Calypso is one of the core elements of the Trinidad and Tobago carnival. The roots of calypso are to be found at the cross roads of the West African Kaiso and the arrival of French planters and their slaves from the French Antilles in the 1600s. It was a means of communication among the enslaved Africans and was most often sung in a French Creole. Initially, a calypso was led by a griot who, over the years, became known as a chantuelle and eventually, calypsonian. As English became more popular, French Creole was replaced by calypsos in English.
Very early in its history Calypso became the voice of the people, pushing the boundaries of free speech. As more and more calypsos were sung in English, it attracted the attention, not only of the general public, but the British government of the day. It became such a powerful force for the articulation of the point of view of the masses that censorship was enforced.
Despite attempts to stifle its impact, Calypso continues to play this significant role today. From the President to man on the street, anyone is a target for the scathing tongue of the calypsonian. Audiences shout the well-known ‘kaiso kaiso’ in appreciation.
Over the years Calypso has had substantial influence on the music of the Caribbean. Its derivative, Soca music has spawned a range offspring such as Chutney Soca, Parang Soca, Ragga Soca and Groovy Soca.