Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana, daylight come and me wan’ go home,” are the words to a famous calypso song recorded by Harry Belafonte in 1956. The Free Dictionary defines calypso music as ‘a type of music that originated in the West Indies, notably in Trinidad, and is characterized by improvised lyrics on topical or broadly humorous subjects’. It can also be said that calypso is a certain style of music which incorporates rhythms that are typical of African music.
This type of music is seen played during Carnival by Calypsonians, singers, who have prepared for the event all season long. These songs usually poke fun at anything and anyone in the community, from politics to gossip and on special occasions some controversial topics come about in these types of songs. This paper discusses calypso music: the factors which played a role in its existence, rise and decline. It then will look at the lives and impact of two well-known and exceptional calypsonians.
It further goes into the examination how calypso songs are written which will be done through analyzing the type of poetry, repetition, rhyming schemes and piling that are found within the calypso lyrics. Finally, it will review and touch on the impact of Calypso music here on the island of St. Martin. There is a famous saying which states that ‘the past is the key to the present’. Therefore, it can be said that there must have been some past key which contributed to the present key of the calypso music industry of today.
It is worldly known that ‘Calypso Music’ is famous for its sometimes humorous lyrics and social commentary. Calypso Music started off in Trinidad. Like several other Caribbean islands, Trinidad was colonized by Europeans. According to Tutwiler, what makes Trinidad’s colonial past unique is that it was colonized by the Spanish and later by the English, and also had a large influx of French immigrants. As a result, it is stated that the earliest calypso songs were not sung in English but in French-Creole, sometimes called patois.
The history of calypso has more to do with just French immigrants in Trinidad. African slaves were also a part of the calypso history. African slaves were brought to Trinidad to work on the sugar plantations. These slaves were not allowed to communicate with each other. As a result, they began to sing songs from drumming. These song lyrics sang by the slaves were used to make fun or mockery of slave owners and upper class. The rhythms of calypso centered on the steel drum, which the rival groups used to beat out cadences (Tutwiler, 2009).
Each year during competitions in Carnival, calypso tunes were sung. These tunes were led by chantwells (singers that led masquerade bands). It is stated in Tutwiler’s article that these Chantwells led their masquerade bands in call and response singing in calypso tents. Calypso tents are still a part of today’s carnival in Trinidad as a place where new music is featured. As time went on, the famous chantwells were later known as calypsonians, which is still known as such today. The first Calypso recording was made in 1914.
This specific year marks the landmark in the history of Calypso. During the mid and late 1930’s (known as the golden age of calypso), several people came forth in the industry (Farlex, 2011). This period of time is known as the ‘Golden Age’. Most of the top calypsonians from that age have been males. Males which included: The Growling Tiger, Lord Executor, Lord Pretender, Atilla the Hun, Roaring Lion, and Lord Invader, just to name a few. All of these exceptional people have made unforgettable impressions on the calypso music world. By the late 1930’s calypso music was on a rise.
With the ‘Golden Age’ or rise of calypso music, there was also a period of time, when calypso music started to fall, and many other forms of music started to rise. The article (Calypso Music) states that by the 1970s the golden age of calypso was on a decline. This decline caused many calypso players to begin to view the music as being exhaustive. Calypso music was not actually over, but it just needed some new flavor. A great calypso player by the name of Lord Shorty, came along and added Indian instrumentation and rhythms to the African based instrumentation and rhythms of calypso.
This was a natural progression for all because Indians and Africans where the main inhabitants of Trinidad & Tobago, which was also the home of Calypso Music & Lord Shorty. Through this process, that is how the new form of calypso music was formed: Soca (Farlex, 2011). According to (Romer, 2011), the increase of Indian instrumentation and rhythms were not the only influence on calypso music. Many other forms of music such as Jamaican reggae, R&B, and even rock influenced and are still influencing the world of calypso music today.
Among many others, there are two internationally famous calypsonians who have impacted calypso music greatly. They are: Slinger Francisco, better known as ‘The Mighty Sparrow’ who won the calypso Monarch contest in 1956 at age twenty one and continued for decades to be the genre’s most unfailingly excellent perform, also known as ‘Calypso King of the World’, and Aldwyn Roberts, better known by the stage name ‘Lord Kitchener’ who has composed calypsos that cover every imaginable human experience, and social and political events.
Slinger Francisco better known as ‘The Mighty Sparrow’ was born in a rural fishing village in Grenada, to a poor working class family. They migrated to Trinidad, when he was just one year old. He attended the New Town Boys School where he was selected to sing in the boys’ choir of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. This was his first initial involvement in music. At the young age of 20, Sparrow came out as the leading Calypsonian with his record-breaking hit, Jean and Dinah. Throughout the years he managed to showcase his diversity each year with the release of at least one album dating from the catchy Jean and Dinah (wikipedia. rg, 2011). In 1958 he became the only calypsonian to have had a triple win, in the same year, in the Road March Competition. The calypsos were P. A. Y. E. (Pay As You Earn, a song that allowed the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, to understand the real importance of paying taxes), Russian Satellite (a song reflecting on the act of cruelty to animals) and Theresa (a number where, for the first time in his career, he involved other languages) (Calypso Music). In an extraordinary move, he was awarded a cash prize by the Carnival Development Committee, for winning the Road March Competition that year.
