Calypso and Soca

Early Calypso

Calypso has its origins in Trinidad and Tobago during the early 17th century during the British colonial rule. This music genre began with the combination of the cultures of West African slaves, Indian indentured laborers, and European style of musical performance. In the time of slavery, it was used by the slaves to communicate while working. It was also a means of going against their slave masters by mocking them. Messages were send throughout the place using the lyrics of Calypso.


Calypso in the 19th Century

The calypso made during the 19th century had a greater influence from French Creole music. It grew with the adaptation of slaves to the seasonal Carnival. It has since become a core part of Trinidad’s Carnival season. Even after gaining independence in 1962, the elite still had a resentment to the music. They had uncivilized traditions, such as the tent tradition, where, even during carnival season, calypso groups performed under tents. Many calypso artists spoke out against the inequality and the effects of colonialism in their home nation. Calypso was such a defiant force to the authority that during some time, it was censored for any anti-government content.


Soca in New York City

During the 1970s, due to diffusion with popular international music (soul music, funk, disco, R&B, and jazz), a new branch of calypso, soca, emerged. This genre still spread the same messages calypso had, but they also had some songs that were more party oriented with faster and engaging beats. It became popular with the Caribbean American communities growing in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Artists from many Caribbean backgrounds made this music, and they even added new electronic sound.



LP Cover of the album with Alston Becket Cyrus’s  famous “Coming High”

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