Carnival, Calypso and Steel Pan:

A Bibliographic Guide to Popular Music of the
English-speaking Caribbean and its Diaspora

By John Gray

DESCRIPTION
A companion to the author’s earlier volume Jamaican Popular Music, this landmark new work helps fill a major gap in the reference literature. For the first time ever it offers students and researchers an in-depth guide to the large body of materials available on masquerade and popular music traditions of the English-speaking Caribbean. Comprised of some 3400 annotated entries it documents a literature, both popular and scholarly, that now spans more than 85 years and ranges across disciplines as diverse as social and cultural history, anthropology, ethnomusicology, literature and economics.

The book’s main focus is on three tightly intertwined topics—Carnival, calypso and steel pan—and how each has evolved, both inside of Trinidad, their most important hub, and abroad in the large West Indian enclaves of New York, London and Toronto. The Carnival side of this trinity, a critical showcase for the region’s music and dance styles, is treated comprehensively. This includes an unprecedented level of detail on each of the four major Caribbean Carnivals—Trinidad Carnival, Brooklyn’s Labor Day Carnival, London’s Notting Hill Carnival, and Toronto’s Caribana—as well as important precursors such as Harlem’s West Indian Day Parades of the 1940s and ’50s and the early London Carnivals organized by Claudia Jones. Carnival’s musical aspects, both calypso and steel pan, are also covered in depth. In the case of calypso that encompasses all of its various forms, from its antecedents in kalinda stick-fighting to the “jump and wave” soca of today. A multitude of contemporary offshoots, e.g., binghi, chutney soca, ragga soca, ringbang, and gospelypso, are also documented in full. Numerous other sources help illuminate calypso’s central role as a vehicle for social and political commentary and its perspective on issues as diverse as immigration, race and gender relations, and national identity. Steel pan, calypso’s cousin, is discussed from the music’s introduction on the regional and international scene in the 1950s to its more recent role in the music programs of North America and Great Britain. A substantial Biographical and Critical Studies section documents the contributions made to these traditions by almost 600 individual performers and ensembles.

Citations span from 1852 to 2012, with the bulk having been published between the 1930s and 2012. They encompass musical and cultural analyses, ethnographies, oral histories, popular histories and reportage along with a wealth of archival, audio-visual, and electronic resources. The book concludes with an extensive reference section that includes a list of Sources Consulted, a guide to relevant Libraries and Archives, two appendices, and separate Author and Subject Indexes.

for more information

Trinidad All Stars: Fleet’s In

Dr. Kim Johnson discusses the sailor mas’ protrayal of the Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra and the origins of this style of masquerade from the independent organizations of the enslaved in nineteenth century Trinidad. Caribbean Beat Magazine, issue 113.

The Fleet’s In sailor mas might seem just a grown-up way of enjoying Carnival with a great steelband, Trinidad All Stars. Actually, it’s much more than that. It is a venerable tradition of the oldest steel orchestra in the world, a tradition that links us to the world the slaves made, and, through them, to the culture of West Africa.

Trinidad All Stars was once “Cross of Lorraine” and before that “Fisheye band”, and even before that, during World War II, “Second Fiddle”. When, in 1939, it was launched in the immediate wake of the first progenitive steelband, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, however, it was simply called “Hell Yard band”, after Hell Yard, an empty lot next to the band’s current home.

In the early, pre-steelband years of the twentieth century the Hell Yard crew played cricket and football. They gambled, wrestled, boxed and lifted weights.  And on J’Ouvert morning they produced one of the most famous sailor bands: USS Bad Behaviour.

There were other themes in plebeian mas in Port of Spain: African Ju Ju warriors and wild Indian tribes, for instance. But generally the largest bands, which represented each district of the city, were sailor bands. There were the immaculate, rigorously drilled military sailor bands, such as the USS Oregon from John John, Texas from Laventille, and Hit The Deck from St Paul’s Street.  And there were the dirty “knockabout” sailor bands, such as USS Bad Behaviour, which was drunk, dirty and disorderly – like real sailors ashore.

No one knows Bad Behaviour’s age, but sailor bands have been around for at least a century. In 1911 traditional “masks”, according to the Port of Spain Gazette, included wild Indians, bakers, Barbadian cooks, clowns, devils and sailors. Military bands go back even further. In 1834, describing the first Carnival after abolition of slavery, the Gazette complained of “a large crowd of idle negroes and little people, accompanying a party intending to represent the Artillery.”

Scrupulously observing the minutiae of naval or military ranks, such bands catered to the needs of African slaves to found their own social and ritual hierarchies. They were worlds complete with their own divisions of labour, ranks, chains of command and degrees of prestige, all outside and independent of the grinding racism of the wider, white-dominated society.

They were descended from Trinidad’s slave convoys or regiments, groups dedicated to holding dances on holidays. These – the Cocorite, the Macaque, the St George and the Sans-peur, with up to 17 different ranks, kings, queens, princes and political, legal and military personnel – terrified the whites in 1805. They considered the bands insurrectionary, and cruelly punished their members.

The vicious reaction of the whites was a product of their own hysteria, of course; the slave gangs were formed for nothing more than to hold drum dances and compete against one another. But in another sense, the slave owners’ instinctive fear had grounds, because those bands, built on rules and responsibilities independent of the slave society’s, were forged from no less than the love of liberty.

For original post: Trinidad All Stars: Fleet’s In | Caribbean Beat Magazine.

Notting Hill Carnival could be axed

Notting Hill Carnival 2011 may yet be cancelled with directors are set to make a decision on whether the event will go ahead late next week following the riots that have swept the country this week, Event can reveal.

As Event reported yesterday, comments were rife on Twitter, suggesting the carnival could be called off if the violence persists.

There is concern the event, which attracts two million people over the August bank holiday weekend, could spark a repeat of the recent trouble.

A carnival insider confirmed to Event they are still working on the event as if it is going to happen.

“The directors are speaking with police and the council and assessing things on a day-to-day basis,” they told us. “They would like it to go ahead but understand the severity of the issue. It’s early days yet.”

A statement issued later read: “Given the huge number of people who take part in Carnival crime rates are low, and our policing style in recent years has ensured that less people become victims of crime. We know that everyone who loves Carnival wants that success to continue this year.”

For original article: http://www.eventmagazine.co.uk/News/MostRead/1084305/Notting-Hill-Carnival-axed-due-riots-exclusive/