 1964 where saxophonist Roy Cape played a significant role as band director.

From the late 1960s, Art De Couteau became the most sought-after arranger. It was his goal to elevate calypso music to international standards. As for overall sound, he would refrain from using trumpets in the higher register or from having them play loudly. For this reason, he tried as well as he could to “Spanish” influences and removed the stringy and guitarist elements. His aim was to ensure that calypso was a national music stand on its own, projecting a unique sound, instead of mixing it with jazz or other American-originated genres, even though people asked him to do so.
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1970s :

Funky Beats, Black Power & The Birth of Soca

Together with Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow dominated the calypso scene until the late 1970s. Calypso Rose’s success in the 1970s culminated in her becoming the first woman to win the singing competition. As a result of Calypso Rose's accomplishment, the title was changed from "King" to "Monarch". Over the years, Calypso Rose has written and performed songs with themes ranging from political commentaries to party songs and has won numerous awards. Lord Kitchener kept dominating the Panorama competition in this decade.
Record Cover - Calypso Rose - Soul on Fire
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Maestro as a songwriter and also Merchant were calypsonians who had hit songs during the 1970s. The emergence of calypso composers who specialized in songwriting only was rising. Another such specialist was Winsford Devine, known as the "joker". He composed hundreds of calypsoes for popular singers, including Mighty Sparrow, Baron, Scrunter, and even Machel Montano. I would like to note, that songwriters were not that noticed as creatives generally. They were usually not mentioned on the media.
Due to the development of music globally, musicians began to experiment with sounds. One of them was Lord Shorty, who later on took over the name Ras Shorty I. By adding Indian-originated instruments and rhythms to the African-based instrumentation and the rhythms of calypso, he claims to be the inventor of the music genre, while many musicians at the same time were releasing numerous content that was as funky as his work. Bands like Wild Fire and also Richard “Nappy" Mayers need to be mentioned here. As some celebrate him as the “father to soca”, I rather watch the releases out of the period to create my own picture. Shorty claims his musical synthesis gave rise to a new form of calypso called soca, which I can't deny, but also other musicians have been contributing to this development. In addition to Indian music, Jamaican reggae and dancehall, as well as pop and funk continued the influence of calypso music. His good friend Maestro, unfortunately, died in a tragic car accident in 1977. In public mouth 1978 seems to be the year of the birth of soca dated with the release of Lord Shorty's “Soca Explosion Album”, even though his album "The Love Man" from 1974 had the Indian instrumentation.
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In 1979, one of Lord Shorty's many very talented sons and daughters Abbi Blackman was the youngest female calypso queen ever crowned (at 14 years).

Black Stalin, who sang “Caribbean Unity” and “United Africa” was standing tall for the Black Power Movement, as well as Brother Resistance. The music genre rapso, which also originated in Trinidad and Tobago, became more poetic and politically claiming, including the spirit of black power and consciousness. At the same time, chutney soca more turned technically into the real fusion of soca and traditional chutney music sung in Hindi.

1980s :

In Honor of Calypso

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The road march titles go to new emerging artists like Blue Boy and Tambu. Two calypso crowns were given to Black Stalin and Chalkdust, who is also lecturing and researching on calypso history until today. Baron became more famous with his “Melosian Rhapsody” and “Soca Man”. Also, the Merchant kept releasing a couple of albums that are highly recommended.
Lord Kitchener remained the steel pan king by composing and singing his calypsoes with steel bands.
In 1986 Machel Montano had his debut as a singer with "Too Young to Soca" live at Dimanche Gras, in Port of Spain. It will come out as the beginning of a music career that crosses borders worldwide to promote soca music. At this time he was only seven years old. He was strongly supported by his parents, which took over the management role.
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Calypsonian - Black Stalin - Leeroy Calliste
Black Stalin by Maria Nunes
In 1987 calypsonians are getting honored for their career. Mighty Sparrow received the Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of West Indies and Black Stalin received the Trinidad and Tobago 'Hummingbird Silver Medal' for his achievement in culture. Winsford Deevine received the same award a year later, followed by Lord Melody.
Around this time the audio cassette became an important medium, which made it easy to copy music on another cassette with the right audio device. Vinyl records were hard to buy due to digitalization and the new usage of the media. Especially in cars audio cassettes and CDs became popular worldwide and allowed the switch from local radio stations to the own choice of music during car rides. As well as Television became more advanced and accessible more foreign programs were introduced, including MTV with its huge influence on the music industry through the direct visualization of music arrangements in general.

1990s :

Bacchanal, eh!

While Tambu wins his third road march title, Blue Boy changed his name to Superblue and won four more titles during the decade. Soca music is taking over the road march forever. The ten calypso crowns were won by Cro Cro and Black Stalin, as repetitive winners as well as Luta and Delamo, who shared the title in 1994. In this decade Explainer was popular with many impressive album releases. After six decades Lord Kitchener did not win any title for his released calypsoes. Still, his music was the of choice for the 'Steelband Panorama' winners in 1990, 1993, and 1997, respectively. Steel Pan has officially declared a national instrument in September 1992.
The 90s experimented with soca, fusing it with ragga, pop, and hip hop. Machel Montano's rising popularity as musician, blazing trails worldwide to promote the latest soca music trends that he developed with his band Xtatic.
In 1998 Bunji Garlin made his debut as a singer for soca and remained on the top until today. His remakes of popular calypso hits like “Fiery” and “Savage”, originally sung by Maestro, need to be mentioned here.
David Rudder released together with Charlies Roots his popular songs "Bacchanal Lady" and "Bahia Girl".
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David Rudder by Maria Nunes
David Rudder by Maria Nunes
Singing Sandra has proven to be one of the most astute political commentators, with her critiques of poverty “Voices from the Ghetto”, sexual exploitation “Die with my Dignity” and militarism “The War Goes On”. Denyse Plummer became the third female calypso monarch title with her “Nah Leaving”, a resolute rejection of emigration.
The strong spread of the compact disc as a medium to listen to music, let the audio cassette die forever. With it, music pirates were on the rise. Vinyl records are now only available to see in collectors' houses and international collections, nowadays well documented on platforms like Discogs.

