71 Calypso Music Facts: Origins, Artists, Instruments And Much More

Abhijeet Modi
Jan 25, 2024 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Jan 02, 2022
originated from West African music genre called kaiso.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.1 Min

Calypso is a widely enjoyed Caribbean music form that has pleased the world with its fun vibes and poignant lyricism.

Traditional calypso music incorporates call-and-response singing methods followed by a syncopated rhythm. Calypso originated from another West African music genre, called the kaiso.

Music has always been a source of freedom for people all over the world. A voice of rebellion for some, or the echo of victory, music has found its place as a significant partner in changing the world. Folk music of Trinidad and Tobago named calypso aims to do the same. Amid the variety of groovy and versatile sounds of West African descent, the calypso found its place in the Caribbean island within the residing communities of African slaves. It's a fascinating genre of music that incorporates two diverse qualities in its music together to blow life into any gathering and carnival- Witty, satirical lyrics, and an amusing style of upbeat music. The music has done well on world charts, too, as many calypso singers made it into mainstream music.

Calypso music facts are yet to be widely known by the world, and this article promises to offer more insight into the underrated world of calypso music. Don't forget to check out Caribbean music facts and Chinese music facts too.

Fun Facts About Calypso Music

Calypso music has a unique and interesting history behind its origin, popularity, and appreciation in the mainstream music scene. Calypso songs have the power to make the listeners feel they are in the tropical paradise, enjoying the local melody in its authentic form. But, did you know where the prominently played music genre got its name? Let's read some of its characteristics.

Calypso gets its name from a type of tent called calypso, which is found in Trinidad and Tobago. These tents were made up of palm trees and hosted masqueraded bands as they played for the crowd. Surprisingly, calypso evolved slowly with exposure during the World War II era, as thousands of American soldiers were deployed in Trinidad and Tobago, which caught their interest to record many calypso recordings and get it performed in the US. 'Rum and Coca Cola' by the Andrew Sisters was one of the many hit records that caught US attention towards calypso. The Caribbean music of calypso was initially sung using French lyrics due to early French influence, but as the British rule started taking over the region, the lyric writing and singing process turned its course towards using English prominently in its songs.

Facts About Calypso Music's History

The invention of calypso music dates back to the time when African people were brought to Trinidad to work as slaves in the plantations. The genre has its roots in the 'kaiso' music of West Africa, which means 'the poor man's newspaper'. Before being the life of a carnival, the calypso used to work as a newspaper for these slaves to communicate stories and messages while mocking their cruel masters. People used an exaggerated local dialect to keep the message as discreet as possible yet enjoyable to hear for fellow people.

The French brought the tradition of the carnival to Trinidad. As 1834 marked the abolishment of slavery in Trinidad, the former slaves took over the calypso tents as leads. They performed upbeat calypso songs to reminisce and enjoy their victory over colonialism and slavery. Calypso music took an apparent jab at politics and problematic leaders as others shied away from speaking out. Calypso proves to be more than just a music genre for people of Trinidad, as the songs narrate the story of countless years of struggle and courage of ancestors.

a widely enjoyed Caribbean music form

Instruments Used in Calypso Music

As the music style has its roots in African music style, calypso music incorporates many instruments used in folk songs to create traditional beats. However, steel drums are the most popular instrument used in calypso music amidst the variety of instruments. Steel drums are also known as the signature calypso instruments. The instrument was initially made out of oil drums, but now, they are created out of high-quality material. The steel drums can be played using rubber mallets.

Percussion instruments are another majorly found instrument type one can enjoy in a calypso ensemble, not to forget the variety of drums. Djembe, kalimba, and bongos are a few widely recognizable ones. Another Caribbean instrument that plays a key role in any calypso performance is scratch, which is literally scratched by a metal comb to create music. Back in the day, local instruments made out of used or unused objects were prioritized, given the lack of resources and actual instruments couldn't stop people from spreading awareness through music.

Famous Calypso Music Artist

Calypso has made a significant place in the US's mainstream music style, combining with famous genres like hip-hop, R&B, and reggae. 1914 marked to be the advent of calypso as the first calypso recording took place. Iron Duke, Attila the Hun, Roaring Lion, and Lord Invader are counted being the first major stars of the calypso genre.  Mighty Sparrow or Slinger Francisco CMT is known to be the most famous calypso singer.

West Indies holds calypso music close to itself as the well-celebrated calypso singer David Rudder from Trinidad has created the official anthem for West Indies. Calypso emerged as party music during the time of carnivals as the syncopated calypso musical scores proved to be perfect for unwinding and enjoying the beautiful atmosphere of carnivals.

Harry Belafonte is another celebrated artist who took calypso music to new heights with his hit Banana Boat song Day-O. The song is dedicated to the slaves brought back from African and Caribbean subcontinents to work in plantations. As banana trade increased in the region, workers supposedly sang this song while they loaded and unloaded the goods transporting boats. The song is an adaptation of the folk Jamaican song 'Day-O'.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 71 calypso music facts: origins, artist, instruments and much more, then why not take a look at classical music facts or country music fun facts?

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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