Music Wednesday: Calypso—Warm Music For Cold Weather (Free mp3)
By nearly all accounts, V.S. Naipal is a bastard. But he writes beautiful books. And he loves calypso music.
"On the subject of calypso singers of Trinidad he was both knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The culture they sang about was tough, breezy, unsentimental. Vidia had written…'It is only in the calypso that the Trinidadian touches reality. The calypso is a purely local form.' It was important and peculiar, dealing with local life in the local language. Tell your sister to come down, boy. I have something here for she. That was Mighty Sparrow, who Vida called Sparrow. Lord Invader, another calypso singer, he called, familiarly, Invader." —Paul Theroux, Sir Vidia's Shadow, page 81
Most (all?) calypso you're likely to hear live today is heavy on the steal drum and not heavy enough on the politics. Really. Calypso, and calypsonians, threw down in their days from about 1910-1960. They were outspoken, crass, and unafraid to take on–and take down–authority. They battled, as you'll hear on this podcast/mixtape I've put together that gives a brief overview of calypso. Near the end you'll begin to hear calypso from beyond Trinidad, in London, Jamaica, and popularized by Harry Belefonte here in the states. Sway to this, and feel warm all over.
Note: Much of this mix comes from two excellent collections: Smithsonian Folkways's Calypso Awakening and Trojan's Calypso Box Set. If you like it, go out and buy either of these, or both. You won't be disappointed.
Music Wednesday is Assistant Editor Ryan Bradley's weekly exploration of great global music.
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