TT Music Library
Virtual Music Archive of Trinidad & Tobago

Instruments in Parang Music

Sweet Christmas Sounds with Box Bass, Chac Chac & Cuatro

Traditional parang bands often referred to as "Parenderos" consist of four to six singers accompanied by musicians who use instruments, that are very typical for the sound of the music. These can include the following instruments:
Venezuelan Cuatro (small four-string guitar)
cuatro / ukulele
It can also be an acoustic guitar or a triple or a bandola.
Bandola - colombia
Sometimes also a violin cello was used as bass, but the box bass was more common.
Box Bass
Trinidad - Lopinot Cafe - box bass - by Carole Terwilliger Meyers
Box Basss - by Carole Terwilliger Meyers
If you think the steel pan is the only instrument that originated, you are wrong. As already described, the iron was created here, and also the box bass has also its native origin in Trinidad and Tobago.
Since the middle of the 20. century it is counted as an official instrument and until today it is a basic part of the parang band. Unfortunately, there is not too much known about its original creation, yet. Most of them are often created by the musician self, so they are unique instruments.
Alternatively, a cajon is used to accompany the beat. The example of the photo is made out of paper for those, who are interested in creating their own instruments at home.

The rhythmic instrument with its unique sound has its origin in ancient Egypt. The instrument might come to the island over the colonial influence, as well as violins.

Clapper & Claves

Usually out of wood and locally known as toc-toc.

clapper - instruments

Also known as woodblock pollitos.

Wood Blocks
Woodblock Pollitos

Known also as a scratcher, this instrument is popular in Latin America, like in the music of salsa and the Venezuelan parranda, which is very close to parang.

Guillo - Photo by Joe Raedle
The Guiro by Joe Raedle

Locally known as chac-chac or shak-shak and very typical for parang music, the rattle-like percussion instrument is made from dried, seed-filled calabash, fitted with wood handles or completely out of wood like in this example.

Maracas & Clapper
Maracas & Clapper

It is said, that also the Venezuelan marimbula is essential for parang music, to me it is hard to locate the following sound. If you have an example out of Trinidad, get in touch with me and let me know. Here is an example of how it sounds:

Video abspielen
Trinidad and Tobago Parang (2012)

I would also like to acknowledge the beautiful outfits parang singers and musicians are wearing during a performance. Often they are combined looks for male and female and in strong colors with floral patterns and additional flower pieces in hair or hat.

From House to House

The Traditions of Parang

Traditionally parang bands move from house to house to serenade family and friends during Christmas time. It is common to greet the Paranderos with drinks and food, following specific steps or rituals that accompanied the entry to a home, the dedication of songs to a host, the eating and drinking, and the departure. The resulting atmosphere would be that of happiness, and togetherness.
The parang band is named El Cantaro, as usual, the music is performed together with friends, family, and neighbors.
Video abspielen
Daisy Voisin, Gloria Alcazar, and Alicia Jaggasar are the most popular voices of parang, as well as the Lara Brothers, Marcia Miranda, and Scrunter.
Video abspielen
Traditional parang lyrics praise and describe in joyful songs the birth of Jesus strictly with Spanish lyrics. parang soca instead provides stories of limes and humorous songs about a lot of local dishes and "puncheon creme". An incredible combination, that is airplay on the radio from the (already) the middle of October each year.

Let me share the trailer of my mixtape „Parang Parang“, which features both styles. The video by Rembunctand shows the band entering a house having and leaving a good time for the Christmas season. You can download the mixtape for free on my website. I released it in 2017, but it is truly timeless. Have a good time with it and of course, Feliz Navidad!

Video abspielen

Here is the full mix to steam online. If you are on Soundcloud, don’t forget to follow.

The research on parang and parang soca music will continue while we are getting closer to Christmas. Get in touch with me if you have something to share. I am thankful for your support. Feliz Navidad! 

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

John Mendes (2003): Coté ci Coté La – Trinidad & Tobago Dictionary,  Medianet Publishing

Gerard Besson (2011): Calypso, Calypso Music

Ronald C. Emrit: Calypso History
http:// Parang
http:// Calypso in Trinidad – Carnival and Musical Traditions
(offline nowadays)

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