REVIEW: CHRISTMAS IN TRINIDAD 2022
Wow! It has been a good while since I was able to write again for this music blog. I really
would like to apologize, but to be honest Christmas in Trinidad is a very busy time for everybody. I hope you don’t mind that I tell you about my Christmas experience, a little belated. But, what makes Christmas time here so busy?
On the one hand, it’s the festive preparation for the celebration days, on the other hand also, many would like to have their home looking fantastic on Christmas, so they decide to paint over their house, or make a proper clean from the inside or even invest in some Christmas lights and decoration of their home. While taking a ride in a maxi taxi or a regular car in the evening time you would be thrilled by the look of bright and colorful blinking Christmas lights in all colors all around the country.
In this article, I am focussing on the area of San Juan and Santa Cruz, as well as on the capital city, Port of Spain, which is just some 20 kilometers away. Over the years (and it’s now seven so far) I was able to get to know a lot of people from this area, and I must say, that every year, people are showing me more and more love around the festive time. I got invitations for dinners, events, and live concerts and tried to capture the best moments on camera for you. This just is a little summary of one of the best Christmas that I personally ever had.
The twin island is culturally incredibly diverse, which is also reflected by the events, that you can attend around Christmas time. At the end of October (on some radio stations even in September), the popular parang and parang soca music starts to be played and also at live events. The radio station Sweet 100.1 FM for example is counting down each year to „The Sweetest 100 Days of Christmas”, by playing parang and also international Christmas super hits like those from Mariah Carey, Bing Crosby, or Luther Vandross. In stores and shops, employees wear Christmas gear like little reindeer alters or little Santa Claus hats and in some bars, decoration is set up to bring you into a festive mood. Street vendors trying to sell kids‘ bikes, toys, and perfumes to the masses.
Christmas in La Canoa, Lower Santa Cruz – Trinidad
Christmas events and concerts are advertised and organized throughout the whole country by commercial and private people. While Tobago’s Radio Tambrin is organizing an annual Christmas Parade and Children Treat, in Trinidad steel pan orchestras like Desperadoes, Silver Stars, and Pamberi, organize their own events in their own pan yards or even in the National Academy of Performing Arts. This year the Soca Parang Fiesta took place, as a tribute to the deceased parang soca icon, Kenny J, with performances by artists like Alicia Jaggesar, Crazy, Cro Cro, Sugar Aloes, Mighty Poser, Eddie Charles, and Marcia Miranda.
I got the chance to participate in the rehearsal for this event at Kaiso Blues Café in
Port of Spain and meet not only Marcia Miranda personally. The location is not that easy to access, as it is located next to a huge highway and a fire station. The compound is huge and the interior design is exceptionally decorated with pictures, framed photographs, and paintings of Trinidad and Tobago’s music heritage. The owner, Carl Jacobs, himself is a well-known musician and is trying his best to represent the pearls of music audiovisually. An article about the whole story of the location will definitely follow. Can’t wait to go there again, as a music lover it is a true must!
Here are just a few shots for you:
Concert rehearsal at Kaiso Blues Café, Port of Spain – Trinidad
While meeting Marcia Miranda, who is a parang soca singer, I was able to capture her performance. Compared to other singers in the rehearsal, she needed less practicing time and showed her professionality from the moment she stepped on the stage. Maybe the next year, we will work together.
For this year I decided to go deeper into the roots of parang and learn more about it while speaking to those who do it for many many years. My personal inspiration was Carol Slusher from the traditional parang band Los Angeles de San Miguel, named after the church, where Carol started to compose and sing more than 40 years ago. We had a lot of conversations on the phone and met at Movie Towne in Port of Spain to discuss a musical collaboration. With the intention of keeping the sound of parang as authentic and original as possible, the band is recording their songs in the traditional style, using acoustic instruments and not studio beats.
The band was founded by Carol Slusher in Diamond Vale, Diego Martin, and since then they perform in malls, at events, parang festivals, and in private homes all over the country. Popular places for parang events are St. Joseph, San Juan, Santa Cruz, Paramin, and Lopinot, still, there are events or simply gatherings of people embracing parang music in nearly every village all over the island. In 2018 the band had the honor of being a cultural ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago with a historic tour to Havana (Cuba).
Feel free to tune in to this virtual concert (2 hours) at a radio station in Trinidad:
The band was built on the premise of bringing joy to others at Christmas time and keeping the local traditions alive by carrying on the religious aspect of the birth of Christ, instead of the promotion of food, the „liming“ and alcoholic products, as it is often presented in parang soca.
This is exactly what I was trying to carry in my latest (and second) parang release with the name „Parang Parang – Trinidad Christmas – Original & Authentic”, inspired by the work of the “Angels of San Miguel” who contributed the cover picture performing in a private home from about 30 years ago. The back side of the CD Cover displays Trinidad’s parang queen Daisy Voisin, a well-respected traditional parang singer and composer who left this world in the early nineties. The fast and joyful mix features also Los Alumnos the San Juan, the San José Serenaders, Christo Adonis and his group Rebuscar, as well as the popular Lara Brothers, Los Tocadores, Sharlene Flores, and plenty more in an acoustic sound experience. The soundtrack to Trinidad Christmas in this case is 100 percent Spanish speaking, even though the last (bonus) track features a cover of Farmer Nappy’s „hooking meh“ (a soca hit from 2019) sung by Los Angeles de San Miguel in Spanish with a few last English words. Feel free to tune in and hear the Latin American side of Trinidad and Tobago’s diverse Christmas music. As I was digging deep into music releases since the beginning of music recording, as you can see and read for yourself at the TT Music Library, I was able to find some incredible parang arrangements combined with Trinidad and Tobago’s popular steel pan instruments. Lee Scratch Perry and Johann Chuckaree are not only highly recommendable but also well-educated music professionals. I asked my fans to contribute a few Christmas greetings as well as a few music artists and DJs.
You can download the mix for free at www.mikaraguaa.com/christmas. On the page, you will also find the parang soca mix, which I released in 2017. While playing both mixtapes in the area of La Canoa (lower Santa Cruz), real vibes have been felt by members of the community. I am sharing a few impressions on my Instagram and TikTok. There is no better feeling when you are recording music and people feel what you would like to express. Simply priceless! I learned more about the La Canoa parang community and met with a man called Pancho, who is doing music in this area for 47 years and was also born and raised here. He is now 56 years old. By the age of nine, he got the chance to come closer to a parang band and simply stayed and performed since then with changing band members year by year. When I asked him, what inspired him to do parang music, he humbly respond: „ I just have a passion for the art form “. The band is simply called “Pancho”, as it is written on their traditional box bass
I wrote an article about the instruments used in parang music. They explain the roots of the chac chac, maracas, clappers, and box bass. Also, you can read about the fashion aspect of parang bands. You will be amazed reading about it.
Again, I would like to apologize for the lateness of my article, but Trinidad Christmas was just too exciting to leave out anything. I am hoping that you had a joyful time and still celebrate the parang season until the 6th of January, which is the day the three kings met the newborn child. As we in Germany say, slide well into the new year, stay healthy and safe, as well as joyful and beautiful.
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I am sharing some of my music performance experiences on my Instagram (@mikaraguaa) and on my tiktok account (@djmikaraguaa). Feel free to follow me on my music journey here in Trinidad and Tobago.
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