2000s :

Carnival goes Global

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Especially in Europe the famous remake “Who let the Dogs out” written by Anslem Douglas, covered by the Baha Men, became an international super hit and won a Grammy. At the same time, soca music was on the rise through the emergence of Carnival events all across the globe. Machel Montano was leaving the Xtatik Band and began his solo career with full success. In 2002 Trinidad and Tobago declares the month of October officially as 'Calypso History Month' to acknowledge the legacy of the music genre since then.
With the start of YouTube in 2005, a new chance for the internet user became possible. The chance to publish your own videos. Many record collectors started to share their collections in digital versions. Also, calypso music lovers contributed their favorites to their subscribers. Unfortunately not every record is nowadays able to be found digitally. With the rise in popularity, colorful music videos have been published by soca musicians as well, as well live performances of competitions and events began to be shared on the platform.
With the introduction of the MP3-Player, the portable way of listening to music revolutionized the reception of music worldwide. In 2008 the Sweden based company Spotify launched its app focusing on the streaming of music which led to the use of the internet in combination with the reception of music. Especially western cultures like Europe, Latin America, the United States, and Canada, which all have fast providers of internet connection took on the style of listening. In Trinidad and Tobago, the audio CD and the USB flash drive are often used to play music today. Also, the smartphone is becoming more popular on the island but it is still not something everybody possesses.
Xtatic - X amount of Sweetness - Album Cover

2010s :

Calypso meets Coachella

I remember when I came for the very first time to Trinidad and Tobago in 2015 and discovered this (to me) incredible exhibition of calypso and Carnival history at the Piarco Airport. I embraced the legacy that I was able to see. To join calypso events seemed to become harder and harder.

While they were taking place in so many different locations throughout the years, you nowadays have to await patiently. Even though calypso competitions are even held among students at schools competing against each other. Calypso is often defined as “old people's music” in the public mouth of the younger generation, as I am experiencing it often. Tributes to passing calypsonians are more and more common, as they grow older.
Calypso Rose

In 2017 Calypso Rose received the French Grammy for her album “Far From Home”. In 2019 she performed together with soca artist Nailah Blackman, the granddaughter of Lord Shorty, and Machel Montano at the famous “Coachella Festival“ in a desert area of California (USA).

Let me share this sweet little piece of history with you out of the documentary „20 years in the desert“ released in 2021.

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2020s :

From a Today's point of View

The digital age is giving calypso music a hard time. Not every musician had the chance to follow the road of streaming and the sales on online music markets. There are several tracks only available on Youtube, where I would like to give a huge shout-out to all music lovers and share their collections on the net. Even though the story is already quite long, the research has just started.
Due to COVID-19, the music industry was going through a hard time. Musicians mostly tried to promote their work online or virtually in concerts, that were online in front of a screen or just to enjoy on the radio. Soca singer Iwer George created the "Calypso Showcase" for his listeners on his own radio station (no comparison to Alvin Daniells local TV show from the 90s with the same name). Due to the virus, several musicians lost their lives. In In 2021 a virtual concert took place to honor the 100 years of calypso tents. I wrote a little article, that you can look out for at the music blog. You will be able to watch the whole concert there. Especially the gathering of Baron and Sugar Aloes. I am always getting goosebumps. The next generation of calypso singers is displayed here together with a few true icons. More information about them will be published with the progress of this project.
Latest Update: 12/10/22
Compiled by:
DJ Mika Raguaa - Professional DJ & Multimedia Designer
DJ & Researcher


Note: This article is a "work in progress". With every visit, more content will be added. Get in touch, if you have something to share.

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Jocelyne Guibault (2007): Governing Sound – The cultural politics of Trinidad’s Carnival Music
University of Chicago, Ian Randle Publishers

Rafael de Leon, Transcripts from The Roaring Lion Website 

Gerard Besson (2011): Calypso, Calypso Music

BBC (2017): The surprising politics of Calypso

Yvonne Web (2012): Trinidad Guardian – History through the eyes of Calypsonians

Jesse Server (2017): The Rise of Soca

Ronald C. Emrit: Calypso History

Calypsoworld.Org: Calypso in Trinidad – Carnival and Musical Traditions
(offline nowadays)

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A virtual walk through time

Other Music Genres


Rapso - Brother Resistance - by Sean Drakes




Carnival Tuesday by Miquel Galofre




Sundar Popo - Hot Spicy Chutneys



A virtual Walk through Time

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About Instruments of Trinidad & Tobago

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Renegades Steel Orchestra by Maria Nunes
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Laventille Rhythm Section - Snapshot Pavement Lime
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String Instruments - Duke of Iron - Wild Indian - Snapshot
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Harmonium & Hand Drum
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Los Parrandores de Uwi - Parang Band - by Triniview
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