Calypso is the name of a genre (a category or a type of music that has a recognizable sound because of the different rhythms and instruments used) of music that originated in the Caribbean. Some say it originated specifically in the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago, but it is also thought to have been developed in other Caribbean countries as well (according to http://cropoverbarbados.com/what-calypso). Here is a picture of Trinidad and Tobago:
The first is a map of South America so you can get an idea of where Trinidad and Tobago are. The second is a close up of the top. You can see the Caribbean sea, and towards the right side is a little Island – next to it are the words TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO.
In an article entitled “Calypso Music 101” (http://worldmusic.about.com/od/genres/p/calypso.htm), author Megan Romer gives some other helpful information:
The Roots of Calypso Music:
Calypso is a genre of Afro-Caribbean music that comes primarily from the island of Trinidad (though calypso is found throughout the Caribbean). Like most genres of Caribbean music, calypso is heavily rooted in West African traditional music, and was originally used as a means of communication between slaves, as well as a form of entertainment.
The Sound of Calypso Music:
Because Trinidad was, over time, ruled by the British, the French and the Spanish, the African rhythms that form the roots of Calypso music blended with the European folk music of all of these places to give us the heavily rhythmic but still pleasantly melodic sound that we now recognize as Calypso.
Calypso is generally played on folk instruments, including the guitar, banjo and various types of percussion.
The lyrics of traditional Calypso music are generally quite political in nature, but because of strict censorship, are cleverly veiled. Calypso lyrics, in fact, are so carefully structured on events of the day that musical historians can date many of the traditional Calypso songs based on their lyrical content.
The Worldwide Popularity of Calypso Music:
Calypso music became something of an international craze when Harry Belafonte first scored a major U.S. hit in 1956 with “Day-O” (the Banana Boat Song), a reworked version of a traditional Jamaican mento song.
Here are some Youtube videos of Calypso music so you can check it out!
Another instrument that is used in Calypso music is the Steel Drum, which is probably the best recognized instrument from the Caribbean Islands. It was originally made from oil barrels, but today it can also have a very precise construction. Check this youtube video out:
Pretty amazing stuff! When I was in college I actually had a chance to play in a steel drum band. I might have a video of a show we did around somewhere :-P.
Interested in playing any Calypso music? Check out Shake the Papaya or the Banana Boat song 🙂
Have a great day!