In 1959 he released a song entitled: Federation, (a song that reflected his disappointment over the breaking up of the proposed Caribbean Federation). In 1960, his career continued to escalate with the melodious May May and Leave the damn Doctor, Royal Jail and Ten to one is Murder followed in 1961. In 1962 he presented us with Sparrow Come Back Home and Model Nation. In 1965, he proved himself a singer with his remake of Arthur Prysock’s original, Only A Fool Breaks His Own Heart accompancied by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. This rendition won him a Gold Record in Holland.
He also recorded Frank Sinatra’s My Way and Lucho Gatica’s “El Reloj”. It can be said that ‘The Mighty Sparrow’ continued to climb the ladder of success in his life, while becoming the most popular caypsonian of all time by the people. According to Manuel (2006), Sparrow demonstrated year after year, with his social commentaries that the calypsonian is really the eyes and ears of the people. Aldwyn Roberts, better known as ‘Lord Kitchener’, shares with Mighty sparrow the title of the world’s best known Calypso singer (Manuel, 2006). Aldwyn Roberts was the son of a blacksmith, Stephen, and homemaker Albertha.
Kitchener’s success began after he moved to England in 1948. His fame continued throughout the 1950s, when calypso achieved international success (wikipedia. org). He began his career in Trinidad and won his first Road March award for singing in 1946. He and the Mighty Sparrow proceeded to dominate the calypso competitions of the sixties and seventies. It has been stated that Lord Kitchener won the road march competition ten times between 1965 and 1976, more times than any other calypsonian. In the 1950s, he explored West Africa and enjoyed a big hit there with his single, “Nora”.
Farlex mentioned that for 30 years, Lord Kitchener ran his own calypso tent, Calypso Revue, by which he nurtured the talent of many calypsonians, who are: Calypso Rose, David Rudder, Black Stalin and Denyse Plummer. These calypsonians are among the many artists who got their start under Kitchener’s guidance (Farlex, 2011). Like many calypsonians, Lord Kitchener drifted toward soca and in 1978; he brought about a new hit: “Sugar Bum Bum. ” This was additionally noted for his hit single, “Give Me the Ting” (Farlex, 2011). Aldwyn Roberts passed away on February 12, 2000 at the age of 77.
Just like many other types of music, calypso lyrics are written in special forms with unique/hidden messages behind them. The lyrics of calypso music are actually nothing more than oral literature. The poetic form follows that of the ballad: four-line refrains follow eight-line strophes (stanzas) (Encyclop? dia Britannica). Based on the information in the online encyclopedia, it is also said that the simple rhyme scheme in calypso music is amply compensated for by the highly imaginative, original use of language. Usually, the singer-poet/calypsonian, who adopts a catchy stage name (e. g. The Mighty Spoiler; Lord Melody; Attila the Hun), incorporates Spanish, Creole, and African phrases into a lowbrow idiom utilizing newly invented colloquial expressions, such as bobol (graft), pakoti (unfaithfulness), and graf (girl). In his report, Tutwiler stresses on the exaggeration of the local speech patterns found in calypso lyrics. It is explained that the exaggeration of local speech patterns, distorting the normal accentuation of the text, is matched by offbeat rhythm in the music, a familiar calypso trademark. During performance time, the calypsonian singer either sets his verse to a stock melody or invents a tune of his own.
Below are the lyrics to a famous calypso song which was retrieved from lyricsmode. com:“The Banana Boat Song”. This famous song was sung by Harold George Belafonte Jr. Day-o, Day-ay-ay-o Daylight come and me wan’ go home Day, me say day, me say day, me say day Me say day, me say day-ay-ay-o Daylight come and me wan’ go home Work all night on a drink a’ rum Daylight come and me wan’ go home Stack banana till the mornin’ come Daylight come and me wan’ go home Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana Daylight come and me wan’ go home Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home It’s six foot, seven foot, eight foot BUNCH! Daylight come and me wan’ go home Six foot, seven foot, eight foot BUNCH! Daylight come and me wan’ go home Day, me say day-ay-ay-o Daylight come and me wan’ go home Day, me say day, me say day, me say day… Daylight come and me wan’ go home A beautiful bunch a’ ripe banana Daylight come and me wan’ go home Hide the deadly black tarantula Daylight come and me wan’ go home It’s six foot, seven foot, eight foot BUNCH! Daylight come and me wan’ go home Six foot, seven foot, eight foot BUNCH! Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day-ay-ay-o Daylight come and me wan’ go home Day, me say day, me say day, me say day… Daylight come and me wan’ go home Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana Daylight come and me wan’ go home Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana Daylight come and me wan’ go home Day-o, day-ay-ay-o Daylight come and me wan’ go home Day, me say day, me say day, me say day Me say day, me say day-ay-ay-o Daylight come and me wan’ go home Harold George “Harry” Belafonte, Jr. was born on March 1, 1927. He was an American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist (wikipedia. org).
