There is a song called “In Time to Come” by Crazy. In it he lists numerous events that he thinks will happen. Check it out below.
For those unfamiliar, or those that just can’t be bothered to listen, Crazy makes a number of claims. Like,
1. The coming of a black President. Which he was right about.
2. Trinidad developing a nuclear program. Which I am not sure about.
3. A computer writing calypso. Which is what this blog is all about.
Because Crazy was right. The age of the Mighty Microchip or Lord AI is definitely upon us. How may you ask?
Because modern calypso is a cliche with repeated ways of doing things. And computers love cliches.
Let me show you.
1. Horns come the same place.
Since the rise of Soca, calypso has become a very predictable form. Firstly, most of them feature horns. These horns play the same role in all the songs. So for example, all songs have band choruses, melodies and sections where horns fill the spaces. So let me demonstrate this by using what has become the template for female calypso songs, Die With My Dignity by Singing Sandra.
The band chorus here plays the melody of the chorus at the beginning of the song and after each sung chorus. Here it is separated.
The horns also play in between the vocal phrases. And believe me, the majority of the melodic verse phrases last for four beats and the horns then play for two beats. Check below:
- Tempos vary, but not that much.
Since the birth of Soca 40 years ago, calypso has come to live in a particular tempo range, that is 85 to 120 b.p.m.
All calypsos these days are in major or harmonic minor. In addition to this, since the Chalkdust years, a particular harmonic progression has become prominent. Of course, this is too much to explain here in this blog, but I will be releasing some videos to prove this. But trust me, the harmony is very much cliche as well.
- There are three main beats
Calypso uses three basic drum patterns these days.
- Traditional calypso drum pattern.
- The 1980s Soca pattern.
- The Shango rhythm.
- Lyrics are clever but not original
Lyrics have been seen to be the centrepiece of the calypso. However, like all good things, they have become cliche. The majority of well-written calypsos are based on the working class point of view on politics, world events. Calypsonians these days take the topic and use everyday objects as a metaphor to frame the argument. To get what I am talking about, take the Chalkdust song Chauffeur Wanted, as he is a leading practitioner of this type of calypso.
The same can be said of Red Plastic Bag, a noted admirer of Chalky.
Ok, Stefan, you have identified the cliche but how do you code all of this?
By laying out the rules, of course! Check these basic functions.
- Use major scale
- A tempo of 93 BPM
- Use 1980s Soca beat
- Use melodies in verse lasting for four beats with a range, maximum 6th.
- Have horns play for two beats in response to verse melody.
- For lyrics – get a local event from the front page, get a metaphor, rhyme it using AABB lasting for 32 bars in duple time, use ballad form of three verses.
- Band chorus between verses.