Calypso

What is the difference between Soca and Calypso anyway? Check these 5…

It is carnival season in the Catholic Caribbean.

And in the English-speaking areas,

the music of choice will be soca.

It wasn’t always this way

40 years ago it was all calypso.

In fact, many today still tend to refer to all singers at carnival time as calypsonians whether they do calypso or soca. But the difference between the two genres could not be more distinct.

And just to help out those that are still confused, here are the differences between soca and calypso.

1. Lyrics-no-lyrics

Soca music has and always will be a party music. As a result, it keeps the beats heavy and the words light. Calypso, on the other hand, is the old guy who use to party but spends his time philosophizing about life.

If it says “Jump, wine , wave,bacchanal, carnival, jump” it is Soca.

If it says “existential threats to the diaspora need a panacea,” then chances are you are listening to a calypso. See Chalkdust singing a calypso below.

 

2. Hook line and sinker

If you missed the hook you definitely do not have a soca stream on. Soca repeats itself.

Even though there is repetition in calypso, it does not even come close to soca’s jump and wave stammering. Hear this classic repetition by Barbadian soca star Blood.

 

3. Brass less – drum machine more

Calypso songs generally have different instrumentation to soca, especially post 90s soca. Calypso songs are generally more organic (although not all the time) and usually feature a brass section of some type.

Here is calypso plus brass plus Singing Sandra.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-ZH27vGntg
Soca, on the other hand, is minimalist (not many instruments) with the drum machine, and laptops running Ableton, prominent. They also tend to be more synthesized.

Take “Advantage” of what I mean below ;).

4.  Tempo

Since the 90s, soca has been in two different time zones, mid-tempo and break-your-neck speed. An example of break-your-neck speed is Advantage above.

Calypsos NEVER EVER REACH these tempos.

So if you hear a song over 150 b.p.m. then it is CERTAINLY a SOCA song. Anything under 130 b.p.m, then it at least has a chance of being a calypso.

(Then you have to go from #1-3 to see if it actually is of course.)

5. Beats (Check out my book Caribbean Composers Handbook on Amazon for more)

Soca uses a number of beats and these have changed over the years. However, if you hear the following beats then you are dealing with a soca song.

soca drums

soca-beat-1

Calypso is more than comfortable to maintain the beat like the one below and it has done so for many a year.

calypso

So wherever you are from,  enjoy the carnival in the Catholic Caribbean but whatever you do, don’t call the soca a calypso.

Crop Over Blog VIII – The Aural History of Calypso Part 2

Here is the second part of the Aural History of Calypso, 1950s to present. Enjoy and subscribe to the YouTube for more music-culture-music, you will not be disappointed.

 

 

Crop Over Blog V – The Aural History of Calypso

The wide genre known as calypso has been a major part of the Crop Over festival in Barbados since its inception.

Here is part I of  a video that traces its aural history in Trinidad.  Unlike most Calypso history documents that I have come across,  this one actually has music. Enjoy and educate yourself, in fact, enjoducate yourself!

Here it is below.

 

Subscribe to my channel if you like what you see so you won’t miss part II.

 

*Oh yeah and here is the slide presentation from it in case you want to teach this or have really great parties.

 

Crop Over Blogs coming to www.stefanwalcott.com !!!

Crop Over is a Bajan festival held every summer.

20140513-095103.jpg

To celebrate, I will be turning over this blog to musical topics related to it.

Stay tuned and tell your friends!!!! Also look out for the pins

 

at http://www.pinterest.com/hstefanwalcott/

PS – There will be no posts on fashion, sorry!

 

 

10 Caribbean genres you have probably never heard about!

The Caribbean, for a small geographical space, has many different musical cultures.

Most people only know the big boys, the Reggaes, Reggaetons and Merengues but there are numerous other genres that deserve a little blog attention.

Here is a list of 10 I think you should check out.

10.  Masquerade – Guyana

 

 

There are not many artists or musical genres from Guyana that are known outside of the country. Masquerade is a folk genre similar to Tuk and other fife and drum music types in the Caribbean. Like others, it is heard on festive occasions.

9.   Kaseko – Suriname

 

Kasesko is a music out of Suriname. Its rhythm is based around the snare and an indigenous drum called the skratji. Leading artists include Carlo Jones and Yakki Famirie.

8. Calypso – Costa Rica

 

The construction of the Panama canal had a profound effect on the culture of the Caribbean as thousands of men left their agrarian lives to work for the Yankee dollar. Another Central American country touched by this Anglo-Caribbean transfer was Costa Rica, as shown beautifully by Costa Rican calypso.

7. Tambú – Curacao

Tambú is a folk form from the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao. At one point controversial, it is gone on to be part of Curacao’s cultural heritage, especially for its African descendants.

6. Ra Ra -Haiti/ Ga Ga – Dominican Republic

 

Ra Ra, as it is known in Haiti, or Ga Ga, as it is known in Dominican Republic, is a street music heard at Easter. It features keyless trumpets as well as bamboo tubes known as vaccines.  Call and response is of course a big part of this form and like other street music types in the Caribbean, it is great fun.

 

5.  North Caribbean Soca -St. Kitts and US Virgin Islands

 

In the northern Caribbean countries such as the US Virgin Islands there is a derivative of Soca that I think deserves special mention. It  obviously borrows from the American pop sub genre crunk and therefore its melodies are more shouted than sung. It also sounds “loud” as the mastering engineer probably has all the gains at maximum.

4.  Jonkonnu – Jamaica

 

While Reggae and the whole Ska complex are widely known, the folk and traditional forms of Jamaica are not nearly as popular. Jonkonnu is one of the oldest musical practices in the Caribbean and is a fife and drum music with relatives in Bahamas, the Carolinas and Barbados.

 

3.  Bouyon – Dominica

Bouyon is a fusion genre. The group which promoted and performed this, WCK, sought to bring various Caribbean popular elements together. Bouyon really is a sub-genre of Soca but I still think it worthy to put on this list.

2. Gwo ka – Guadeloupe

 

 

Gwo ka is a drum ensemble music. It usually does not feature harmonic instruments. It is in the tradition of other large-scale drumming ensembles from the Afro Diaspora such as samba from Brazil and comparsa from Cuba.

1.  Spouge – Barbados

 

 

Spouge is a popular form that lived and died in 1970s Barbados. It is played around November in Barbados, the time of national celebrations where things Bajan take centre stage.

 

So there they are, if you like what you hear, go check out more artists from these genres!

You will not be disappointed.