Sunday, April 2, 2017

Steven Porter writes

What Rain Leaves Behind

As darkness coagulates,
raindrops hit the pavement with
sounds similar to a moaning child.

Calypso music plays from some far distance.
Unseen musicians conceal themselves among fog.

Cracked glasses on the sidewalk gather water;
their delirious owner wanders, chasing frogs. 

The rain stops...
The moaning ceases, missing child posters 
appear out of nowhere like misplaced relics.

Image result for missing child poster paintingsMadonna and Missing Child -- Khalil Younes


  1. Kaiso was a type of music which originated in the Kingdom of Kongo in west Africa. The term derives from the Ibibio "kaa iso" (continue, go on) and the Efik "ka isu" (go on!) In 1783 José de Gálvez negotiated the Cedula of Population with Phillipe Rose Roume de Saint-Laurant to open Trinidad to immigration by offering land grants to French planters from Grenada, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Dominica; each white Catholic who settled was given 130,000 sq m of land (32 acres) and an additional 65,000 for each slave; gens de couleur libre (free people of color) and their slaves were granted land at half the ratio. To entertain themselves the blacks would plant two poles in the ground and place a bar across them, then take turns dancing to calinda drum rhythms and negotiating their bodies under the bar without upsetting it, while onlookers would chant "kaiso, kaiso, kaiso..." as the bar was continuously lowered. (Calinda was a kind of folk music and dance that originated in the 1720s, derived from was a stick-fighting martial art in Kongo.)

  2. As the music evolved, slaves gathered in "kaiso" tents where a griot, called a chantuelle (chantwell), would lead them in narrative Patois (Trinidadian French Creole) songs about their owners; often they had a cleverly concealed political subtext. In 1882 Armand Masse described a dance as a "calypso," perhaps a corruption of "carrouseaux" (a French drinking party or festivity); other etymologies relate the word to the Spanish "calisto" genre of topical songs or to the Carib "carieto" (joyous song); the Trinidadian term "cariso" refers to "old-time" calypsos. The British took Trinidad from Spain in 1797, and by the early 20th century kaiso evolved into the more political English-language calypso, characterized by highly rhythmic and harmonic vocals. Lovey's String Band formed in Trinidad in the 1890s and performed until the early 1920s; in 1912 they made the first calypso recording, "Mango Vert," for Columbia Records, five years before the first jazz records. Two years later, in Trinidad, Julian Whiterose, a famous chantwell and calinda stick-fighter known as the Iron Duke, made the second calypso record. Lovey, Jules Sims, and Lionel Belasco made most of the early records, usually instrumentals. Sans Humanitae ("no mercy") was an extemporaneous jazz form of calypso in which singers would trade insults or social comments, but it was not until the late 1920s that the genre's style, form, and phrasing became fixed. By then, it had become a source of news and political gossip among the poor, and the British government enforced strict, though not entirely effective, censorship. In 1934 Eduardo Sa Gomes, a Portuguese immigrant who owned a local music and phonograph equipment shop in Port of Spain, spread the music beyond the Caribbean by sending Roaring Lion and Attila the Hun to record in New York; they were followed to the US by Wilmoth Houdini and Lord Kitchener. Lord Invader recorded "Rum and Coca-Cola" about the explosion of prostitution, inflation, and other negative influences that accompanied the American military bases in Trinidad; the Andrews Sisters, one of the most popular white vocal groupsof the time, scored a bitg hit with their 1944 cover version. In 1956 Mighty Sparrow's "Jean and Dinah" satirized the prostitutes' desperation after the US naval base at Chaguaramas closed. But by then a toned down calypso was becomng popular; Harry Belafonte's 1956 album "Calypso," which contained the traditional Jamaican folk song "Banana Boat Song (Day-O)," became the first full-length record to sell more than a million copies. Belafonte starred in the 1957 film "Island in the Sun," and many entertainers, including the Kingston Trio, Robert Mitchum, and Dizzy Gillespie, cashed in on the craze. That year Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg (the duo responsible for Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow") parodied the trend with the Broadway musical "Jamaica." Then calypso lost most of its commercial appeal and evolved into other Caribbean musical forms: benna on Antigua; spouge on Barbados; mento, a style of Jamaican folk music that greatly influenced ska and reggae; ska, the precursor to rocksteady and reggae; the Dominican cadence-lypso, which mixed calypso with Haitian cadences; and soca, a style of kaiso/calypso influenced by cadence-lypso, soul, and funk. In Barbados, kaiso refers to a form of stage-presented calypso, such as that played at the crop over festival.


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