Harry was dubbed the “King of Calypso” for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s (Calypso Music). Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing “The Banana Boat Song”, with its signature lyric “Day-O. ” Many people read/sing/listen to the banana boat song above, but some still don’t know the meaning of the song. That’s how it is sometimes with calypso lyrics. Sometimes the calypsonians bring across their message in such a way, that it take some people quite some time to actually examine it and get the true meaning out of what they are trying to say.
The banana boat song above is actually a traditional Jamaican mento folk song. Although it is really Jamaican mento, the song is widely known as an example of calypso music (wikipedia. org). It is a song from the point of view of dock workers working the night shift loading bananas onto ships (25 Great Music Moments in Film History, 2010). Daylight has come, the shift is over and they want their work to be counted up so that they can go home. This song expresses the feelings of the people in the community who have been working hard, and is still awaiting pay.
It goes back to prove something that was mentioned before: ‘lyrics for calypso music can be created from any topic’. As can be seen in the way the song is written, there are repetitive lines especially with the word ‘home’. This word is emphasized in every stanza, which makes you think that this is actually what the people actually wanted is ‘to go home’. The poetry style used in this song is the quatrain. Clithertoe defines the quatrain as the four line stanzas of any type, rhyme, or meter. The rhyming schemes of the stanzas in the quatrain poetries can be written in different forms.
Two examples of the rhyming schemes which can be seen in the above lyrics to ‘The banana boat song’ are the ballad form and the Goethe form. A ballad has many variations of rhyme and line length (Clithertoe). The basic Ballad Stanza, as he goes on to define consists of four lines with an alternating couplet and lines that alternate from four iambic feet to three. Below an example of the ballad rhyming scheme, where all the a’s will rhyme, the b’s will rhyme and the c’s will rhyme: x x x x x x x a x x x x x b x x x x x x x c x x x x x b| Here is the stanza in the song where the ballad rhyming scheme is used: Day, me say day-ay-ay-o (a)
Daylight come and me wan’ go home (b) Day, me say day, me say day, me say day… (c) Daylight come and me wan’ go home (b) The other rhythm scheme is the Goethe form. This rhythm scheme is different to the ballad form, but there is not much of a difference. With this one each stanza comprises of a single line, a couplet and a single line (Clitheroe). Each single line, as he describes, rhymes with a line from the couplet, one starting and one completing the stanza. Here is an example of the Goethe rhythm style, there is no set meter: x x x x x x x a x x x x x x x b x x x x x x x a x x x x x x x b|
Here is an example of the stanza in the lyrics of ‘the banana boat song’, where the Goethe rhythm form is used: Work all night on a drink a’ rum (a) Daylight come and me wan’ go home (b) Stack banana till the mornin’ come (a) Daylight come and me wan’ go home(b) Although it is known that calypso music has started in Trinidad, it has not only been a part of the Trinidad’s culture, but also a part of many other countries/ islands in and out of the Caribbean. St. Martin is one of those islands/countries where calypso music has been a part of the people, especially during carnival time, where there are competitions.
Calypso music was not always popular on the island. As Maria Buncamper states, calypso on St Maarten started around 1969 when a few artists would compete more for bragging rights and the ladies attention then for monetary compensation. By the mid-70’s, the number of calypsonians on the island was increasing. Several calypsonians such as Caiso genius, King Jacko and King Fernando had already mastered the artform and delighted audiences during occasions, especially carnival time (Buncamper, 2009). By the 80’s, it is said that artists such as King Beau Beau, Kaiso Brat, the Mighty Dow and
King Stunky aroused into the Calypso arena. In the early 90’s, there were other names such as Young Arrow, King Repeater, Ricky the Fox, King Timo, who joined the ranks and by the turn of time, younger opponents such as Fish the Boss, Baker Jr. and Young Dow, all second generation artists entered the Senior competitions. De King Arrow was one of them who resided on St Maarten. He wrote winning compositions for many of the local calypsonians, but who reserved his competing for his native St Kitts.
Ramon Proctor (a former participant in calypso music)(personal communication, December 2nd, 2011), explained that throughout the last 4 decades, calypso history was written on St Maarten with the usual competitors between the likes of King Beau Beau and King Fernando, King Beau Beau and the Might Dow and King Beau Beau and Fish the Boss (the son of King Fernando). However, by the turn of the century, there were few albums or cd’s capturing some of the most memorable and St Maarten’s Carnival Village and people of St Maarten have known.
The following is a personal interview that was held with a well known calypsonians of St. Maarten-Andrew D. “Baker Jr” Richardson: 1. What is your name? My Given name is, Andrew Daniel Richardson, I go under the Artist pseudonym name of His Majesty Baker Jr. or just Baker Jr. for short which is the choice of the majority of the people and preference, yet the older folks will just call me Baker which is my dad’s artist name. 2. Could you give me a little history about your involvement in calypso? How did you get into calypso? How long have you been singing calypso music?
My involvement in calypso is connected with a great deep enthusiasm which was the passionate profession of my father Antonio Alexandre Richardson who goes under the artist pseudonym of The Mighty Baker which everyone calls him Baker. He obtained this name during his school days where some friend called him Dutch Baker, from there on, he carry on the name Baker when he proceed and find his passion in the calypso and soca art form. Therefore from one generation to another the talent was passed on for it grows within my heart mind and soul as my dad would be playing the type of music daily as I’m around him.
When I was a little boy listening to famous artist like King Short Shirt, Swallow, King Ostinate out of Antigua and the calypso King Of The World Mighty Sparrow along with other Trinidadian artist and there is where the mantle was pass on automatically and a new artist was form so Calypso and soca became my passion from this day on composing my very own songs. 3. What is the name of one of the calypsos you have written? Why did you write it? I have written for myself and for junior artists which have a major importance for the cause and effect of the songs.
One of my calypsos I have written is entitle “Condomise”. I chose this song to proclaim to the world for it have a positive message in aids awareness to protect as many people I can from this mass disease that is spreading throughout the world and affecting millions of human beings. The structure of this type of calyspo would be a social commentary, which is different from the political documentary, where, we will sing a song for the masses and informing them of hidden secrets and occurrence within of government regime or sometime even disputing and rebelling.
In calypso, which is the most powerful tool use today to get our message out in public, we use double meaning in our song which is called satire calypso, like back in the days on the plantation where the slave will sing songs passing message to each other via their double standed of satire lyrics, so only them could comprehend. In this modern day in age, we do the same but the leaders officials comprehend the song as well but its our security once we use satire lyrics so we aren’t accused with slander nor defaming any ones name and only a few of us are professional with it.
Those who are not will easily get reprimanded. Another song of its quality was one a social commentary I wrote for a student of mine Roxanne Webster with the artist name of Lil Roxxy with “A Baby’s Cry” and “ Young Carlix” with “We Must Stand Up For We Self” cross genres of political documentary and social commentary song of this nature is the mouth piece of the world and nation. 4. What do you think about Calypso music here in St. Maarten? I think calypso is doing justice to St.
Maarten in where as controlling politicians bad deeds and greed within their vulture motions and ways, referring to those who careless of the masses that seek all for them self and none for thee. In addition, calypso is still climbing the chart for it is lack of promotion and cultural respect from our local and foreign radio disc jockeys. For we have official leaders who will go all out and pay the disc jockey not to play the song on the air wave and we have those who support their political party so they will stay away from that political documentary as much as possible unless they are told to play it via requests from the public.
In this art form, calypsonian like myself have a deep passion to proceed with our profession in the art of calypso and soca and as natures cause I believe strongly that persistence always pay off and that is how I know calypso will never died, but grow until the end of time, here in St. Maarten and throughout the world. 5. Where do you see your future in calypso music? Well as far as my future in calypso music, my future is yet to expand especially in the soca arena whether it is groovy soca of fast tempo soca like roadmarch or party songs.
I do know it take money to guaranteed fulfillment in my musical career with the talent I have unless I get a record deal with a major record label. I am consider as one of the unrecognized artist in the Caribbean and that actually started from home where the disc jockeys again don’t push us enough to get us out there. I have seen in those days where I visited place like Trinidad or even living in America where any Trinidadian would think I’m from Trinidad and Tobago because of my vocals and style, and most of them never heard of St.
Maarten, as for my visit to Trinidad and the rest small Caribbean Islands, I’m well accepted and respected for my lyrical artillery and brilliant composition. I do believe one day I will meet my goal head on once I have the breath of life anything is possible and that goes for each and every man no matter what they are trying to achieve or what profession they wish to accomplish. I also still believe in a hit song I had call I ‘Love Meh Wife’ and one day I will make the professional video it deserve and it will bounce back along with a few other potential hits I have.
You can surf the web and explore my online store for my CD’s I have created during my recording era. Visit www. cdbaby. /all/kingbakerjr this site will take you to all my CD’s, just two of them is yet to be published. In conclusion, Calypso Music is still one of the most significant traditions in the Caribbean Music Industry.